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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Mark 9:30–37

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” (NRSV)

These verses from the Gospel of Mark present us with several thoughts to contemplate that, at first reading, may seem disconnected. We hear Jesus trying to give his disciples a heads up about what he, and they, would soon experience. We can appreciate that they did not understand. Son of Man, betrayed, be killed, rise up in three days: these are confusing, ominous words to hear from the one whose identity as the beloved Son of God had just been revealed to several of them at the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2–8).

What is difficult to understand is why they would be afraid to ask Jesus, their teacher, what he meant. Rather than ask Jesus to explain, the apostles change the subject. They move away from the difficult conversation to bickering about position and status. They were silent and ashamed when Jesus queried them, and he made it a teaching moment.

What does he use to teach them? This is not the first nor the last time that Jesus lifts up a child to illuminate a truth. We have all been with a child who, unlike the disciples, is not afraid to ask questions, seek explanations, and persist in asking “What? Why? When?” The child needs to be in right relationship with others and with the environment. Perhaps it is not just the chronological child that Jesus is pointing to, but the child within each of us. Perhaps in welcoming that part of us, we encounter the divine, the holy, and are able to rest in those arms, assured of our place in God’s love.

Loving God, help us to see what is important, what is essential, in your eyes. Grant us the trust of a child. Amen.

Written by Margaret M. Brennan, Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being

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