30They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; 31for 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.” 32But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.
33Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” 36Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
What I am Learning:
After the transfiguration and some healings, Jesus takes his disciples on a private teaching tour through Galilee. They continue to be confused about the redefinition of the messiah's role that they can't even ask any questions. (See More about the messiah's role in last week's post.)
In between teaching sessions they are having a power struggle. They doing what people in the first century did—struggle for status in the honor system. Of course, we often struggle for status, too. But we do it in a different way in our culture. As Pastor Jeff Russell said at the text study in Everett this week, that we often seek for status as being successful. Those who are not successful in the eyes of others are nothing and not important, those who are deemed successful gain status, at least until they fail.
In the first century, children had no status, or honor rating until they became 12. The people you hang out with determine your own status. So when Jesus takes the child into his arms and says that he and the child are equal in terms of status, he gave his status away. Even more deeply, he was saying that he no longer wanted to play the status game as his culture played it. Jesus says that his disciples will give up status games and strive for a community of mutuality.
We struggle with this. We struggle with this because sensing our vulnerability we strive for power over others only to feel more vulnerable later. We reject a life that includes both power and vulnerability and choose power over others to mask our fear.
We struggle with this because we still live in a culture infected with Empire, just as the disciples did. And, in our desire for power we create and participate in Empire.
What we reject, God accepts. God accepted life on the same terms we live it. Jesus is teaching us to embrace our life and to join him in reforming our culture from one of domination or empire to one of mutuality.
And when we can't ask questions or fall into a search for power, Jesus takes the person with the lowest status and embraces them, and so embraces us once again.