Mark 9: 33-34: They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
Peter, James, and John had just been at the Transfiguration. The other disciples hadn’t been able to cast out a demon while they were gone. Now they’re on the road traveling by foot and Jesus is out of earshot. Among themselves they argue about who is the greatest. What was that argument like?
Peter, James, and John have a secret to keep. Jesus told them not to reveal the marvel they saw yet, but it was so incredible that they must have been brimming with excitement. Perhaps James said something like, “Man, we are so much more in the loop than you guys. You couldn’t even cast out that demon. We’re better than you guys.”
And then maybe Peter said, “Right, and of the three of us I am the leader. After all, I was the first to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah.”
Maybe Judas says, “No way, I’m the most important one. He trusts me to take care of the money.”
And then Simon the Zealot might have said, “Yeah, well, money’s not as important as politics and I understand this whole political situation better than you all.”
Maybe Nathaniel (Bartholomew) says, “Hey, hey, wait a minute, let’s not get political. If you want to name names then I’m the greatest. After all I’m the only one of us who is descended from royal blood as my name indicates: Bar-talmei, son of Talmei, king of Geshur.”
Then perhaps John says, “Hold it right there! We were among the first to follow Him. We have been with Him longer than the rest.”
And Peter agrees, “Right, and he got in my boat first.”
Then Andrew interrupts with, “Uh, hold on, brother! I introduced you to Jesus. If it weren’t for me, you’d still be fishing.”
“Yeah, well,” Peter says, “why didn’t he give you a new name? I’m obviously his favorite.”
And so the argument may have gone with Philip and Matthew and Thomas and the others joining in, too, but later, when Jesus asked them what they had been arguing about they got very quiet. Embarrassed, no doubt.
Mark 9: 35: Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
Wow! He did not rebuke them for their desire to be first. Success is a good thing, but to be first you must be last and the servant of all. What does that mean to you?