Changing the Subject
Reading: Mark 8, 9
We’ve all been there. The conversation takes a turn that is uncomfortable for us and we try to change the subject. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t
Jesus and His disciples were on their way to Capernaum. If the Twelve had been modern day teenagers we would have seen them texting each other so that their Master wouldn’t know what they were saying. As it was, they kept their voices down, thinking He wouldn’t know what the conversation was all about. When they got to Capernaum, the Lord asked them what they had been discussing. Mark records: “But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest” (Mark 9:34, NIV).
If that wasn’t uncomfortable enough, the Lord speaks the famous words that not too many modern believers like any better than the disciples did. “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 8:35, NIV). And to illustrate the kind of humble servanthood He is speaking about, Jesus picked up a small child and invited His macho-men to learn a lesson in humility.
Once, in one of our overseas church plants, we elevated a new believer to the post of elder in the church. The position went to his head and we had endless grief because of it. Later, someone remarked we should have first assigned him to nursery duty until he proved that he could be a servant even to the smallest child. Then he might have been ready for a higher position. At the very least we should have paid attention to the lesson Jesus was teaching in this passage.
The message was an uncomfortable one for the disciples so, in Mark 9:38, John (whose mother wanted thrones at the right and left of Jesus for her boys) changes the subject. His choice of conversation simply revealed how deep-seated their pride had become. John told Jesus about a man who was driving out demons in Jesus’ name. Because he wasn’t one of their group, the disciples had ordered him to stop. I guess John thought that Jesus would pat him on the back for protecting their “turf.”
He was wrong. Jesus rebuked John and then returned to the subject that John had so wanted to walk away from—servanthood. Jesus told them that they had to think micro long before they thought macro. They were to think women’s work (Mark 9:41-50).
Serving water and babysitting was not exactly what the disciples thought “kingdom business” should be all about. Perhaps they were jealous of the man who had been casting out demons since they had so recently been rebuked because they had not been able to cast one out of a boy whose father had brought him to Jesus to be healed (Mark 9:14ff). It appears that the disciples had gotten such “swelled heads” that they had ceased to demonstrate their dependence on God. Earlier (Mark 6:7-13), Jesus had given them the gift of healing and casting out demons, but it appears that they had lost that ability because they weren’t praying as much as they should have been (Mark 9:29).
How often do I “change the subject” when God is speaking to me about something I’d rather not hear? How often do I pull out my "trump card" and tell Him all that I am doing in His name when He reveals something I should be doing, but am not? How often do I rebel against the idea that my “exalted position” means nothing if I’m not willing to do the humblest task that He assigns? The lesson Jesus taught the disciples remains a lesson that I need to learn today.