Mark 9:30-37: Forgiven into Service
Updated: Feb 22
30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.
33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”
“The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of man, and they will kill him.”
“If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”
I have spent the last weeks trying to figure out a relationship between these two verses. And what they mean for us.
Christ will serve us by delivering himself into the hands of men who will kill him. Christ will offer himself to the world as it is, rather than the world as he would have it. Christ will offer himself to a world that doesn't like or want him.
When he does this, when he offers himself to the world as it is, rather than to the world as he would have it, he will reveal himself to the world. He will disclose His Mercy, he will show us what God is like. He will be saying, in effect, there is something more important than being liked, or respected, or treated well, and that is offering the forgiveness of Sin, and revealing Himself as the Forgiveness of Sins.
And then he tells us we will do the same. We will offer ourselves to the world as it is rather the world as we would have it. And we will do this not to fix or control or manage it but to reveal what Jesus is like. Service is not about helping the world, fixing it, or making it better, it is about bearing witness. Offering is a means of revelation.
Of course, this is beyond painful. One of the most painful things is what we can’t be for people. But when we try to fix or help people we are often, without meaning to, saying they only have the future we can provide for them, rather than the future provided by the forgiveness of sins
No one starts out serving, we start out fixing, helping, controlling, managing. Service is something we grow into, something we are forgiven into. Forgiveness is how we grow into our vocation. And our vocation will always be what we have been asked to offer the World so that Christ might be revealed to it, might be displayed to it, what we have been asked to offer the world so it might be more than better or worse, so that it might be transfigured.
Being forgiven into service is, ultimately, a Mercy for us. The Mercy is that because we are only servants and guests of the Mercies offered in the gospel, we can only serve the world. Embedded within the idea of service is that the world can only be served. Embedded within the idea of what we can be for others is the admission of what we can’t be. That is why service is always already repentance. We must repent of what we can't be, so we can be who we can. And this means service is ultimately about rest.