On the road to Damascus the disciples got to arguing about which one of them would be the greatest in the coming kingdom. Perhaps Peter argued his enthusiasm, John his insight into spiritual matters, and Judas Iscariot his ability to handle finances. In any case, once inside the house Jesus asked them what they were discussing along the way. Of course, they were embarrassed and didn’t answer. So Jesus sat down and taught them exactly what they needed to learn at that point — the road to greatness goes through that valley of humility. Taking a little child into his arms Jesus explained that even to enter the kingdom they would have to become as humble as that little one. True greatness is humility, becoming the least.
While the words of Jesus explain how a believer should live, I would like to reflect on what Jesus did as part of the disciples’ learning experience. First, he was aware of what they were talking about but didn’t butt right in tell them how wrong they were. He waited until they were indoors where there would be less distraction; then he raised the question about their discussion along the way. What I see here is careful consideration of how best to teach a lesson. So often our zeal to show that we have the answer leads to a poor job in conveying truth.
Another thing I notice is that it is Jesus who takes the initiative. Mark 9:35 says that Jesus sat down and “called the Twelve” to come and listen. Most people do not care to confront. Friends continue for years with a detrimental habit that could have been lovingly confronted to their advantage. I know that “advice unasked for is criticism,” but most of us will remember having received from a friend some helpful word of correction. To “be like Jesus” is to help others see their blind spots. In a gracious and loving fashion? Absolutely.
The other observation is that Jesus used a most effective method of teaching. They would never forget a child in the arms of Jesus as he taught them a lesson in humility. Rote memory is fine for storing away necessary facts but when it comes to teaching how to live there is nothing quite like a live example.