They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the road?" They kept quiet because on the way they argued about who was greatest. 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." He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me."
Why do we stuff up? Often it's simple. It's because we refuse to admit we don't "get it". If we admitted that we would be on the way to a better understanding. But we don't. We blunder on and bluff. We fool nobody more than we fool ourselves.
Sometimes at school we prefer to stay quiet because we are afraid others will say "She is just trying to prove how great she is!" Staying quiet in this way, particularly when we know that we don't know and are too afraid to admit it, is just a bluff, a big con.
And on the way to Capernaum, Jesus realised His disciples were not getting it. But He also knew they couldn't bring themselves to ask Him to help. Jesus' teaching confused them; they didn't get it. They couldn't grasp that their Rabbi had to die. They got distracted. So? When they came into the house, Jesus had a question for them. They should have had a question for Him. You can imagine the red faces, the embarrassment. They were just silent, too embarrassed.
This discussion of who was the greatest among them was not just because they were trying to go "on up" on each other. Who was going to be the leader of this travelling synagogue after Jesus had finished whatever He had come to do? They knew He was preparing them for something. So who was next in line? It's not such a silly question. Peter, James and John had done what Jesus had asked them and kept the matter of Jesus speaking to Elijah and Moses to themselves. They wondered about what 'rising from the dead on the third day' might mean, but they couldn't bring themselves to ask Him about that either. So, they became distracted, arguing about who would be 2nd-in-command
Why don't students like asking the most important questions? Well, it is because we don't know how to ask - we even need to be taught the right questions. This was a discussion by the disciples among themselves. And Jesus helped them come to terms with that, even though they couldn't tell Him about it. Look … I can see you are embarrassed about what you were discussing on the road. You feel like big idiots, right? Let me say something basic; don't forget it. You want to make an important contribution? Put yourself last. You want to do great things for God's Kingdom? Serve, take last place. You want to learn? Face up to your questions. What He taught completely blew them away. If they wanted to be in God's Kingdom, they had to become babes again, they had to be born again. To follow Jesus was to become like a child, to see things from a child's perspective, to view oneself and the world as one of God's children. That is central to what He taught His disciples. Jesus taught that to become like a child, a child of God, was to start growing as God's sons and daughters. Accepting children means we accept ourselves as children in God's Kingdom. Accepting God's Kingdom like a child means receiving love, becoming wise. We can admit what we don't know. We can ask questions. When you accept my teaching like a child, you accept me and you show you receive the One who sent me!
This teaching leaves me dumbfounded. It's actually why I've written "Hunches". I suspect that if I can write a book about Mark's gospel for 9 year olds then there's a good chance I'll understand His teaching better. What I have written is written so adults can learn the story of Jesus to tell it to children. That's the way all of us can grow up into being followers and friends of God's Son.