Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all. Mark 9:35
Cuthbert is a much-loved figure in northern England. Responsible for evangelizing much of the area in the seventh century, Cuthbert counseled monarchs and influenced state affairs; and after his death, the city of Durham was built in his honor. But Cuthbert’s legacy is great in more ways than these.
After a plague ravaged the region, Cuthbert once toured affected towns offering solace. Readying to leave one village, he checked if there was anyone left to pray for. There was—a woman, clutching a child. She had already lost one son, and the child she held was nearing death too. Cuthbert took the fevered boy in his arms, prayed for him, and kissed his forehead. “Do not fear,” he told her, “for no one else of your household will die.” The boy reportedly lived.
Jesus once took a small boy into his arms to give a lesson on greatness, saying, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me” (Mark 9:37). To “welcome” someone in Jewish culture meant to serve them, the way a host welcomes a guest. Since children were to serve adults and not be served, the idea must’ve been shocking. Jesus’ point? True greatness resides in serving the smallest and lowliest (v. 35).
A counselor to monarchs. An influencer of history. A city built in his honor. But perhaps heaven records Cuthbert’s legacy more like this: A mother noticed. A forehead kissed. A humble life reflecting his Master.
When you think of a “great” person in history, what image comes to mind? How can you pursue Jesus’ kind of greatness today?
Dear God, help me to humbly serve others.
Context is always a key element when considering any passage of Scripture, and today’s text resides in a sadly tragic context. In Mark 9:30–32, Jesus made His second of three announcements (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33) that His ultimate mission was to go to the cross and suffer the horrors and humiliations of crucifixion. In Mark 8:32, Peter responded to Jesus’ first announcement of the cross with indignation—convinced that Jesus should never have to suffer such anguish. In Mark 9, the disciples as a group follow Christ’s announcement with an argument about which of them would be the greatest—apparently an ongoing subject of their conversations. Clearly, they’d failed to understand the sobering reality of Jesus’ coming sacrifice on their behalf and could only contemplate the benefits they might receive in the coming kingdom. Their discussion is a reminder of how short-sighted we can be and how unaware of God’s bigger purposes.