Today’s Gospel highlights the second of three passion predictions Jesus proclaims in the midst of his disciples.
He and his disciples are journeying through Galilee and Jesus is using this opportunity to teach them what it means to be a disciple and at the same time reveal to them his true identity as Messiah and Son of Man. So far nothing Jesus has done or said seems to have penetrated the disciples’ lack of understanding.
1) The second Passion-prediction. As Jesus and his disciples make their way through Galilee once again he informs them in very clear terms what is going to happen to him. This prediction is almost identical to the first one (Mk 8:31). Using the self-designation, “Son of Man,” Jesus forecasts once again his suffering, death, and resurrection. The disciples’ response is disheartening. They understand nothing and they are afraid to ask any questions. Notice here the contrast between fear and faith begins to emerge. While the disciples should be growing in faith, in fact they are growing in fear. Notice also that while the disciples seem to be overwhelmed by references to Jesus’ suffering and death they seem to miss the resurrection part.
2) Who is the greatest? Jesus noticed when they all arrived at Capernaum the disciples had been arguing. Perhaps he hoped they were arguing over the prediction Jesus had made earlier. Sad to say, the disciples were arguing among themselves about who was the greatest. They have understood absolutely nothing. While Jesus is talking about suffering and death, the disciples are concerned only about their own status and glory. Jesus and his disciples are on a collision course.
3) Receiving a child. Jesus offers his disciples a corrective teaching. He begins by stressing the divine dynamic of reversal. From God’s perspective, manifested in the words and deeds of Jesus, first means being last and last means being servant of all. The disciples believe just the opposite. Jesus exemplifies his teaching by placing a child in their midst. This child is the ideal. A child had no social or religious status whatsoever. A child was on the lowest rung of the social ladder. This is what a disciple should strive for.