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.”
In Mark 9:31, Jesus tells his disciples for the second time what it is that he must suffer. Unlike the first time he said this in Mark (8:31), they have no response for him this time. Yet it is on the heels of this proclamation (the second of three) that the disciples begin arguing about who among them is the greatest. Jesus asks about the content of their “discussion,” but they decline to answer because they know Jesus will disapprove. Jesus did not require a response because he clearly knew the substance of their quarrel. So he sat down and tried to impress upon them—again—the purpose of his ministry, and to give them a new perspective on how to live life as people of God. Mark 10:35-45 is unmistakable evidence that the disciples still had not learned what Jesus was all about, and that they did not understand the nature of the life that to which he had called them.
The Twelve were called to be servants, just like their Master. We, too, are called to be servants, just like our Master. We live in a world where every message seems to be telling us that we are to do whatever it takes to put ourselves forward, to be first, and to take the best for self. But the voice of Jesus continues to ring in our ears, reminding us of his sacrificial service, and calling us to a ‘downward mobility’ that imitates his life and his compassion for others. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”