This is the Sunday of the 150th anniversary celebration at St. John Lutheran Church in Drake, Missouri, and there are specific texts to be read on the Sunday of the anniversary of a congregation.
Having recently read the history of the congregation—and, also, having quite recently written up a brief history of that congregation—I have come to appreciate very much when people get along well with each other.
That happens to be the way that things are going in both congregations I am currently serving, and I am very appreciative of that. But there are times in the past 150 years when that has NOT happened. And there are congregations in that current situation today.
So, it is almost encouraging that arguments are described within the first three gospel accounts in similar, yet slightly different ways. If things are important in the life of Jesus, they are mentioned at least three times.
The regular Gospel text for this Sunday [Mark 9:30-37] describes an argument that the disciples were having amongst themselves. In fact, the text for the previous Sunday had a description of another argument; that time it was between the disciples and the scribes (9:14).
The disciples were arguing as to who was the greatest. I thought it would be interesting to lay out how each of these very similar gospel accounts gives a different perspective to this topic.
In the Gospel according to Matthew, there is, to my knowledge, no mention of the disciples arguing as to which of them was the greatest. But it is certainly interesting that, at the beginning of the fourth sermon (or discourse), the question is asked of Jesus by his disciples, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:1)?’ That was essentially the issue being argued in the Gospel according to Mark.
It is in the fourth book of the Old Testament, the book of Numbers, that the children of Israel must deal with themselves and others, after they leave Mount Sinai, and so, in this fourth sermon, this topic of how to deal with others is laid out as well. God’s children WILL have some disagreements.
But instead of focusing on the arguments, one option is to go to Jesus. You can ask him to clarify, to teach regarding the issue.
In the Gospel according to Mark, there is basically the opposite reaction. The disciples, unfortunately, were arguing amongst themselves as to who was the greatest. And, when they got into the house with Jesus, they were silent (9:33f).
That is often the reality of how things go. You may think that silence is infrequent in our day and age, but when there are no worthy, biblically based solutions presented to a problem, that is essentially silence.
Some important arguments are not getting resolved. That is unfortunate. The key, again, is to listen to Jesus; we are to remain silent. He wants the important issues discussed, and his words are a good starting point.
In the Gospel according to Luke (9:46ff), the same event is described, but it is described in a slightly different way. The word that is attached to the argument is the same word that one would use for entering a house. The use of the word here is appropriate because Jesus is entering an important part of the gospel account, that of his heading to Jerusalem, to accomplish what he was sent to do.
This account helps to remind us that arguments start for a purpose, sometimes for a very important purpose. If Jesus is about to leave, because he would be ‘delivered into the hands of men (9:44),’ then it IS an important issue as to who would be the greatest—the leader—after Jesus leaves.
Hopefully this has been a helpful perspective regarding both arguments and Jesus.