Mark 9:33-37 – Who is the Greatest?


Mark 9:33-37


Jesus uses a small child to teach his disciples about true greatness.


In the modern Western world, there is a tendency to glorify childhood. Westerners often look back on childhood fondly or talk about it with childlike wonder. This was not the case for the ancient Mediterranean world. Childhood was a dangerous time in which many died from disease or accident. Those who didn’t die often began lives of hard labor at early ages. Though the ancients valued and loved children, they also assigned them a subordinate status within the social order. Because of these cultural presuppositions, children represent an odd choice for discussions of greatness.

For Jesus, however, children represent a perfect illustration of his upside-down vision of messiahship. Just as the messiah comes to suffer and die, his followers must be humiliated and must make themselves the least. They must also accept those who are the least in society, a point driven home through Jesus’ example of a child.