They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
Pastor Kevin Murphy, Saint Matthew Lutheran Church (Walnut Creek)
Most children seek approval, especially from those they know and love the most. As we become adults, we sometimes unwisely seek the approval of those who don’t even care about us. Can’t you imagine that child who is wrapped in Jesus’ embrace thinking to herself, “It doesn’t get better than this!”
You have to love Jesus’ directness in this story. No beating around the bush. He confronts the disciples’ awkward silence head-on. No wonder they were embarrassed into silence when Jesus has so consistently demonstrated self-giving, whereas the disciples’ self-aggrandizement stands in such stark contrast.
Jesus invites the disciples to sit down and benefit from his teaching, but as soon as they are comfortable, he challenges them with the kingdom notion, putting the world’s values upside down: The true primacy is found in everyone else first. If you want to stand out and be stellar, be a stellar servant!
The apostle Paul teaches us that Jesus’ ascension to becoming the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords followed the greatest descent the world had ever seen. Jesus gave up being God in heaven, took on human form, became servant of all, and was obedient to the point of the world’s most humiliating death (Philippians 2:5-11).
If our identity is secure as God’s beloved, we can risk deferring to everyone, knowing that the Father’s loving embrace is all the approval and recognition we’ll ever need.
Loving Father, may your loving embrace and reminder of my belovedness set me free to love and serve others with Your embrace.