[Jesus and his disciples] went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, ‘The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.’ But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him. Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the way?’ But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’ Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’
When we are in the presence of death everything looks different. At family funerals we say to our cousins, “We shouldn’t wait for a funeral to bring us together; we should meet more often!” But then we go our ways and we don’t meet till the next funeral - or wedding. There's a solemnity about death that puts everything in a different perspective; many of our ordinary excitements and disappointments look a lot smaller than they used to. And as for our ambitions…!
Jesus had just spoken about his imminent death. Then he asked the disciples, “What were you discussing?” The gospel says, “They did not answer because they had been arguing about who was the greatest.” It would be very difficult to keep that kind of debate going in the presence of Jesus.
It is the ego that has to stake a claim to being the greatest. Because it is a false identity, everything can threaten it, and so it is always on high alert. Our true being makes no such claim; quite the opposite. Jesus sat down with them and patiently explained. “If someone wants to be first, let him be last of all.” (Other translations say, He must make himself last of all.) To illustrate what he said, he put a little child before them. Our true being looks out at the world with wonder instead of criticism and competition, and it looks up at God with wordless trust.
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