Mark 9:31-35

Mark 9:31 (KJB)
For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day.

As they continued to abide in Galilee, Jesus had continually prepared their minds for the upcoming betrayal, trial, and crucifixion. It seemed that the disciples had not paid attention to that facet of the ministry of Christ and when the events began to unfold in Jerusalem, they were caught off guard because of their neglect in including this part of Jesus’ ministry in their thinking. Then Jesus continues on with the upcoming ordeal by telling them that not only will He be betrayed but He will also be killed because of their hatred for Him. Jesus also includes the fact that He was going to be raised from the dead on the third day. The fact that Jesus was going to die brought much sorrow to the disciples but it seemed they neglected to understand the last part of Jesus’ statement that He was going to rise from the dead. It seems to me that this would have brought some level of joy knowing that Jesus would not remain dead but would be raised. Unfortunately, it seems we hear only what we want to hear.

Mark 9:32 (KJB)
But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him.

There must have been a tremendous amount of mixed emotions among the disciples when Jesus spoke about His upcoming death and resurrection. He had been telling the disciples that this was going to happen for quite a long time and each time Jesus mentioned it, they seemed to block it from their minds. The worse part is that they have known Jesus very well and He never denied them any information and yet they were afraid to ask Him concerning the upcoming ordeal in Jerusalem. Maybe they were afraid to ask because Jesus might have told them that they would be dying with Him and they did not want to hear that. So instead of clearing up any wrong speculation, they decided to remain ignorant of that event.

Mark 9:33 (KJB)
And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?

This marks the end of Jesus’ withdrawal into the northern area. The house which Jesus stayed in was probably the house of Peter. There Jesus took the time to ask the disciples what they were discussing as they walked along. The word “disputed” in the Greek carries with it the meaning of “thoroughly reason or deliberate.” So they were not just superficially discussing it, they were going into serious deliberations and yet, when they could not understand on what the saying meant, they would not ask Jesus, instead Jesus had to bring up the subject. The interesting thing is that Jesus was focusing on His upcoming death and the disciples were discussing positions in the Kingdom.

Mark 9:34 (KJB)
But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest.

It seems from the type of discussion, the disciples were still looking for an earthly kingdom and that may have prompted them to ask the question about who should be the greatest one. Previous to this Peter was called a rock and then he, John and James were taken up to the Mount of Transfiguration and this may have added to the desire to know who is the greatest. The word in the Greek for “greatest” carries with it the idea of “being great by comparison.” They were looking at some kind of rating as to who would be the best disciple thus making him the greatest.

Mark 9:35 (KJB)
And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.

Jesus then sat down and calls over the twelve ready to answer their question as to how one gets to be the greatest. The world has its own formula to get to the top of the social or the business ladder. Jesus then tells them that in the Kingdom of God it is just the opposite. The one who is the greatest is the one who serves, not the one being served. This subject probably came up because Jesus had picked Peter, James, and John as His inner circle even inviting them to the Mount of Transfiguration while the rest of the disciples were not privy to what they were privy to. This may have been the reason that this subject had cropped up among them. In the Kingdom of God, it is humility not pride, it is service not being served, it is being crucified and not being free, it is placing others first and yourself last, etc. It is this kind of true mindset which will yield greatness in the Kingdom of God.