No doubt I have some special talents and skills. Some accumulated with experience, study and practice. The disciples too. Jesus knew. Mark 9:33-34 recorded this realistic scene. Jesus knew they were disputing among themselves who would be the greatest. I can imagine the conversation among them:
- Peter: I should be the leader. I am always the leader and spokesman. I have the revelation knowledge. I was the first to declare that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and that Jesus has the words of eternal life. (John 6:68-69)
- John: I am the chosen one. I am the beloved of Jesus. Jesus let me lay on His bosom. I can accurately conceptualize and summarize the essence of the words He has spoken. In fact, I know Jesus best. I have a better and more complete in depth revelation knowledge of God and Jesus, the Son of God. I even recorded down Who He said He really is. I believe in every word He has spoken. I believe Jesus trusts me most and will entrust His mother to my care if in need.
- James: I should be the commander in chief. I am fiery and unafraid of evil. I can call down fire to burn those who oppose Jesus! I am in the Lord’s inner circle of three (Peter, John and James) and saw Jesus’ glory on the mountain of transfiguration!
- Philip: I managed to convince the skeptical Nathanael to join us here! I am the first evangelist! I am good in economics, market prices and figures too. I make sure I stay quite close to Jesus so I can ask Him stuff and also serve Him. For example, Jesus asked me where we shall buy bread. I am the one who knew how much it would cost to feed five thousand. (John 6:5, 7) I am the first cross-cultured missionary. The Greeks come to me so I can bring them to Jesus.
- Andrew: I. I am the first evangelist. I went and persuaded Peter to join. Remember? I am a populist. The little boy came to me and offered his five barley loaves and two small fish. See, how popular I am? The Greeks look for Philip but Philip still has to find me to bring them together to Jesus. (John 12:20-22)
- Matthew: Stop. I am the most qualified and experienced in crucial departments: accounting, tax evasion investigation, inland revenue and custom duties collection, reports writing etc. I am also most well versed in Moses’ laws and Jewish tradition and practice.
- Thomas: I am the realist. You need to be realistic and demand the specific practical evidence and details. You must doubt and challenge everything before you can be an effective leader. Never take things at face value. I make sure we clarify and know what Jesus is talking about and the exact route we can use to go where He is going. (John 14:5, 20:24-29) but I have loyalty. I am willing to die with Jesus. (John 11:16)
- Nathanael: I am the man of integrity. Jesus said so!
- Judas Iscariot: I am the man of the highest integrity. See, you all entrusted me to keep your money box. I even have the discretion to give to the poor, take and spend what I need to. I also have friends in the high places, like the Chief Priests and the Pharisees.
- James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, and Simon the Patriot: We are the true disciples. Action speaks louder than mere words. The Master (Jesus) sent us out, gave us authority and power to go preach the kingdom of God, heal the sick and cast out demons. We did that faithfully. Leaders are action and performance-oriented, with evidence of fruit.
In conclusion, I should not be thinking that Jesus is merely talking to His disciples. I too, like the disciples above, could make assumptions about my human abilities and qualifications when I lapse into self-engrossment and human efforts even though I do not vie for any leadership position. Jesus was not against His disciples performing well and becoming leaders. But at that time they missed the whole point about His life ministry, which is not a kingdom on earth. And His successors are to make disciples of all nations. This mission is to be fulfilled by His followers until He returns.
Definition of a disciple:
This is the definition of a disciple. A disciple is a person who continues in God’s Word until they experience freedom. Put together with John 15:8, where Jesus said a disciple is one who bears much fruit, we can say that a disciple is someone who continues in God’s Word until they are free and it can be witnessed in their lives as fruit. (Andrew Wommack)