Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest.…
The scene is well worthy the genius of the artist: the disciples together, but still at variance with one another, with cold or averted look; the Master with a little child in his arms (Mark 9:36), either turning a reproachful glance on his, disciples, or a look of tenderness upon that little one; the child himself with a trustful but wondering expression in his countenance. The scene is suggestive of the thought - What's the child to the Church? (For homily on the contention between the apostles, see Luke 22:24.) We may consider -
I. WHAT THE CHILD WAS TO THE DISCIPLES. The answer to this question is - not much. They were devout and worthy men; but they were Jews, and they shared the mental habits of their countrymen. To them the little child was of small account - one to be kept carefully out of sight; one to be taken charge of by parent or teacher, but superfluous in society; one too many when a great man was present, when a great prophet was speaking, or a great healer was healing. This we know from their conduct on a memorable occasion (Luke 18:15).
II. WHAT THE CHILD IS TO THE CHURCH. The poor, our Lord said, we have "always with us." So is it with the children. Whoever are absent, they are present; whoever fail, they abound. The child is in the midst of us, and we have to decide what he shall be to us. Taught by our Lord's teaching, led by his example, imbued with his Spirit, we have to take up a very different attitude from that of the disciples. The Christian Church no longer regards the child as one that has to be carefully kept out of the way lest he should be troublesome. It welcomes him cordially; like its Master, it takes him into the embrace of its affection and its care.
1. It regards the children as the Church of the future. It remembers that "death and change are busy ever," that the fathers and mothers are passing on and away, and that others will soon be needed to take their place. When a few more years have come, the place which knows us now will know us no more; who then, but the children about our feet, will bear the flag we bear, will speak the truth we speak, will do the work we do?
2. It regards the children as a present valuable heritage. For the little child
(1) can be a recipient of Divine truth, and not only can he be this, but his natural open-mindedness and trustfulness make him a peculiarly apt learner in Christ's great school;
(2) can be a true follower of the Divine Master - to him also Jesus says, "Follow me," and not only can he "rise and follow" him, but his disposition to trust and love and obey makes him to be a close and a very acceptable follower of his Lord;
(3) can illustrate in his own way the excellences of the Christian life, by the exhibition of those virtues and graces which most become childhood and youth. The Church of Christ should find in the little child its most interesting and its most valuable disciple. And this a great deal the more because of -
III. WHAT THE CHILD IS TO THE SAVIOUR HIMSELF. This is very much indeed. For Christ knows, as we do not, all the possibilities of the little child - the height to which he may rise, or the depth to which he may sink; the good he may live to do, or the evil he may live to work; the blessedness to which he may attain, or the shame and woe which may be his end. He is more deeply interested in the young than we are, and however earnest and eloquent our voice of invitation or of warning may be, more earnest far is the voice of the Lord himself, as he says, "Come unto me, take my yoke upon you,... my yoke is easy, my burden is light." - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest.