The disciples argue about which among them was the greatest. This makes no sense when one’s Lord has described his being rejected and killed. Jesus says that the greatest among his disciples is the one who is as a child. It is not the innocence or trusting nature of a child nor any positive innate characteristic that makes a child a model for discipleship. In the first century the dominate characteristic of a child was their dependence on others to provide their needs. The greatest disciple is the one who has the greatest sense of being dependent on Jesus for one’s need.
A disciple, not one of the twelve, was casting out demons. The twelve attempted to stop him because he wasn’t one of their number. I wonder if their previous failure to drive a demon from the father’s only son had resulted in envy.
As Jesus commences his final journey to Jerusalem, James and John ask Jesus whether he would have them tell fire to come down from heaven and consume the Samaritans who would not receive him. Jesus rebukes them – they still fail to understand what he has come into the world to do. I wonder if John did not recognize some of the same faces when he later came to see the Samaritans who had become Christians at the preaching of Philip (who also was not numbered among the twelve).
Finally, the non-compromising wholistic discipleship Jesus calls for is illustrated in three persons who fail to follow Jesus. The first will follow Jesus – but to do so will means leaving home behind. The second will follow – but first seeks to fulfill family obligations. The third will follow Jesus – but is told “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
To follow Jesus, we must – deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow. It is no trial to do so because sharing in the future glory of Jesus has been portrayed before our eyes.