It’s fun to laugh at the disciples sometimes, isn’t it? Read the gospels and you’ll find them providing us plenty of opportunity. Like in Mark 9 when they have arrived in Capernaum and have settled into a home for a meal and a rest. Jesus asks a simple question: “What were you discussing on the way?” They had obviously been in deep debate during that long walk and Jesus is interested to know what it was all about. But there is no response. “They kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.” Ouch.
This argument sounds absurd to Western ears. Who would actually debate their own status? Who would actually have the chutzpah to say, “I’m greater than you and here’s why”? But in that culture, this kind of ranking was important, a means of ensuring social hierarchy. Literature from the time was full of explanations of who should enter rooms first, second, third, and last. Other literature predicted who would be be closest to God in Paradise. Status was conferred according to tribe, status, station, and, of course, action.
The disciples must have been debating something like this. Each had brought his case, each had argued his own merits, each had been his own hype man. It is unlikely they had settled the matter, for no one who argues such things could ever be content to be twelfth (or even second, for that matter). In all likelihood, they brought rancor to the table with them. Jesus silenced them with a question. He shamed them with a demonstration. He shocked them with an explanation.
Continue at: http://www.challies.com/articles/who-is-the-greatest