Immediately apparent in the Gospel reading Mk 9:30-37 are three distinct topics. First there is the mention of the Passion of the Lord, his suffering and His crucifixion. Second there us that discussion of the disciples. In that discussion they discuss amongst themselves who is the greatest. The third topic is Jesus bringing into the conversation children. Innocence versus guilt. Memories the garden of Eden. The garden is where the innocent become the guilty and are expelled, its the original sin. It is through the Passion of the Lord that those guilty gain reentry to that garden. The innocent Lamb of God is slain for the guilt of others. The guilty are saved through the shed blood of the innocent Lamb.
Look then at that conversation between the disciples, in their discussion they argue who is the greatest. In their shame they hesitate to reveal what they had discussed. They hide as Adam and Eve did when their guilt is exposed.
The teacher then corrects them, as a parent corrects an errant child. They are taught to behave as Christians., Think then of children. Innocent. They place their trust in the parent, as those disciples should place there trust in God. Those disciples are instructed then in how to be Apostles .
In their discussion on who would be the greatest, it is not difficult to see so many leaders. There is that politician in power, and there is their entourage. Why, one might ask, do those people travel with the politician that has landed a position of power? Many travel for the photo opportunities, they are there to be seen simply because they care to gain recognition. Should that campaigning politician win election, the entourage also has hopes for their own gain. They work for a place in the administration and many have hopes to eventually campaign on their own. Jesus in his travels attracted enormous crowds and that is historical fact. As Jesus traveled about, should any one think those chosen for Apostleship did not notice the notoriety . Is it odd to think they might have wanted to cash in? They wanted their place in the kingdom but that was a kingdom they did not yet understand. They understood how to rule, they had yet learned how to serve, and for that Jesus brought into the conversation the child. Jesus introduced the innocent child to displace those disciples guilt. They were introduced to a rule unlike that of the kings of the land. The Christian kingdom was different from those they knew of, it was a radical departure from their contemporaries and the lessons were not easily grasped. The New Testament was after all New, and it was unfolding before them.
Though in years those disciples might have been middle aged or possibly older, in Christian terms they were still in their infancy. And in their infancy Christ practiced what He preached, he guarded them from the evil one and placed them back on the right path. That did not mean they would not be wounded or challenged, or that they would not suffer It did mean they grew in the wisdom of Christ’s message; It did mean that they would be able to bear the responsibilities of Apostles. They are the children that grew from innocent infants to wise adults. They had a wise teacher, and they learned their lesson well.