Verses 33-34 perhaps some of the disciples were jealous of the three men who had been alone on the mountain with Jesus. But they were all still thinking about a political kingdom in which Jesus would give them important places. Jesus had taught them that he would suffer. And he would die. But that had not changed their wrong idea about the Messiah’s purpose. The disciples kept quiet because they were ashamed to tell Jesus.
Verse 35 Jewish teachers sat to teach their pupils. The fact that Jesus sat down showed that he was going to teach his disciples. If they wanted greatness in his kingdom, they must not try to take the most important place. They must not be proud and expect to be the masters. They must be willing to serve everyone.
Verse 36 In order to emphasise this need for service, Jesus acted a parable. He used a little child as an example. The Aramaic word ‘talya’ can mean both ‘child’ and ‘servant’. Children have no power and they have to depend on the help of adults. The disciples must serve even little children. But ‘children’ includes all people who are weak and in need of help. Paul said, ‘as for the man who is weak in faith, give him a welcome’ (Romans 14:1).
Verse 37 ‘In my name’, means ‘with my authority and for me’. Humble service is service to Jesus himself. ‘As you did it to one of the least …. You did it to me’ (Matthew 25:40). Jesus was working for God, who had sent him. Therefore, whenever people serve him, they are serving God.
Verses 38-39 John spoke for himself and the other disciples. The man was not in their group. So, they told him to stop sending evil spirits out of people ‘in the name’ of Jesus. Some Jews in Ephesus tried to use ‘the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches’. They failed. They thought that Jesus’ name might be a magic way to send an evil spirit out of a person (Acts 19:13-16). But Jesus told the disciples not to stop a man with faith who was working for him.
Christians should be glad when other people are successful. They should not be jealous of those who worship and serve God in a different way.
Verse 40 A man is either on Christ’s side or against him. When he is doing good deeds, he is on God’s side.
Verse 41 A person may give help to a disciple of Christ. God will reward that person. ‘A cup of water’ shows that the help need not be in an important matter. It can be a small act of kindness.
Verse 42 the disciples are responsible for those who are young spiritually as well as for children. It is better to drown than to make a child or a young or weak Christian sin. A disciple must be careful about what he teaches. A disciple’s bad or careless behaviour may make a young believer imitate him. Disciples must not cause young believers to lose their faith. They must not do it by what they teach. And they must not do it by their example.
To drown someone with a large weight round his neck was a way to punish people in those days. A mill-stone turned wheat into flour. A large mill-stone was a big round stone with a hole in the middle. A donkey pulled the stone round over the wheat by a bar of wood through the hole. If someone put a person’s head through the hole of this heavy stone, he would certainly drown.