Jesus was taking time with his disciples to try to get them to understand what was to happen to him. The combination of betrayal, death and resurrection was a set of ideas which did not in any way match what they thought should happen. Jesus obviously regarded the combination as all of one piece, and as part of his mission as the anointed one, but the emphasis falls on the resurrection. The concept of a resurrection was not foreign to the disciples, but their idea was probably that there would be a resurrection of the righteous at the beginning of the age to come. The notion of an individual resurrection lay far outside their conceptual framework. Just like many of us, faced with an incomprehensible lesson the disciples avoided the problem by getting involved in something else, they began arguing about the position of each one of them in their group.
The status of an individual was a very important part of life, and a servant was very low in the pecking order, so the concept of the Messiah as servant was again incomprehensible. The idea of the greatest being the servant of all broke all the rules of status, rank and standing in society. Children were also of very low status, but Jesus took a child in the crook of his arm and described the child as one who represented himself. We could use this statement by Jesus to raise questions about refugee children.
Some years ago a group on Waiheke started an enterprise which they called The Village Project: it was aimed at providing fresh water for a village in Africa. One of the people involved built concrete water tanks on Waiheke and he took himself over there to built tanks for the village. The local Waiheke newspaper had a photograph of him with a small child sitting in the crook of his arm. The child was happy, confident and smiling. I wonder if the child Jesus held, in front of a group of uncomprehending disciples, felt like the child in the photograph.
Photo courtesy of Waiheke Gulf News