And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest.
Imagine this moment in the disciples’ lives. Here they were just walking to Capernaum, talking along the way. Maybe Jesus was in front of them, leading, and they were behind Him, having this intense conversation. Maybe they tried to speak quietly so He wouldn’t hear them, or maybe Jesus was talking with someone else as He walked and they thought He wasn’t paying attention to them. Or maybe the noise of a crowd or other travelers drowned out their conversation. However it happened, Jesus was apparently not involved in their original conversation, but that doesn’t mean He didn’t know all about it.
When the disciples get to Capernaum and Jesus asks them this question, they don’t even know what to say. They just stand there staring at Him, perhaps dumbfounded that He knew, maybe embarrassed because of the subject matter of their conversation, maybe ashamed that they had argued about something so foolish. What a reminder that not only does Jesus know everything we think and say, but sometimes He’ll call us out on it and force us to confront it. He’ll bring up things that maybe we thought we’d gotten away with. He’ll ask us about things we think or say or do that are contrary to what He wants from us and make us think about what we’ve done.
But Jesus’ intention wasn’t to ridicule or simply get them to admit what they had been arguing over. He used this situation as a teaching moment, as He did so many times as He walked with these men. And in our own lives, He’ll often bring things up that He wants us to learn from. He wants us to see the error of our ways and which way is the right way so we can do that next time. He wants us to understand the principles He is trying to teach us about what being a follower of His is all about. He wants us to grow in our walk with Him, see what’s important and what doesn’t matter that much, and also impact others along the way. Jesus didn’t want His disciples to worry about who was the greatest, but for them to be servants, and He wants the same for us, as well.
The next time we feel chided by Jesus, maybe through His Word, maybe being convicted by His Spirit, maybe even through another person, let us not harden ourselves with pride, but be willing to examine the situation and see the lesson we are to learn or the action He wants us to take. He will constantly teach us if we will be His willing students, and He only seeks to make us more like Him and more useful to His service. Let us be sensitive to the leading of God when He points out a wrong attitude or wrong thinking and be willing to submit to His teaching and apply that lesson to our lives.