Read Mark 9:33-37 where Mark describes the conversation that took place in the context of the argument (Luk 9:46) that had arisen among the disciples as to which of them was the greatest (Mar 9:34). What did John say in response to Jesus’ correcting their faulty understanding of what it means to be great in God’s kingdom, and the importance of accepting and receiving those who are more humble and lowly? See Mar 9:38; cf. Luk 9:49. Why would this statement have arisen in such a context? Think: in what way does Mar 9:38 expound on what it means to receive others in Jesus’ name? Whereas the disciples’ debate had been which among them was the greatest, how does John’s statement broaden the discussion to those who were not part of their immediate circle but who still invoked Jesus’ name? In the context of their argument, what would the disciples’ thoughts have been in regard to those who were not part of their band? In what way was John’s response perhaps like ours when our faulty understanding is exposed as incorrect? Think: have we ever sought to justify or deflect criticism from ourselves by presenting a point that seems obvious, only to discover that it too is wrong? Why did John say they tried to hinder the man? How is that perhaps like us in regard to those from other Christian denominations or traditions? Why is it particularly significant that it was John who asked the question? See Mat 17:1-2, 20:20-21, Mar 3:17, Luk 9:46,49,51-54.
What was Jesus’ command to the disciples, and why? See Mar 9:39-40. Should we understand Jesus’ words here to mean that because someone casts out demons in His name they will necessarily enter into His kingdom? See Mat 7:21-23, 10:1, 18:3, and observe to whom Jesus is speaking in 10:1 and 18:3. Besides not being converted to become like children, what sort of thing might cause someone who was progressing toward Christ’s kingdom even to the point of casting out demons in His name to stumble and fall so as to fall short and not enter after all? See Mar 9:38; cf. Mar 9:42. What should we learn from this about being too narrow or judgmental in our view of others who are bearing fruit in Jesus’ name? If Jesus wasn’t concerned that someone who perhaps didn’t have full knowledge and wasn’t a part of His immediate band was nevertheless bearing fruit in His name, should we be? Cf. Num 11:24-30. Is it possible that our God is much bigger than we imagine and is able to accomplish His purposes even in and with those who are not part of our circle? Cf. Mar 12:32-34. Explain the seeming contradiction between Mar 9:40 and Mat 12:30. Hint: What was the fruit that was being produced in the context of each statement? Cf. Mat 7:16-20.
What did Jesus say in Mar 9:41 in regard to those who support the cause of Christ in even the smallest ways, even if they aren’t part of our circle? Cf. Mat 10:40-42, 25:34-40; see also Rev 11:18 and note that the “small” in this passage is the same Greek word translated as “little ones” in Mar 9:42 as well as Mat 18:6,10,14. What does this teach us about the Lord’s faithfulness to reward even the smallest acts of righteousness in His name? What encouragement should such an understanding give us when we suppose that such seemingly little things don’t matter? See Gal 6:9. If the Lord is so observant and has promised to reward even the smallest acts of kindness in His name, should we suppose He is any less observant and will not likewise reward even the smallest acts of wickedness, especially against “little ones” who believe in Him? See Mat 25:41-46, 2Co 5:10, Rev 22:12. What is the great danger of being too narrow or judgmental in our view of other Christian denominations or traditions, especially in regard to “little ones” who may just be coming to the knowledge of the truth, and treating them in such a way as to perhaps wound them and cause them to stumble? See Mar 9:42; cf. 1Co 8:1-13.
Four times in Revelation it speaks about “the small and the great” (Rev 11:18, 13:16, 19:5,18); what is the significance that in Rev 20:12 before the throne of God’s judgment it speaks of “the great and the small”? Cf. Luk 12:47-48, Rom 2:9-10. Since even Christ’s closest disciples will be judged for their treatment of “little ones”, in the words of Peter what sort of people ought we to be in holy conduct and godliness (2Pe 3:11)? See 2Pe 3:14, and cf. Mar 9:50 which is Jesus’ concluding remark in the context of the argument that had arisen among the disciples as to which of them was the greatest.