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Mark 9:35

ESV And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, "If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all."
NIV Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all."
NASB And sitting down, He called the twelve and *said to them, 'If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.'
CSB Sitting down, he called the Twelve and said to them, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be last and servant of all."
NLT He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, 'Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.'
KJV And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.
NKJV And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”

What does Mark 9:35 mean?

"First" is from the Greek root word protos. It means first in influence, honor, and rank; in this case, it would mean the chief of the disciples. "Servant" is from the Greek root word diakonos and simply means one who acts on the desires of another. It is where we get our word "deacon" which is someone who manages church resources to fill the needs of the members. Jesus will demonstrate this servant-heart when He washes the disciples' feet before the last supper (John 13:1–5).

Jesus has recently told the disciples that they must lay down the right to their lives and be willing to die for Him on a cross (Mark 8:34–38). Many of the disciples will make this sacrifice, whether on a cross or in other ways. Right now, however, Jesus has to once again draw back the difficult rhetoric and encourage them to take a smaller step: be a leader by serving others.

The disciples are thinking of the positions they will warrant when Jesus comes into His glory (Mark 10:37). They don't understand that His glory will not come until after His suffering and death. Leadership in times of prosperity and power looks very different than leadership in persecution and hardships. The purpose of leadership is to equip and encourage others so they remain steady and effective in times of great trial. When followers are struggling for life and hope, leaders need to give, not take. In peace, a military commander may insist on a fitted uniform, appropriate medals, and accolades from political leaders. In war, however, his responsibility is to his troops and their effectiveness and survival, no matter how it may cost his career. Paul understood this when he said he was "poured out as a drink offering" (Philippians 2:17; 2 Timothy 4:6).
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