Psychologist Milton Rokeach wrote a book called The Three Christs of Ypsilanti. He described his attempts to treat three patients at a psychiatric hospital in Ypsilanti, Michigan, who suffered from delusions of grandeur. Each believed he was unique among humankind; he had been called to save the world; he was the messiah. They displayed full-blown cases of grandiosity, in its pure form. Rokeach found it difficult to break through, to help the patients accept the truth about their identity. So he decided to put the three into a little community to see if rubbing against people who also claimed to be the messiah might dent their delusion – a kind of messianic, 12-step recovery group. This led to some interesting conversations. One would claim, “I’m the messiah, the Son of God. I was sent here to save the earth.” “How do you know?” Rokeach would ask. “God told me.” One of the other patients would counter, “I never told you any such thing.”
It’s a crazy idea, taking a group of deluded, would-be messiahs and putting them into a community to see if they could be cured. But we have a similar scenario right here in our passage. Luke records that an argument arose among them [disciples] as to which of them was the greatest (9:46).
When the three disciples came down from the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus, they discovered that the other nine disciples had been unable to cast a demon out of a boy (9:40). Jesus cast the demon out of the boy, and then again foretold his impending death. Even though the disciples did not understand what Jesus was saying, they started arguing about which of them was the greatest.
Kent Hughes states pithily, “Pride is the sin we cannot see in ourselves and yet so detest in others.”