Mark 9:35- 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.” NKJV
Jesus’ disciples did a lot of walking in the course of their time spent together. They were having a conversation that they didn’t want Jesus to be privy to on this particular occasion. They were discussing who would be the greatest in the kingdom.
Now that we all know Jesus’ feelings on the subject, it is easy for us to look at them and think, seriously? But if we are honest with ourselves, each of us has had thoughts of greatness in our hearts. Every little kid who picks up basketball desires to be the greatest basketball player ever! He doesn’t have dreams of washing out in high school! No! He’s dreaming of the NBA and having a career greater than Michael Jordan or LeBron James! Every singer wants to be greater than Whitney Houston or Cece Winans. We all have visions of greatness!
Allow me to be vulnerable. I am a minister and have been preaching for over forty years. I am unknown, and my only ministry right now is in my blog. I’m not complaining; however, I realize that many may see me as insignificant, unproven. But that is how they see me, not how Jesus sees me. And although I have been serving faithfully in the kingdom since I was a teenager, I still look at my life and want to do something great for God. I’m not discounting all that I have done in the kingdom, I am just admitting that I want to do so much more!
Jesus shares His point of view on what it takes to be great in the kingdom. This statement qualifies as one of those times when His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways.
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.”Mark 9:35 NKJV
No one wants to be last! Have you ever seen students line up for recess? I have. They all rush to get to the front of the line. It doesn’t matter that you tell them they will all get there simultaneously; no one wants to be last getting there! Have you ever been riding down the road, and someone speeds ahead of you to get to the corner first? They are still acting like they are in elementary school. They will not be last! Yet Jesus says that being great, being first is not the goal. It doesn’t look like what we think it looks like!
If you want to be great, be a servant. Well, no one remembers the servant, Jesus! How can we do great things for Him as a servant? Where is our model?
Jesus is our best model. As we look at His life in the book of Mark, we see Him as a servant. He made Himself available to meet the needs of the people, even when He was exhausted. He healed the multitudes of sick people and provided meals for thousands of people. He trained the disciples and taught the people for hours on end. His church was on the seashore, at the base of a mountain, in a cemetery, or a field. Wherever He was needed and whatever He could do to serve others, we see Jesus doing it. So Jesus, being Great, told us that His greatness was demonstrated by His willingness to serve and be last! Not by lording His rulership over others!
As a result of His servant’s heart and lifestyle, Paul wrote these words about Jesus:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.Philippians 2:5-8 NKJV
Although He is God, when He came to Earth, He didn’t come looking to make a reputation for Himself. Paul stated that Jesus took on the attitude of a bondservant just by coming in the likeness of man. He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death on the cross! He served God without worrying about if people thought He was great or not, without being concerned about His reputation, even without regard to being honored and received. I don’t know about you, but this blog is speaking to me!
Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”Mark 9:36-37 NKJV
Jesus presents a child to the disciples. I’m not sure why, although commentators have an opinion. Whoever receives a child in Jesus’ name is doing something great. If I am still thinking about being a servant, maybe the comparison to a child indicates that there will be some people we don’t want to serve. During this age, children didn’t carry a lot of value, according to the commentators. In today’s society, we see people who are not valued every day. Young people, old people, poor people, people who are different from us can all be treated as if they are not important. Lord, help! In light of this comparison, Jesus encourages us to receive and serve those the world turns its backs on!
My husband and I attended a primarily white church when we first married. They had an outreach ministry to the Black community. Every Sunday, they would send out buses to pick the children up and bring them to church. There had to be a couple of hundred kids present every Sunday. We worked in this ministry during children’s church, and they were provided a meal. The only problem with the outreach was that they wouldn’t allow their children to mix with the Black kids. Still, those children got to hear about Jesus, and I am sure that some of them live for Him today because of it!
Jesus said that when we receive these children in His name, we receive Him. If that be true, you would think that we would certainly treat them with the utmost care. Reaching out to others as if we were actually reaching out to Jesus could change our whole approach to serving others.
Lastly, Jesus said that when we receive Him, we welcome the One who sent Him, the Father! I’m a work in progress, and I know that you are also. People can be really annoying, and with some people, their needs seem to have no end. But when we think of what it means to Jesus and how He sees our service to others, it bears thinking about and making some changes!
I don’t think the disciples were all wrong about wanting to be great for God. I do think arguing about who was going to be the greatest was a little childish. I’m not concerned about who will be the greatest in this life, but I am still interested in doing something great. I believe there is a vast difference between wanting to do something great and wanting to be great! Now that Jesus’ words have reminded us of what that looks like, I believe that we can all work towards greatness! Wonderful Jesus!