“But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be salve of all.” ~Jesus, Mark 10:43-44
What makes a person great?
If you look at the people we exalt in society, it would seem that greatness comes in money, power, fame, popularity, and ability. Yes, we will scoff at people with money or fame if they have a moral slip deemed too immense by society; but, for the most part, we flock to certain movies because of the headlining actor or actress, we listen to certain speakers because of the business they’ve built, and we pine for the autographs of the best players on our favorite sports teams. We declare them great because of abilities and achievements.
Yet Jesus gave us a different definition.
James and John, brothers and likely quite young, decided to put in a request: “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in glory.” This made the other apostles angry, for they knew exactly what James and John were asking: they wanted greatness and notoriety. After all, the ones who sit closest to a king at a banquet are the most important and most honored of guests.
When you read the passage you may notice something that Jesus didn’t do. He didn’t rebuke the brothers in their quest for greatness. Instead, he refocused it. So you want to be great? Here’s what you do…
They lived in a culture like ours that valued greatness in power, money, politics, sports, and the like. But Jesus said true greatness comes by making yourself a servant to others.
This sense of greatness flows from the nature of God himself. On the one hand, God is great in his richness—he created everything and owns everything, everything is his. God is great in his fame—the heavens declare his glory and the day is coming where that glory will fill the earth like waters fill the sea. God is great in his power—he is all powerful, nothing is more powerful and nothing can be. Yet despite all of this, God the Son came to earth as a man with our weaknesses to die a death for our sins and be the sacrifice for our lives.
Jesus said, “Even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (10:45). From this humble obedience and life-giving service, the Father “highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:8-9).
Jesus calls us to greatness, but not the greatness of the world. He calls us to a life which results in true exaltation (1 Peter 5:6)—a life of serving others and seeking their good, thus showing them Jesus in everything we do.
This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.