Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first he must be last and servant of all.” ~ Mark 9:35
We all have within us a desire to be great. We want to be recognized and first among others. Jesus’ apostles felt the same. While they were traveling, the twelve had an argument amongst themselves: Who is the greatest? They wanted to know who was tops in their group.
Peter could have had a claim to it. After all, he was often seen as the group leader and often was its spokesman. James and John also thought they could be first. Though likely the two youngest, they were among the “inner circle” along with Peter and often got three-with-one time with the Lord. They even once had their mother go to Jesus and ask him to give her sons the places closet to his throne in his kingdom (Matthew 20). Each of the other disciples probably though they had good reason to be considered the greatest, too.
Confronting the pride found in their bickering, Jesus spoke to their ambitions. He didn’t chastise them for wanting to be great, but he told them what it would take—and it was an answer we don’t expect.
If you want to be first, then choose to be last.
It’s one of many examples of how Jesus turns the values of the world on their head. In God’s Kingdom, you don’t get to the front by using people and manipulating situations. You don’t get to be first through education, earnings, or titles. No, in God’s Kingdom, you get to be first by becoming a servant. You intentionally put yourself in the lowest position to build up others.
This is what Jesus did for us. In Matthew 20:28, Jesus reminds us that he came to earth 2000 years ago not to be served but to serve us by giving his life to redeem us from sin. That meant the cross—the lowliest form of execution one could endure.
So, be ambitious! Desire to be first! But realize that to get there you’re going to have to serve. Then set your hope on the way Jesus served you and follow his example and be self-giving for the good of others.