Who is the Greatest?
September 2 — Mark 9:33–37
“If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35b)
Jesus and His apostles were on the final leg of their journey to Jerusalem. Along the way, the apostles began arguing over who was the “greatest” among them. Jesus, even though he knew what their discussion was about, asked them anyway what they had been arguing over. The disciples wouldn’t answer him because they were now embarrassed. But Jesus didn’t condemn them. In fact, Jesus didn’t discourage their ambition. Rather, He redefined what proper ambition should be.
“If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
The disciples thought greatness equaled status. Jesus said that greatness was equal to their purpose and their purpose was to serve others. This was echoed throughout Jesus’ teaching. He had espoused the Golden Rule that they should treat others as they wished to be treated themselves (Matthew 7:12). Even beyond that, Jesus taught that the greatest commandments were to love God with every part of your being and to love others as you loved yourself (Matthew 22:36–40). This included serving wholeheartedly whenever given the opportunity.
Sometimes, though, words aren’t enough to get the point across. So, Jesus used a visual aid. He pointed to a little child and said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me” (vs. 37).
The point was clear. Little children cannot do much for you or themselves. They don’t help your social status, prestige or power. They can’t confer on you any titles. In fact, children require something from us. In Jewish society, children were to stay out of the way. They were a symbol of helplessness and vulnerability. To believers, they represented any helpless or weaker brother or sister. So, Jesus said to welcome them and to treat them as if you were welcoming and serving Him. Status was turned upside down! Correct ambition is found in servanthood, not status.
Time for a priority check. Are you seeking to serve rather than be served? Are you doing so expecting nothing in return? Whatever you do today, do it all as unto the Lord. It really is the greatest thing you can do.