What does it mean to be great? Our culture today often associates greatness with influence, power, or intelligence. To be great means you need to get ahead in the world, climb the corporate ladder, become successful and make your mark on the world.
In Mark 9 we find the disciples arguing with each other about this topic. They were debating who among them was the greatest. The irony of this situation is comical. They are arguing about which of them is the greatest following a significant failure to heal a demon possessed boy. And they were arguing just a few feet away from the definition of greatness, Jesus Christ.
Jesus takes their bickering as an opportunity to once again remind them of a foundational idea for a person in the Kingdom of God. Jesus states that if anyone wants to be great, they must be a servant. Can you imagine the look on the faces of the disciples as Jesus says these words? Jesus then further illustrates that His disciples must become like little children in order to follow Him.
Children during this time period had no authority, no power, no greatness about them. They were totally dependent upon their parents. Furthermore, their entire goal in life was to please their parents. Their focus in life revolved around their father and mother.
Jesus wants the disciples to act like children in this way. He wants them to give up their quest for greatness and status. He wants them to be completely reliant on Him. He wants the disciples to make their sole purpose in life about pleasing the Father.
To be clear Jesus is not calling for everyone to give up titles and level the playing field so that no one is over another. He is instead requiring a new mindset. One that seeks to serve instead of be served. A mindset that values the needs and interests above one’s own. A manner of life that loves another person regardless of their title, education, race, gender, or socioeconomic status.
And so, these challenging words from Jesus come to us as well. Jesus calls us to follow Him in a life of service and complete reliance on Him for everything as well. We too are called to look to the needs of others, serve others, welcome others into God’s Kingdom.
But if we are honest, this is really hard. We do not naturally think of others. It is risky to put the needs of someone else above our own. What if our needs are not met?
In response to these fears we must saturate our minds with the truth of Scripture. We must pray and ask God to become our source of joy and contentment. Trusting Him to satisfy our needs. And then asking Him to give us the grace and power to love and serve others. As we do this, we find ourselves freed to begin to serve others and meet their needs without concern for our own.
And Jesus promises those who take this leap of faith to put others first that there is a reward. It will be worth it to follow Jesus in this path of humble service.
So, who do you need to serve today?