The greatest among you ∙

The greatest among you

“If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” – Mark 9:35

Mark 10:37-45

 37 James and John replied, “When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.”

 38 But Jesus said to them, “You don’t know what you are asking!”

 40 “But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. God has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.”

 41 When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant.

 43 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant,

 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else.

 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.

It is quite normal for people to have a strong desire to get ahead. They are driven by the need for respect, recognition, approval, acceptance, and esteem. It is often a simple matter of self-worth and identity. Sometimes folks begin life with severe disadvantages. Many try extremely hard to succeed at overcoming such drawbacks.

Sometimes it seems as though there is some type of invisible caste or ranking system within our psyche. This unseen pecking order enhances or distorts our personal sense of identity, worth, and well-being. Some folks bubble up to the top, while others remain mired at the bottom.

Recognition and social status, or the lack thereof, frequently give birth to comparison, jealousy, strife, and intense competition. For some, a battle rages for a sense of importance and prominence. Others seek dominance and autocratic control.

The disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ were not immune. In fact, their internecine intrigues are publicly exposed in the Gospels.

Mark 10:37, 41

 37 James and John replied, “When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.”

 41 When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant.

The request of James and John for special treatment, and places of honor, was bold and audacious. The Lord Jesus Christ corrected them with gentleness and kindness. The other disciples were furious. Why? Reflect for a moment, could they have been thinking the same thing as James and John? Were they simply beaten to the punch by James and John who asked first? The other disciples were indignant. They too wanted positions of prominence and prestige for themselves.

Luke 22:24 Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them.

Regrettably, the disciples are just like so many people, who are only concerned about their well-being. Their request came on the heels of The prediction of His approaching suffering, mocking, crucifixion, and death. Were they concerned about the feelings of the Lord Jesus Christ? They do not seem to be listening or paying attention.

Were the disciples callously insensitive? I think not. It seems more likely that they were simply clueless. They had totally failed to recognize the 500 lb. gorilla in the room. While the disciples were getting ready to occupy their places of honor in the Kingdom of God, the Lord Jesus Christ was getting ready for a funeral. What irony.

REFLECT & PRAY

The Lord Jesus Christ did not abolish ambition or desire for greatness. Instead, He repurposed it. “For the ambition to rule, he substituted the ambition to serve. For the ambition to have things done for us, he substituted the ambition to do things for others.” (Barclay).

Father encourage me to be a servant and quiet my self-assertive spirit. Grant that I may find pleasure in being penult.

INSIGHT

The LordJesus Christ offered an entirely different paradigm for leadership: servant leadership. The whole idea was innovative, radical, if not revolutionary. He proposed a whole new arrangement, an inverted hierarchy. The road to honor and recognition goes through an offbeat, out-of-the-way, often overlooked sidetrack, service. “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” – Mark 9:35

The Lord Jesus Christ took the lead. He told them how things should be. But He didn’t just talk about it, He lived it. He modeled the behavior He wanted them to follow.

Mark 10:42-45

 42 So Jesus called them together and said, you know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them.

 43 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant,

 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else.

 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.

If you truly want to be great in the Father’s kingdom, you have to become the servant of all. Success is found by deliberately choosing to serve others before we serve ourselves.

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Here is an unpretentious proposal. Be a penult. Instead of seeking to be last, settle for being in almost last. Penult is the nominal form of the adjective penultimate. Penultimate means “next to last” The word penultimate comes from the Latin word paenultima from paene almost and ultima last.

In our fallen condition, we are to learn not to take our strengths or our weaknesses too seriously. It is pretty clear we will never be perfect servants. It is also fairly certain that we will never be dead last, either. So seek to be a penult.

I could talk about Planter’s penults, but I will save that for another day.

¯\_()_/¯ 1-09-2

© Dr. H 2022

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