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The Greatest

 

30[The disciples] went on from there and passed through Galilee. And [Jesus] did not want anyone to know, 31for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” 32But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

      33And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” (Mark 9:30-37)

 

Because what Jesus says is important, for Jesus is God, His Word is necessary to hear and to believe.  To not do these things is to indicate that God’s Word is not necessary to hear or to believe, even though God says it is.

“We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.” (Third Commandment)

God’s name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God’s Word profanes the name of God among us. Protect us from this, heavenly Father! (First Petition, How is God’s Name kept holy?)

Inattentive and thoughtless ears and thoughts to God and His Word indicate a cold heart and rejection of the very means by which God gives salvation.

Thank God that the Lord is merciful and kind, and not like us!

The disciples in the text were thinking and talking about matters of a selfish-nature, even after Jesus revealed the sacred truth of what would win their redemption.

Jesus used the content of their discussion to draw their attention to the truth of their condition, that they turn away from selfish ambition and self-centeredness and instead, turn to Him Who is the Greatest and Servant of all.

The disciples’ understanding of greatness reflected their own perception and judgment, that which is common to the sinner, and contrary to God’s will and Word.

The disciples’ understanding of greatness, contrary to greatness in God’s kingdom, is also our own by nature.

What is great among us is that of being first, not last; being held in esteem, having the place of honor, being recognized for accomplishments and activities, having the last word, praise by men.

These ideas concerning the greatest all have at least one thing in common—a comparison to another, and the advancement of self above our neighbor.

About comparing ourselves to others, our Lord speaks clearly.

St. Paul the Apostle writes this to the Christians in Galatia, “Let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.  For each one shall bear his own load” (Galatians 6:4-5).

In other words, be concerned about what you yourself are doing as God’s child within the calling that God has called you.  Judge your work according to what God says, not in how you compare with others.

In another place St. Paul writes, “Not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends” (2 Corinthians 10:18).

Praise, honor, and recognition from others is there one moment and gone the next.

It is fleeting and is not the kind of recognition that really matters.

The kind of recognition that really matters is God’s.

What matters is what God says about you, not what others say.

Acceptance by God far outweighs the acceptance that we might desire from others.  The acceptance of the latter, though appreciated, won’t last and does not give eternal life.

The acceptance of the former, the approval of God, is that which is everlasting.

This kind of acceptance – the mercy of God – demonstrates the greatness of God, the greatness of God in loving the sinner, even the sinner like you and like me, who don’t deserve God’s love, kindness, or acceptance.

The way of the world is to merit approval, to earn recognition, to do for greatness.

This is not the way of God.

The way of God is to exalt the humbled, to recognize those who don’t deserve recognition, to approve of those who believe in the merit and work of Another, of His Son, through whom they have forgiveness, peace, and God’s full favor.

Our Lord Jesus, in saying to His disciples, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all,” is speaking of a different kind of greatness than we and the world speak of.  Our Lord is speaking of a different kind of kingdom than the one we are accustomed to desire and live in, where the greatest is the master and the least is the slave.

Jesus here turns all of what we consider greatness upside down.  Instead of being served and seeking to be served and waited on, He speaks of serving.  Instead of the greater being the first, He speaks of the greater being “Last of all and servant of all.”

Jesus Himself is First and Last, the Alpha and the Omega.  Jesus, though He was truly first over all things, one with the Father and the Spirit and Second Person of the Holy Trinity, became last of all and servant of all.

“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

Jesus made “Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).

Our Lord God descended to us, coming “In the likeness of sinful flesh,” yet “without” the “sin” (Romans 8:3; Hebrews 4:15).  In doing so, He saves – through His death on the cross.

In doing so, God demonstrated His love for you (Romans 5:8).

“God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17).

Jesus Christ is the servant of all.

He served you in His life and in His death, and in His resurrection and in His ascension, that you have everlasting life.

Greatness in His Kingdom is not about being served by others (except by Him), but of serving others.  It is the serving of even the lowly and the humble in the eyes of the world.

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

This kind of service, the kind of service that God reveals to be great in His Holy Word, is revealed in Jesus Christ.

Jesus, as Lord of lords and King of kings, is the servant of all, who sacrificed Himself in death and rose again the third day.

Through His service to you is life, new life, abundant life, eternal life, yours today.

Ponder His service anew.  In doing so, so you will also begin and continue to serve others, even as our Lord continues to serve you. Amen.

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