Who Is the Greatest?

There’s a funny pattern that emerges in the book of Mark. On three different occasions, Jesus takes a break from His busy miracle-making, teaching-the-crowds schedule to clue the disciples in to what’s going to happen to Him. For example, in Mark 9, it goes like this:

They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.”

That’s pretty explicit, isn’t it? Jesus doesn’t leave much room for doubt or wiggle room as to what His future holds.

And yet the disciples still don’t get it:

But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.

This is what happens every time Jesus predicts His death and resurrection. He states it plainly and the disciples are left scratching their heads over what He means. And sometimes, that confusion boils over in unhelpful ways:

They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

It’s pretty clear that the disciples don’t get what Jesus is all about. He’s outlining what it means to be a servant Messiah, and they’re arguing about who is going to be His second-in-command.

And before we cluck our tongues at the disciples for messing it up so badly, let’s be honest with ourselves. We’d do the same thing. We spend a lot of time and energy debating each other about which one of us is truly the greatest. Sometimes this is a proxy discussion, one in which we stake our identities to sports teams or fandoms that we identify with. Or we try to prop up our egos by talking about kids or grandchildren or spouses or jobs or whatever. We get very wrapped up in this egotistical “I’m better than you are” contest.

But Jesus doesn’t leave His disciples in that state. And He doesn’t leave us there either. Remember, the reason why He came wasn’t to give anyone the ultimate trump card in the “I’m greater than you” game. No, He came to break us out of that destructive cycle by dying and rising for our sins. And now that we are the redeemed children of God, Jesus calls us to a better way.

That’s what He did with the disciples:

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

May we all do our best to be servants of all. May we reflect our Savior’s love and attitude.

One Comment:

  1. Great lesson, Mr. Otte! We need to be reminded of it every day to keep our head in the right space and our hearts in the right place. I’m so thankful to receive these little bits of Grace Truth that you share. THANK YOU! TK ^___^

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