v 35. He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”
One of the things that defines our day and age is the ‘Celebrity Culture’. The Media-styled celebrities appear daily on our TV screens and in their self-promoting blogs. How can you define greatness however, or human significance? Their great inventions? The wars they have won? The books they have written? The fact that they are self-defined as ‘National Treasures’? Or what
Jesus must have been well-aware of the discussion the disciples were having as they walked (v 33) but he wanted them to own up to it and face the issue that it raised. I guess they all wanted to feel important in the Jesus-group but this kind of self-evaluation is a very suspect process. It means we look at ourselves and compare what we see as our value with the apparent worth of others. In reality it is only one small step away from Primary School playground talk; ‘I’m bigger than you are’.
Whether we voice it or not, we can all be guilty of belittling other people in order to bolster our own position. There are those who like to be up front and seen by others as significant people. And there is a very fine dividing line between being thanked for ones contribution to an event, and needing those thanks and recognition to gain some sort of status as a significant person.
Jesus turns these values of wanting recognition and social standing upside down. Greatness, He says, is a matter of humble service.
For Jesus, this was no pious platitude; He chose the pathway of service for Himself as an example for all to follow. Perhaps the most memorable example of this is in John 13, where Jesus kneels in front of each of the disciples and washes their feet. His own comment on the action is worth taking in: ‘ You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. ‘ This example of the Creator washing the creature’s feet speaks volumes about greatness demonstrated in humble service.
How hard it is to get our definition of greatness to e what Jesus says! And it is even harder to get our actions and lifestyle to match this Jesus-inspired example.
Jesus is a Man like no other in defining greatness.