Over the last three posts we have been talking about the story in Mark 10 when two of Jesus’ disciples, James and John, come to Him with their mother asking if He would guarantee that they could have the two greatest positions of honor at the time in which He would establish His kingdom.
Ultimately, Jesus denied their request because it was not His to give. He tells them that God the father would one day assign those positions for those that it has been prepared for (not based on favoritism or on a “first come first serve” request).
It appears that somehow the other disciples heard of James and John’s request and according to verse 41 they became “indignant” toward the brothers. “Indignant” is a very strong and emotional word. What made the other 10 respond in such an emotional way? If you back up to Mark 9 you see the reason. Just previous to James and John making this request of Jesus, the disciples had been arguing over which one of them was the greatest. These guys were filled with envy and selfish ambition and according to James 3, where there is envy and selfish ambition there is disorder and every kind of evil
It was time for Jesus to teach them a thing or two about what greatness really means. Jesus wants His disciples (and you and I today) to see that His path to greatness is very different than the world’s view of greatness. Those who are great in the world are those who use their positions of greatness to accomplish one thing – their own personal agendas. And those who hold positions of greatness in the world are those who see others as nothing more than pawns in a giant chess match to use to accomplish their agendas.
In contrast Jesus gives two characteristics of what greatness is in His kingdom. First, greatness involves being a servant. Instead of using our greatness to accomplish our own personal agendas we are to voluntarily render useful service to others. Second, greatness in God’s eyes involves being a slave. Instead of using our positions of greatness to exploit others as pawns to accomplish our goals, we are to be willing to forfeit our own rights in order to serve others.
And to see a picture of greatness we need look no further than Jesus Himself. He was a servant. Though He deserved being served, He came to be served. And He was a slave. He was willing to forfeit His own rights even to the point of giving His life on the cross as a ransom for many.
So, from God’s perspective, how great are you?