Mark 9:30-41 – How Can I Be The Greatest?

People are fascinated with such questions as the greatest Englishman ever, or the greatest footballer, or the greatest author, or composer, or painter. The Times newspaper runs an annual Preacher of the Year competition. All this reflects an ancient attitude. The Lord’s apostles, out of earshot of Jesus (so they thought), had been arguing about who was the greatest amongst them. Andrew could have claimed that he’d been the first of the twelve to have met Jesus, and that it was he who’d gone to Peter and told him, “We’ve found the Messiah” (Jn. 1:41). Then Peter could have made his claim that he’d been the one to have said to Jesus himself, “Thou art the Son of the living God,” and Christ had told him that he had been specially blessed by God because this truth had been revealed to him by the Father. He was surely the greatest apostle. Hadn’t Jesus given him a special name, and told him that as he confessed that Jesus was the Christ that that declaration of Peter’s would be the rock on which Christ would build his church? Then the apostle John could have gone into another dimension of love and pleaded that a unique affectionate relationship existed between Christ and himself. He was the disciple that Jesus loved. You can imagine the argument going on amongst the apostle with even Judas piping up and telling them, “Don’t forget about practical matters. I’ve been appointed the treasurer. I’ve the responsibility of keeping the money,” and so on.
“‘If anyone wants to be first, he must be the . . . servant of all” (v.35). You remember that unforgettable scene the night before the crucifixion in the Upper Room? It is recorded in John chapter 13. After they’d walked through muddy streets and entered the house there was an awkward fidgety time of restlessness. Before the Lord spoke to them, and prayed with them, and broke bread there were more basic things to attend to. Everyone was dodging the commonplace duty of washing the others’ feet. They saw the bowl of water and the towel that had been set out, but everyone was avoiding it. Everyone was steadfastly looking elsewhere, until eventually Christ himself arose. He left the place of honour at the centre of the Supper, as the chief guest, the host of the evening. He vacated that place and walked towards the bowl and the towel. There’d been a time over thirty years earlier when he’d left a far more glorious gathering at which he had been the Lord of everything. He had left the right hand of God and the presence of his Father and the Spirit.
In the upper room we are told that Jesus took off his outer clothing because there was a work to do. He laid those garments aside. Thirty years earlier he had laid aside all the trappings of deity. Though he were rich yet for our sakes he became poor. All the appearance of divinity he discarded; thrones for a manger did surrender, sapphire-paved courts for manger floor. Jesus was found in fashion as a man. That’s all he seemed to be, a mere human being, indistinguishable from anyone else. Then that night in the Upper Room our Lord wrapped a towel around him as any servant would. He had taken that very nature of a slave. That is what God the Son did. He laid aside his glory and wrapped himself in our clay. Then he poured the water from the pitcher into the basin and he began to wash the disciples’ feet. He was the one who dealt with all their dirt and all the defilement that had stuck to their feet as they walked long. He cleaned them all, but in a day or so he wasn’t pouring out water, he was pouring out his precious blood.
That is what Jesus did, all by himself, on the cross he washed away all their defilement, and when he could say with a loud voice, “It is finished,” then he returned to his place. So it was with our great Saviour, when all the redeeming work was done, then back he went to his place in glory. He hadn’t come to be served but to serve, and this was the climax of his service, to give his life a ransom for many.

Geoff Thomas

Read Mark 9:30-41 and consider how does your pursuit of greatness reflect how Jesus says someone can be great? Are you truly seeking to be last of all and servant of all? Even lower than the dirty, the unpopular, the annoying, the weird, or the weak ones?

I Asked the Lord That I Might Grow by Sovereign Grace

Posted on: November 30, 2018 - 5:06PM

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