Who Is the Greatest?

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. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:33-35 )

Can’t you just hear the disciples? “I’m the greatest” … “Oh no! You’re quite mistaken; I’m the greatest” … “You guys are both crazy! Didn’t you hear me say that He was the Christ? I’m confident I am the greatest!” … and on and on it went through the voices of twelve disciples who desired human recognition, elevation, and admiration. How very easy it is to fall into the trap of longing for praise from men rather than God! Pride is an insidious monster–it grabs us by the neck before we know it! Jesus tells us in John:

How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God? (John 5:44)

Don’t get me wrong, we all can use an “Atta boy” or an “Atta girl” from time to time to strengthen and encourage. That’s not is the kind of praise Jesus is referring to here. It is the elevation of self for affirmation and recognition that is to be despised. Anytime we try to elevate ourselves overtly or covertly, God is displeased. It is not about us. It is all about Christ and His name being glorified and magnified above all. As John the Baptist said:

He must become greater; I must become less. (John 3:30)

We are told by the prophet Micah:

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

Jesus turned the world upside down with His teaching. To be the greatest we must be the servant of all. Jesus said:

“Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

Take It to Heart

In God’s economy, down is up! To be great, one must serve. There is joy and contentment in service done willingly, without thought of receiving human credit. God sees everything we do and His recompense is great.