First and Last

It is hard to imagine how Jesus could have kept from being frustrated by his disciple’s. Yes, I know, he is God in the flesh, so his perfection and love did it. But, when simply thinking from a human perspective, those guys would have gotten on our nerves. They would have annoyed us for many reasons, not the least of which is that we are most like them.


For example, one day, the disciples argued with each other while in Galilee. The basis of their disagreement was the question of which of them was the greatest. Just think, these guys are walking around with God the Son, and they are still able to fight with each other about rank, position, or recognition.


Mark 9:33-36 – 33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”


Jesus says that, if we want to be great, we need to be willing to be last. We do not achieve greatness by pressing ourselves forward. We do not become great by getting others to see our greatness. Instead, being a humble servant is a sign of greatness.


Then Jesus took a little child, held it, and said that to receive a little one in his name is to be great. Think about that. Jesus is telling us that to care for a kid, a simple task, is to be great. Jesus is letting us know that nursery workers are easily as great as megachurch pastors on conference stages. He is telling us that ones who clean up the mess in the fellowship hall are as important as the skinny-jeans-wearing band leaders. There is no way to take a position or a job in the church that makes you outrank others in the kingdom of God.


The funny thing is, we know all this. But, if we are honest, we are not good at living it. We get frustrated when people do not recognize our ideas and our contributions. We think that people who are given a public platform are more important than those who are not gifted speakers. We think that those who get the book deals and whose congregations are larger are the ones we need to hear speak to us. But the Lord is clear that there is no way to measure heavenly greatness with those criteria.


May we grasp that the Lord knows us and that our worth is measured, not by the opinions of others but by the love of our Savior. May we understand that we do not need earthly recognition to be fulfilled. May we stop thinking that there is a stage to reach or a platform to stand on that will give us ultimate joy in this life. May we treasure the pastor of a tiny church as much as we treasure the pastor of a gigantic one. May we not desire to outrank others, but rest in the perfect wisdom of our Lord. May we serve, love, and care for the least among us as a way to rightly honor the Lord.