Lee Walker • Interim Executive Pastor

How To Be Great

Mark 9:30-37

Monday: The Desire for Greatness

vv. 33-34

The interaction that Jesus had with His disciples, on a human level, is interesting and sometimes almost humorous. In our passage this week, Jesus, while walking with His closest followers, overhears an argument. When they get to their destination, probably Peter’s house, He asks what they were arguing about. Turns out the discussion was over which of them was going to be the greatest in the kingdom they thought Jesus was going to set up.

Our own vanity and misplaced ambition can surely get in the way of a true understanding of Christ and His purposes. The thought of being “great,” someone really important, can be pretty intoxicating. How did the disciples get it so wrong? Hmm… How far off have you or I been in our understanding of what Christ expects of us? Instead of looking out the window of judgment toward the disciples, we should probably look in the mirror of self-evaluation.

For Today: Take a quick self-exam to test for any sinful ambition.

Tuesday: The Dark Side of Greatness

vv. 33-34

Read those first two verses again. Is it wrong to want to be great? We will see there is a perfectly acceptable and admirable side to such a pursuit. But the dark side shows up here as well. The disciples were obviously embarrassed when they realized Jesus had overheard their conversation. None of them would respond to His question about the subject of their argument.

Can you imagine being embarrassed in Christ’s presence? Would you be ashamed if Jesus heard some of the things you said yesterday, or intercepted some of your thoughts last week? Well, actually, He hears and knows all. According to 1 John 3:3, that knowledge should affect our speech, our thoughts… our lives.

For Today: Be reminded that our Savior is a party to every conversation we have.

Wednesday: The Call to Greatness

v. 35

Jesus was so patient and understanding with the disciples. Once they realized that He understood how unsavory their conversation had been, they likely expected a response of at least correction, if not exasperation. But in an instant when He could have easily rebuked them, He chose to turn it into a teaching moment. It was OK to seek greatness, that is, greatness with understanding. To paraphrase His words, “So you want to be great? Let me tell you what that really means.”

May God give us passion and desire to be great for Him. May you and I reach for such greatness. May our church, our congregation, be known for attempting and humbly succeeding in doing great things for God.

For Today: Ask God to assign you to a great task for Him.

Thursday: The Redefinition of Greatness

v. 35

Do you think the disciples were expecting the explanation found in Christ’s Words? “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” Surely, that’s not the kind of greatness they were arguing about. Jesus stood the understanding of greatness on its head. It was counter intuitive. And this concept was repeated throughout His teaching. The last shall be first, the first shall be last… If anyone wants to save his life, he must lose it… Only those who give up all can follow Me. I doubt they got it on the first hearing. I doubt many of us get it without considerable prayer and thought.

The road to greatness, as defined by Jesus, is surely foreign to our nature and to our culture. And even when we think we understand the definition, embracing it as a lifestyle is something else again. A prayer for us all: “Lord, I get it. Help me to think like You think, and live like You lived.”

For Today: Repeat after me: “I want to be great!”

Friday: The Illustration of Greatness

vv. 36-37

Jesus felt the need to do more than merely offer words to define greatness. As was so often the case, He wanted to illustrate it. I love to read between the lines of this poignant scene and imagine the touching details. In the home He was visiting, there was a child (maybe children). He gently chose a little one and brought her near. Cuddling her in His arms, He explained that caring for a child is its own reward. There is no expectation of return. Caring for children requires selflessness. A parent, or a relative, or a “pediatric good Samaritan” must put the child before himself to show genuine care. That person, in that relationship, will be, well… last. And by so doing will, at the same time, become first. Such a person will be great.

To care for a child appropriately is to behave like Christ. Do you get His point? To behave in similar ways in all of life is to achieve true greatness.

For Today: Memorize Jesus’ words: “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”