Were You There To Find Out Who Is the Greatest?


Mark 9:33-37

The passage exposes a real male thing! I have noticed at the “Y” where I work out that there are mirrors on the wall all the way around the exercise equipment and weights. I could see the purpose was to make sure you have the proper form. But it is interesting to notice the guys who will watch themselves in the mirrors…flexing their muscles admiring their bodies.

“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.”

Nearly 200 years ago there were two Scottish brothers named John and David Livingstone. John set his mind on making money and becoming wealthy, and he did. But under his name in the “Encyclopedia Britannica” John Livingstone is listed simply as “the brother of David Livingstone.” And who was David Livingstone? While John had dedicated himself to making money, David had knelt and prayed. Surrendering himself to Christ, he resolved, “I will place no value on anything I have or possess unless it is in relationship to the Kingdom of God.” The inscription over his burial place in Westminster Abbey reads, “For thirty years his life was spent in an unwearied effort to evangelize.”

“If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” I discovered a political shocker a few years ago. It happened in Colorado.
Laurie Bower, a Democrat, withdrew from the state senate election on November 1… and endorsed her Republican opponent! “What gives,” you ask — me too. Here’s what I understand Ms. Bower said: “It is my personal opinion that he is in a better position to help the people of this district. So I put aside the partisan differences.” I searched for a reason. “Well,” I thought, “she just wanted to avoid a losing campaign; or she found something better to do than the state senate; or she was bought off; or a scandal was brewing.” Well, in the charged climate of modern public relations, you think about this stuff, don’t you? I was left in the final analysis with a simple explanation. Laurie Bower is genuinely interested in the people of her district. That seems too simple, too straightforward. But not too good to be true, it turns out. Think of it: a public official more interested in the people of her district than in her own personal advancement. It’s not a new idea, you know.

Archbishop Secker used to say, “God has three sorts of servants in the world:
some are slaves, and serve Him from fear; others are hirelings, and serve for wages; and the last are sons, who serve because they love.”

Some places have a surface well that you have to pump and then water starts coming. Those who live as slaves or respond out of fear live like this well. As long as you pumped, the water would come — but when you stopped, so would it. You also had to leave a little in a mason jar to prime the pump to get it going the next time. It was just a surface well. There are people like that, Christians who need to be primed, pumped, pleaded or begged to do anything.

Hirelings serve for wages. At Princeton Seminary an Ethics professor asked for volunteers for an extra assignment. At two o’clock, fifteen students gathered at Speer Library. There he divided the group of fifteen into three groups of five each. The first group of five was given an envelope telling them to proceed immediately across campus to Stewart Hall, that they had fifteen minutes to get there and if they didn’t arrive on time it would affect their grade. A minute or two later he handed out envelopes to five others. Their instructions again were to go over to Stewart Hall but they were given 45 minutes. After they departed he turned over the envelopes with instructions to the third group, the ‘Low Hurry’ group. They were given three hours to arrive at Stewart Hall. Not known to any of these students, the teacher had arranged with three students from the Princeton University Drama Department to meet them along the way, acting as people in great need. In front of Alexander Hall one of the drama students was going around covering his head with his hands and moaning out loud in great pain. As they passed by Miller Chapel on their way to Stewart Hall they’d find one fellow who was on the steps laying face down as if unconscious. And finally on the very steps of Stewart Hall the third drama student was acting out an epileptic seizure. It’s interesting that, of the first group, no one stopped, of the second, two of the five stopped, and of the third fivesome all five stopped.

There is another kind of well, an artesian well. When you want to get water out of that kind of well you just connect up to it and then it flows and flows when you turn on the spigot. People can be like that. Filled with the Holy Spirit, they are looking for places to minister and share. They are ready and waiting to reach out. The difference is that some want to serve, others want to be served. The one responding in love is the artesian well.

You have your gifts not so much for your own sake but for the sake of others.
You are like an apple tree which produces fruit not for its own consumption but for the consumption of others. Your gifts are given so you can bless others by ministering to them. If you have the gift of teaching, you have it so others in the Body will be taught. If you have the gift of hospitality, it is because others need the gracious welcome they receive from you. If even one gifted person fails to function, the Body of Christ is deprived of a ministry it needs to function well.

You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you. Dale Carnegie

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” When the other ten disciples heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Were you there to find out that Jesus was the greatest of all?

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