Summary: Explains why Christians should be and how to become great. Expanded outline.

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- Matthew 20:20-28

If you look at this passage, and the passages surrounding it, it is easy to get upset with the disciples, especially with James and John, for their narrow-mindedness, for their inappropriateness, and for their poor timing. In this passage we find Jesus is in the last week of His life before His crucifixion. In fact, in the verses immediately proceeding these, Jesus predicts His death for the third time. And yet, the disciples seem disinterested, and distracted. Instead of questioning Jesus about His upcoming death, instead of talking to Jesus and attempting to comfort Him, 2 of the disciples, with their mother, ask Jesus for positions of prominence in His new kingdom. Then the other 10, because of their own ambitions, get upset with the first two.

What surprised me, as I studied this passage, however, was Jesus’ response to their desire for prominence, their desire for greatness. I would have probably busted their chops and told them they had their minds in the wrong place. But Jesus didn’t respond that way. Instead He says in verse 26 “whoever wants to be first among you.” In other words, Jesus says, “It’s OK to want to be great.” There are several items I notice in this passage, that teach us about greatness.


Not only do God’s people desire to be great, but God’s people should be great. They should be great for several reasons.

1. God’s people have help others don’t have -

- John 14:17

We have at our disposal, everything else the world has, education, training, etc. but we also have something other people in the world don’t. We have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. We have a strength, a resource, the world does not have.

- James 1:5 Now, if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.

2. God’s people have a responsibility others don’t have

> 2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, …

> 1 Corinthians 10:31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory.

Paul says, do everything you do, for God’s glory. In other words, you and I are to seek greatness. We are to seek excellence in everything we do.

- Revelation 3:15-16

Jesus can’t stand mediocrity. It makes Him sick. God’s people, desire to be great.

I cannot understand people who at work, or in anything, settle for doing just enough to get by. They work just enough to get by. They serve their boss, just enough to keep their job. They try to figure out what Jesus will accept, how little they can do, and how much compromise they can have in their Christian walk and still get by. They want to know, “Is it OK if I do this?” “How much to I have to read my Bible?” “How much time should I pray?” “They look for the minimums.”

My friends, God’s people should desire to be great. We should desire to be the best employee we can. We should desire to be the best athlete we can. We should desire to be the best Christian we can, because it brings glory to God.

3. God’s people have a mission others don’t have

- Matthew 28:18-20

Do you realize the great mission God has given us? Not only do we have a responsibility others don’t have, but we also have a mission others don’t have. We are to be missionaries for Jesus Christ in all we do.

When Jesus left, His plan for the salvation of the world was that you and I would share His message. We are given the responsibility of telling other people about God’s love. We are given the responsibility of telling others how they can be saved.

If a medical scientist can take his job of researching a cure for cancer, or aids seriously; if he can take meticulous notes and strive to work with excellence; how can we do any less? We have the cure for the ills of the world. …

God’s people should be great. But, God’s people seek greatness in God’s eyes.


- Matthew 20:25 – 26a

Jesus says, this is the way the world seeks greatness. This is what greatness means in the world. That is not the way you measure greatness. You, instead, should seek greatness in God’s eyes.

- Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

We don’t seek greatness or recognition from the world, instead, Christians seek greatness in God’s eyes. We seek to please God. We work for an audience of One.


Those in the world seek to become great by traveling many different paths. Some seek greatness by self-promotion. You can tell them. They are always talking about what they have done or what they have accomplished. They look for a pat on the back.

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