Summary: A message on greatness learned from one of the disciples of Jesus.
Mark 9:30-37 “How Do You Spell G-R-E-A-T?”
1. [Someone else reads text]. (Preached as the “other” disciple) Hello. Good morning. I’ve been asked to speak to you today on a very important topic; the topic of greatness. You see, I’m one of the disciples there when the events you heard today actually occurred. I was and am one of the followers of Jesus Christ. Not the disciple you’re thinking of, I’m the “other” disciple but I was there.
2. It all seems so long ago now. And yet, much of it I’ll never forget. Especially how foolish all of us felt when we realized what Jesus had actually been teaching us. What He had really been trying to say. Do you ever have that feeling? Like, “oh, now I get it. Now I understand”. That’s the way it was for us too. But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up to these events.
3. It all began as we were making our way through Galilee on the way to Jerusalem. Jesus had just been on a mountain with Peter, James, and John and even though we tried to get them to tell us what had happened, they said they couldn’t even put it into words if they tried. While He had been on the mountain, we had been approached by a man whose son was demon possessed. He knew we were with Jesus but we knew that Jesus couldn’t be disturbed so we tried to help this poor boy. All of us tried. And all of us failed. And boy did we try everything we knew. But when Christ came down, He healed that boy like it was nothing at all. When we got a chance we asked Him why it hadn’t worked for us and He told us that this kind only came out by prayer.
4. Well, as I was saying, we were on our way to Jerusalem through Galilee. And you could tell that something about Jesus was a little bit different. There was a seriousness about Him. He wasn’t stern or mean or anything, just more serious. You could say He was more urgent too. Like there was something He wanted to tell us and He tried but we were too busy focusing on ourselves to really listen. Although I have to admit that the things He would tell us sounded a little strange and frightening to us. Things like, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hand of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” I mean, we just didn’t get it. We just didn’t understand. I think that’s why He tried so often to get us alone. And then talk about a downer at a party. I mean all of us were sitting around eating chips and dip, laughing and cracking jokes and here comes Jesus saying things like that. “I’m going to be betrayed. I’m going to die”. I mean what do you say? We didn’t know. Maybe we didn’t really want to know. Maybe it was because we didn’t understand when He answered some of our other questions. And after the encounter Peter had with Him, we didn’t dare ask either.
5. But we had another discussion going on. All of us who followed Jesus were asking the question, “which of us is the greatest.” I don’t recall now how it got started, I think some were jealous of the “trinity” you know, “Peter, James and John” who always got more attention from Jesus, or who even asked the question to begin with, perhaps it was Thomas. You know, he always did doubt himself. But anyway the discussion got pretty heated.
6. And because we could tell that Jesus was deep in thought and didn’t want to be disturbed, we just kept to ourselves and we argued all the way to Capernaum, all the way to Andrew and Peter’s house where we spent the night.
7. Well, we must have gotten a little loud a time or two when we were arguing, because as we were getting ready to sit down for a meal, Jesus said, “What were you arguing about on the road?” We all looked at each other and then down at the ground, but definitely not at Him. You could almost cut the tension and silence with a knife. We were so embarrassed. It seems so petty now. But we had been arguing about which of us was the greatest. And even though we were highly embarrassed, truth is, we still had more to learn.
8. One thing we learned was that Jesus was already fully aware of what we had argued about. Even before He asked the question. He had an uncanny way of doing this. Knowing our thoughts before we said anything. He did it with the Pharisees and scribes, and religious leaders as well. It was always amazing how He knew. “Sitting down . . . He said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all’.” Oh, I still remember the chill going down our backs. The hair sticking up on our necks. How He had known what we had argued about. Well, I can tell you what He said to us, didn’t match our definition of great at all. Being last, being a servant. That’s not what we were interested in. But how often we were reminded that what we were interested was opposite of what Jesus told us. We thought in order to be great, we should be first, we wanted to be served. And here He was telling us about being last, about being a servant.