Summary: What is greatness? How do you acheive greatness? Understand what it means to be great and have success based on the example of Christ.
In January 2009 we celebrated a historical day in our country. A nation gathered together to witness the inauguration of the 44th president of these United States, Barack Obama. And whether you voted for him or not, whether you agree with him or not on the issues, we all can applaud the achievement of him being the first African-American president of this great country. There is no doubt that he has realized a level of greatness that shatters the glass for all young African-American boys. A level that proclaims that there is now no more excuses for you to succeed, for you to attain greatness in your life. Just as we have witnessed Barack Obama excel to the highest office in the land, I don’t know of anyone who does not also want to succeed and achieve greatness in their life. Most people have goals that they are reaching for, dreams they are pursuing. Most want significance in life; they want their life to matter. No little boy, if you ask him what you want to be when you grow up, will answer I want to drop out of school, be a drunk, spend 10 years in prison and end up broke for the rest of my life. No little girl, if you ask her, will tell you I want to get pregnant at fourteen, sell my body as a prostitute, go through three divorces and end up a crack addict. No! We have dreams of success. We have desires for greatness. We want to be somebody in this world.
At the age of 12 years I made up my mind what I wanted be when I grew up. I had come to a decision about my life. My desire was to be a corporate lawyer. I wanted to represent major corporations and be a legal advisor for corporate executives. That was my desire. And I don’t know of anyone who wants to purposely fail in life. We all at some point and on some level want greatness for our life. But what does it take to achieve greatness? What is the cost to be great? Let me ask it a different way. What does it take to achieve greatness within the Kingdom of God? What does God require? As we look into the word of God this is the question I want us to answer. So for a few minutes we are going talk about Kingdom Greatness. I want us to leave with an understanding of what greatness is within the kingdom of God. But I also want us to look at why God requires it the way he does. So it is a two-part concept. How is kingdom greatness defined and why does God require it in the manner he does. Mark chapter 10 gives us the answer to both of these questions.
Before we can understand what greatness is within the Kingdom of God we must first recognize what it is not. Greatness in the kingdom of God is not defined by power, position, prominence or prestige. The quantity of your power and authority does not determine the magnitude of your greatness. The number of positions or titles you hold does not amplify your greatness. I don’t care how many degrees are behind your name, it does not make you great. John Maxwell said that it’s not the position that makes a leader but that a great leader is defined outside of a formal position or title. Your level of prominence is not equal to the level of your greatness. It doesn’t matter how many people you know or how many people know you. You can be known for all the wrong reasons. Greatness in the kingdom cannot be defined by your prestige, your success, your fame or ability to influence. These are superficial and shallow measuring sticks the world uses because it does not understand the definition of true greatness. In verse 35 of our chapter in Mark we find Jesus having a discussion with his disciples over this very subject of greatness. He takes the time to teach his disciples about true greatness, what is required of them as his disciples. But before we look at this passage we must go back a few chapters earlier in order to set the stage for this dialogue. Chapters 8, 9, and 10 of Mark form a cohesive unit. Throughout these three chapters Jesus is traveling from place to place with his disciples encountering various groups of people and during this time he uses these encounters to teach his disciples. These are what we call teachable moments that Jesus takes advantage of to share some bits of knowledge with his disciples. Three main themes pop up as Jesus is encountering these groups of people and teaching his disciples. First, Jesus emphasizes this idea of the first becoming last and the last first. Secondly, Jesus begins to highlight aspects of the kingdom of God, especially who is able to enter in. And lastly, Jesus privately shares with his disciples about the things he must suffer and endure. He declares that he will be delivered into the hands of men and be put to death. He predicts his death three times in Mark 8:31; 9:31 and 10:33. So this brings us to our passage. It is the pivotal section of Mark’s gospel and the turning point for Jesus’ ministry. Let’s take a look.