Summary: GREATNESS IN THE KINGDOM of God is found in SERVICE TO CHRIST AND OTHERS IN THIS WORLD.
I’m just wondering, has anybody noticed the discrepancy between today’s Sermon Title and today’s worship THEME? Our celebration worship theme for today is SERVANTHOOD. But the Sermon title is about GREATNESS. It seems obvious that somebody made a really HUGE mistake don’t you think? Well, maybe they did, and maybe they didn’t! Let’s look at the scriptures. According to this passage of scripture, GREATNESS IN THE KINGDOM of God is found in SERVICE TO CHRIST AND OTHERS IN THIS WORLD. What lessons can we learn from God’s Word about GREATNESS through SERVICE.
1. GREATNESS in the eyes of the world - is found in POWER.
In the kingdom of the world the standard of greatness has always been power. The test is: How many people does a man control? How great a body of employees can he be Boss of? On how many people can he impose his will? How many millions does the CEO make? How big are his stock options? How many toys does he own? How much property does he possess? How large and numerous are his homes and how lavishly are they arrayed? How many diamonds and jewels has he given his wife? Which Ivy League schools do his children attend? Not very much later than this, Galba was to sum up the heathen idea of kingship and greatness when he said "now that he was emperor he could do what he liked and do it to anyone he wanted."
When James and John came to Jesus, they loved Him, but they simply didn’t understand. The disciples, like most Jews of that day, had the wrong idea of the Messiah’s kingdom as predicted by the prophets of the Old Testament. They thought Jesus would establish an earthly kingdom that would FREE Israel from Rome’s oppression, and James and John wanted honored places in it.
Maybe you’ve seen a glimpse of your own life already this morning. What are your personal goals in life? What are your dreams? What do you want to do? Where do you want to go? How do you personally measure GREATNESS? How much POWER do you possess, and how do you use that power? GREATNESS in this world is found in POWER. Not so with Jesus!
2. The way to GREATNESS for Jesus was the way of SUFFERING SERVICE and ultimately the CROSS.
Jesus’ standard of greatness was in suffering and the Cross. He asked, "Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" There are two important phrases here.
A. It was the custom at a royal banquet for the king to hand the cup to his guests. The cup represents the life and experience that God handed out to men. In Psalm 23:5, David says "My cup overflows," speaking of the life and experience of JOY given to him by God.
B. The other phrase which Jesus uses is actually misleading in the literal English version. He speaks of the baptism with which he was baptized. The past participle of the Greek verb baptizein is (bebaptismenos, which means to be submerged, and it is regularly used of being submerged in any experience. For instance, a spendthrift is said to be submerged in debt. A drunk man is submerged in drink. A grief-stricken person is submerged in sorrow. The word is regularly used for a ship that has been wrecked and submerged beneath the waves. The expression, as Jesus used it here, had nothing to do with technical baptism. What he is saying is, "Can you bear to go through the terrible experience I have to go through? Can you face being submerged in hatred and pain and death, as I have to be?" He was telling these two disciples, and us, that without a cross there can never be a crown. The standard of greatness in the Kingdom is the standard of suffering service and the Cross. It was true that in the days to come they did go through the experience of their Master, for James was beheaded by Herod Agrippa (Ac 12:2), and, though John was probably not martyred, he suffered much for Christ. They accepted the challenge of their Master--even if they did so blindly.
What is SUFFERING? Agony, affliction, or distress; intense pain or sorrow. Suffering has been part of the human experience since Adam & Eve fell from Grace in Genesis 3. Fully one third of the Psalms are laments, and include graphic descriptions of suffering. Psalm 22 is a perfect example. The theme of the Book of Job is the problem of suffering and why God permits the righteous to suffer.
The Bible makes it clear that SOME suffering is the result of evil action or SIN in the world. This type of suffering came upon man after the FALL in the Garden of Eden. But SOME suffering is NOT related to the past. It is forward-looking in that it serves to shape and refine God’s children LIKE Gold is refined in the fire. Hebrews declares that Jesus learned obedience by the things which He suffered, and that He was perfected through suffering. Suffering has the potential of demonstrating God’s power (2 Cor. 12:7). Those who suffer are in a position to comfort others (2 Cor. 1:3-6).