Summary: Jesus taught his disciples three valuable lessons necessary for achieving "greatness" in the eyes of God.

The Greatest Sermon Ever Preached

Matthew 20:20-34

January 5, 2002

If there is one word in the English language that is sure to cause a debate when spoken, that word is “greatest.” In fact, take two people, any people, and you can always stir trouble by using this simple word. For example, ask a Duke fan and a Carolina fan who’s the greatest basketball coach of all time, and

they will debate one another for hours. Ask an Eastern North Carolinian and a Western North Carolinian who has the greatest barbeque, and watch the sparks fly. Ask two mechanics what is the greatest car ever made and they will eagerly debate their opinion. Ask two people who the greatest president or the greatest politician was, and they’ll chase that rabbit as long as they have breath to do so. Ask parents what is the greatest school? Ask observers who has the greatest children? Ask friends what is the greatest movie ever made? Ask soldiers who was the greatest general or commander? There is something about that word “greatest” that stirs something inside of us.

Why? Because greatness is something we aspire to. Greatness is something we care about. We want greatness to describe our performance, our work, our families, our schools and even our churches.

Jesus said in Matthew five that there would be those genuinely saved people who would be called the least in the kingdom of heaven and others who would be called “great” in the kingdom of heaven. What’s the difference? How can we tell them apart? How do we define what greatness is? How can we aspire to greatness on a spiritual level? What do we mean when

we talk about greatness?

I believe that Jesus gave us the supreme example of what greatness is in the eyes of God in our passage today. It seems the disciples had a few lessons to learn about what it truly meant to be “great.” In fact, Jesus taught them three

lessons about greatness that we must know in order to achieve greatness in life. I want us to look at those this morning. First, I want us to see that true greatness in God’s eyes is ...


As Jesus was nearing the cross, he was approached by the mother of James and John, Salome. She came to Jesus and knelt down. On the outside, she seemed sincere, but Jesus saw right through it. She really came to ask Jesus for a favor. She worshipped him not for love of the Savior or gratitude for His

blessings, but because of what she thought she could get from him. Unfortunately, there are still many today who come to Jesus for that very same purpose.

I bet she was one of those people who had an innate ability to make people mad. She knew just the words to use to “ruffle people’s feathers.” Salome was the sister of Mary which would have meant that James and John were first cousins of Jesus. So Salome came to Jesus with a special request. In verse twenty-one she asked, “Grant that one of my children may sit on your right hand and the other on your left in your kingdom.”

Her request reflected what she believed about greatness. Perhaps Salome thought that her boys were the “greatest” because of the prestigious family to which they belonged. As if somehow the blood that was running through their veins made them a little better than everybody else. To her, greatness meant having power and authority. Greatness meant getting all you

can for yourself. Her definition was rooted in self centeredness. It wasn’t enough to her that her boys were following Jesus or serving Jesus. That had to have people under them. What she did not know was that God does not measure greatness the way men do!

Years ago, a new building was being constructed at Harvard University that would house the Philosophy Department. The president of Harvard decided to place a stone lintel above the main entrance to this building with an inscription. So he asked one of the professors what he should write on that inscription. After much thought, the professor

borrowed a phrase from a Greek philosopher. “Man is the

measure of all things.” Man is the measure of all things! In other words, greatness, to this professor, happens when we place ourselves at the very center of life. The president thought about his suggestion. Some months passed and the new building was completed. This professor walked by one day to see if his quote

was written upon the lintel. Instead, the president decided that the quote that people would read as they entered the philosophy department would be a quote from the Word of God. The inscription read, “What is man that Thou art mindful of him?” The president understood something about greatness that this

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Dale Miller

commented on May 16, 2007

Excellent sermon. A true grasp of servant leadership.

Mark Plaugher

commented on Jun 23, 2007

Wow how this spoke to my heart!

David Mwanza

commented on Apr 18, 2017

I wish every1 at my church could read this!!!!

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