Summary: Who are the true greats? You may be surprised that you know many personally.

Who are the true greats? You may be surprised who they are because you know many of them by name. They live in your neighborhood. Let’s find out what the basic ingredient of true greatness is. Let’s look at Mark 9:30-37, what Jesus has to say.


Mark 9:31 “The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.” Into the hands of men (anthropos), more completely understood, into the hands of the whole human race.

Isaiah 53:6, 12 “the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him… Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great… Because He poured out Himself to death… He Himself bore the sin of many.” Jesus continually taught this, the heart of the Gospel.

True Greatness

Mark 9:35 “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” At Jesus’ words the disciples were ashamed and did not answer, because on the road, they had been disputing over their own greatness, while Jesus had been talking about giving himself.

Mark 9:36 “Taking a child, He set him before them.” Many people stifle children at church, or send them out from the main sermon so they will not disturb it. Jesus never did that. He welcomed children, noise and all and taught us to receive children, not banish them.

Mark 9:37 “Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.” A child teaches us humility. Worldly greats are demanding and arrogant. Look around at our own community. See those who serve, true greats.


Philippians 2:5-8 Jesus “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant.” Mark 9:37 uses receiving four times. The disciples thought about personal glory, missing the point of the cross. In Aramaic, child and servant are the same word. True greatness is giving, self-sacrifice. Service is always a sacrifice.

Our Neighborhood

A truly great person is a father who may work at a job he hates because he loves those at home, who gives himself in self-sacrifice to one woman and avoids anything that might ruin that marriage, who spends time with his family as his most important people on earth.

A truly great person is a mother who gives life to a child that many may not want, spends 20 years putting on diapers, feeding, clothing and educating that child in life’s important basics, then spends the rest of her life praying for and thinking about her child every day.

A truly great person is also a single, who because they have the freedom and time may dedicate themselves to military, civil or other service to humanity. This truly great person is loyal to God and country and is ready at a moment’s notice to defend us against all enemies.

A truly great person is a police officer who takes no bribe and shows no bigotry or favoritism. A great person is a nurse who cleans up after grumpy patients with a smile. A great person is a teacher who instructs our children faithfully even when they are too tired.

Most of history is written by bullies, not the brave soldiers who defended us against them. Yet, those mostly anonymous soldiers have a legacy of pure self-sacrifice and a great reward in heaven. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.


Many of you are among the truly great and I count it a privilege to have journeyed with you for a time. True greatness comes in all shapes and sizes but always contains one essential ingredient: selfless service to others.

Mark 9:30-37; Isaiah 53:6, 12; Philippians 2:5-8

New American Standard Bible (NASB) Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

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