Summary: If you want to be truly great and make a difference for good in our world, then do what Jesus did: Be the least and serve the least among us.
Some time ago, I came across this piece written by a child. He imagines what it would be like if he were in charge of the world. If I were in charge of the world, he writes, “I’d cancel oatmeal, Monday mornings, allergy shots. If I were in charge of the world, there’d be brighter night lights, healthier hamsters, and basketball baskets 48 inches lower. If I were in charge of the world, you wouldn’t have lonely. You wouldn’t have clean. You wouldn’t have bedtimes. Or “Don’t punch your sister.” You wouldn’t even have sisters. If I were in charge of the world, a chocolate sundae with whipped cream and nuts would be a vegetable. All 007 movies would be G. And a person who sometimes forgot to brush, and sometimes forgot to flush, would still be allowed to be in charge of the world.
What would you do if you were in charge of the world? It’s fun trying to imagine it, but most of us know that there is only one Person in charge, and that’s God. Even so, we like to think we have some influence for good over some people in our lives. We want to be “great” in the best sense of the word. We want to make a difference for good in our world.
But the question is: How? How can we become truly great in our world? How can we be a positive influence on those around us? How can we be an important person in people’s lives, or at least one they look up to and want to emulate? Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Mark 9, Mark 9, where Jesus shows us how.
Mark 9:30-31a They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples.
Jesus is leaving Caesarea Philippi, where He has just told his disciples He’s on his way to Jerusalem to suffer and die. Even so, along the way, He wants to make sure His disciples learn some important lessons. This last trip to Jerusalem is primarily their time to spend with Jesus learning as much as they can before He leaves them. And He begins by reminding them about what’s going to happen to Him.
Mark 9:31b-32 He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it. (NIV)
Now I find this very funny. Normally, the disciples asked Jesus about a lot of things. In Mark 7:17, they asked Him about a parable. In Mark 9:11, they asked Him about Elijah. In Mark 9:28, they asked Him about a demon. In the next chapter, in Mark 10:10, they will ask Him about divorce. But here in Mark 9:32, they’re afraid to ask Him about His death. They just don’t want to face it. They just don’t want to deal with the idea of their great Messiah being betrayed and killed, even if He will rise again.
The thought is inconceivable to them; and yet, that’s why Jesus came. Jesus came to die. Jesus came to give His life for us. That word for “betrayed” in verse 31 of course speaks of Judas who betrayed our Lord with a kiss (Mark 3:19; 14:10,11,18). The word literally means “to give or to hand someone over,” and that’s what Judas did. He “gave Jesus over” to the authorities.
But did you know that same word is used of God Himself! In Acts 2:23, the Bible says, “[Jesus] was handed over (same word) by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge.” And in Romans 8:32, the Bible says, “[God] did not spare his own Son, but gave him up (or handed Him over) for us all.” You see, even though Judas had perpetrated the greatest act of treachery in all of human history, it was no surprise to God, because it was all a part of His plan from eternity past. Jesus came to die! That was His purpose in coming. He came to die so we could live.
William Faulkner tells the story of a mother sheep who had warned her little ones, “Do not go near the river, for a bad tiger lives there, and he will kill and eat you.” One lamb kept toying with the thought that the grass near the river seemed to be greener than anywhere else and that his mother must be mistaken about a tiger being there.
Finally, his curiosity and the desire for greener grass led him near the river bank. After grazing for some time on the luscious grass, he scampered down to the water for a drink.