In Mark 9.30-37, Jesus offers a pivotal teaching on servanthood and authentic greatness. The context is powerful. This passage begins with Jesus confiding in his disciples that he is going to be crucified as a criminal in order to take on the sins of the whole world (Mark 9.31-32).
His disciples follow this conversation with an argument about who is going to be greatest in the coming Kingdom. We all have a deep longing to be noticed and valued as important. This longing not only drives the twelve disciples to argue about pecking order, it often drives us as we consider who we’ll serve and who we won’t.
Jesus flips their idea of greatness on its head. He declares “greatness” as those who humbly serve and give up their lives for the needs of others. Opposed to the self-posturing of the disciples, Jesus teaches that greatness comes as we lend our strength and giftedness to others without any thought of payment or promotion.
According to Jesus’ definition, the world will probably never know the names of the truly great people who have walked the earth. But God will—and that’s the point. True greatness is measured only by God. In the coming kingdom, we’ll see with clear eyes who actually lived as Jesus taught and who, instead, lived for the glory of their own name.
Based on Jesus’ definition, where have you observed authentic greatness in others? Be sure to discuss this with your small group or a close friend. And may we adopt lives of greatness by giving ourselves to love and serve others just as Christ did for us.
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