Mark 9:33-35: 33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”
-The more things change the more things stay the same.
-People are appointed with gifts and abilities in order to give glory to God, not man.
-It is easy to get caught up in the worldly view of greatness.
We catch a glimpse of the real life of the 12 apostles. Three of them had recently come down from a mountaintop where they experienced an amazing transformation of Jesus. Peter’s response indicates that they knew what they experienced was incredibly special and not of this world. So special, in fact, they were told not to say anything about this until after Jesus had been risen from the dead. The apostles were casting demons out of people. They were healing the sick. They were attracting great crowds wherever they went. They were the religious rock stars of the day. Yet the discussion they had on their way to Capernaum indicates that the apostles were still concerned with worldly opinions. They were still concerned with the world view of greatness and let their egos get in the way of their goals. They viewed their accomplishments as their own and not as being provided to them from God. Their silence when Jesus asked them what they had been discussing clearly indicates they knew they were wrong.
It is easy to judge the apostles and think that we would never have that type of conversation particularly in Jesus’ presence. Like then, the world today is fixated and fascinated with greatness. We honor winning. We look up to “the best of the best”. Athletes are admired for being the fastest, the strongest. There are competitions for sports, talent, and academics. We put others on pedestals for the way they sing, play instruments or because of their intellect. We brag about our kids accomplishments or how they were accepted into the “best” schools. We compare ourselves with others in almost every aspect of life. I am the first to admit that I get caught up in my own greatness as well. Like the apostles, I am concerned with comparing myself to others. I wasn’t going to write about these verses but I got smacked in the forehead with them today. Just this morning, I couldn’t believe it when I saw an update from a former colleague that had been promoted to a position that sounded much more impressive than mine. Really? I thought. How in the world did he get that position? Rather than be happy for his success my immediate reaction was one of jealousy and disbelief. I thought I was greater than him. Then I remembered these verses. I had to reread the chapter. Jesus quieted the apostles and he quieted me. I cannot be concerned with worldly greatness. I must not measure greatness by worldly accomplishments. Having titles, money, or athletic ability is not a measure of greatness according to Jesus’ teaching. Greatness is not defined by the limits of abilities or the heights of our achievements compared to others. It is in remembering that God gave us all of our abilities to use for His glory and then actually using those abilities for His glory. The apostles forgot that. That’s why they didn’t pray before trying to cast out the demon. I forget that as well.
Father, help use me to glorify you. Use me to fulfill your purposes not mine. Help me to not compare my gifts with the gifts of others but to simply have the heart of a disciple and use the gifts you have given me to your glory.