Luke 22:24-30 (CEV)
24 The apostles got into an argument about which one of them was the greatest. 25 So Jesus told them:
Foreign kings order their people around, and powerful rulers call themselves everyone’s friends. 26 But don’t be like them. The most important one of you should be like the least important, and your leader should be like a servant.27 Who do people think is the greatest, a person who is served or one who serves? Isn’t it the one who is served? But I have been with you as a servant.
28 You have stayed with me in all my troubles. 29 So I will give you the right to rule as kings, just as my Father has given me the right to rule as a king. 30 You will eat and drink with me in my kingdom, and you will each sit on a throne to judge the twelve tribes of Israel.
Like A Servant
Have you ever wanted to be great at something?
Not mediocre – not haphazard – not good enough – but great??? Excellent? The best???
It’s a very human desire, this desire for greatness. I don’t think everybody has it for all things at all times, but I do think that most of us show up on this earth wanting to be noticed for excelling at something. Many of us even find the thing that we’re great at. Or find a way to be great at something.
If we weren’t so keen on all of this greatness, then why would we write blogs and post selfies?
Why would we admire and look up to and faun over movie stars, royalty and the famous?
Why would a guy who can run an entire five yards while carrying an object under his arm before being tackled (or indeed, the guy who can tackle a guy carrying an object under his arm) get paid so much more then a woman cleaning a hospital room between patients when deadly strains of infectious diseases are becoming so much more common?
We’re so keen, in fact, on greatness that the disciples – hours before Jesus is going to be executed – are arguing over which one of them is going to have the privilege of being called the greatest in Jesus’ kingdom.
Now, I could give the disciples the benefit of the doubt and say that they were still clueless enough to think that Jesus was actually going to overthrow the Romans at some stage and actually going to set up a Jewish state and they were actually vying over power in this imaginary future world – but it really doesn’t matter, since Jesus seems to be fairly uninterested in their definition of greatness.
You see, theirs is a definition of greatness that is focused – like many of us – on power and prestige, wealth and opulence, fame and position. And Jesus wants none of that. But it doesn’t mean he doesn’t want us to be great.
Martin Luther King said it this way,
Jesus … said, “Yes, don’t give up this instinct [to be great]. It’s a good instinct if you use it right. … It’s a good instinct if you don’t distort it and pervert it. Don’t give it up. Keep feeling the need for being important. Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be first in love. … I want you to be first in generosity. That is what I want you to do.”
I’m not going to pretend that this is easy for any of us – and for some of us, because of the lives we’ve lived and the experiences we’ve had it may even be very hard for us. We may have to give up more than we’d like and we may have to lean into situations that make us very uncomfortable.
But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
Because if we want to be great, then we will need to serve each other and in so doing, make it easier for them, in turn, to serve.
Because if we want to be great, we will need to fill in the gaps in resources, capital and experience that make it harder for the person next to us or across from us to participate in this competition.
Because if we want to be great, we will need to cheer each other on, help each other out and call each other forward.
Because even if we don’t all start off equal, the rules of this game dictate that all of our focus and effort and energy goes into doing everything we can to help those around us get to and even surpass where we are in terms of their ability to serve. You see, it’s a game that rewards not only cooperation but selfless generosity.
That’s what servants do.
They fight for the success of those around them – those who are like them, sure, but much more for those who are different from them.
They give up what they have to care for another – those who have similar experiences, sure, but much more for those whose experiences differ greatly from theirs.
They show up and pitch in and endure with patience and love greatly – those who can love them back, sure, but much more those who have little to offer and much to suggest they would be a poor return on investment.
This is Jesus’ idea of how we win at the greatness game. Because by seeking after this kind of greatness, not only are we transformed deeper and deeper into the people God made us to be (and make no mistake, seeking this greatness will transform you in powerful ways) but we have the opportunity to be agents of positive, life-giving change in the lives of those around us. Our service allows them, also, to be transformed deeper and deeper into the people of service God made them to be, and kicks off an ever-widening circle of service that gives us the opportunity to see the peace and wholeness and shalom of God extend further and further into the world.
That sounds pretty great to me.
- How have you been seeking greatness recently?
- How have you been serving recently?
- How much do those previous two answers overlap?
- What needs to change?
- What holds you back?