February 21

Bible Reading: Mark 9

Mark 9:33-35, “And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you discussing on the way?’ But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.  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.’” 

I – ME – MINE – MYSELF. Those four words stood out in bold print.  They appeared as if they were forming an enormous monument, each letter seemingly chiseled out of granite.  At the base of this strange ‘monument’ were hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people with their arms held up high, as if worshipping at a shrine.  And then in very small letters, this caption appeared at the bottom of the editorial cartoon: ‘Speaking of American cults…’” (Chuck R. Swindoll; Improving Your Serve; 1981 Word Publishing, p 28).

Self-worship is the norm to which we all gravitate.  Sin is the cause.  The lust of the flesh, the lust of eyes, the boastful pride of life—demand attention–instructing us to always do that which is best for “self.”  “Looking out for number one (i.e., self)” is the mantra of lost humanity. 

The disciples were not understanding what Jesus was talking about when He spoke of His pending sacrifice (Mark 9:32).  He was their Master—what were these words of suffering and death?  They had heard Him speak of the same things before. That was when “Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him” (Mark 8:32).  But they did not understand and remained ignorant until after His death.  They were not setting their minds on God’s interests (Mark 8:33).  They were not thinking of things from God’s perspective.  Jesus’ servant-minded manner of life and ultimate act of self-sacrifice are diametrically opposed to the spirit of this world.

Jesus was teaching His disciples about sacrifice; they were arguing amongst themselves about greatness.  They had a discussion about it (Mark 9:34).  On a future occasion, after He humbly washed their feet and shared a supper, partaking together of symbols which spoke of His pending sacrifice, they would argue again about the very same thing (John 13:1-15; Luke 22:14-24). 

What criteria did they espouse as a basis for measuring such a thing— Good looks, athletic prowess, superior intellect, cleverness?  How are we to measure true greatness?  Our society puts forth movie stars, rich folks, athletes, and famous people as the truly “great” people.  Children are taught to aspire to greatness in these ways.  The world says that greatness is found at the top.  But what does God say? 

Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).  True greatness is measured in terms of God’s standard and was revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ.  He, the greatest of all, came as the servant of all (Mark 10:45).  He left His Father’s throne above and came to dwell among lost and needy sinners.  The way up was down. 

In God’s economy true greatness is serving others to the glory of God.  Jesus has worked, through His death, to save self-centered sinners that they might be forgiven of sin and transformed to walk in newness of life.  His greatness is made manifest in their lives as they follow in His steps, taking on His same self-sacrificing nature.  Donald English, “At the source of all Christian service in the world is the crucified and risen Lord who died to liberate us into such service” (Philippians 2:3-5).  Jesus died and rose again to deliver and transform sin-selfish rebels into God-glorifying servants.  True greatness is measured and founded in the One who came to serve.  He once declared “But I am among you as the one who serves” (Luke 22:27).  God measures true greatness in one’s capacity to serve others. 

Having the mind of Christ means living according to a “I am among others as one who serves” perspective—in your marriage, home, church, job, community.

May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
Live in me from day to day,
By his love and pow’r controlling
All I do and say.

May the love of Jesus fill me
As the waters fill the sea.
Him exalting, self abasing:
This is victory.

Author: looking2jesus13

Having served as pastor at Lewis and Clark Bible Church, in Astoria, Oregon, for almost three decades, my wife’s cancer diagnosis led to my retirement and subsequent move to Heppner to be near our two grandchildren. I divide my time between caring for Laura and working as a part time hospice chaplain and spending time with family and spoiling my chocolate lab.

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