Whoever Desires to Become Great

It is a typical human trait to desire to be great. I am not saying all men are power hungry or greedy, but most like the idea of being recognized and having others do things for us. In fact, we may get our feelings hurt if we aren’t helped by others in times of need or times when we feel like we “deserve” it due to our position. Our society measures greatness by power that is wielded over others. The power may come through fame, fortune, political position, or some other means. Thus, it comes as no surprise that even Jesus closest disciples sought power. Note Matthew 20:20-21:

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him. 21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.” [Matthew 20:20-21 NKJV]

Sitting at the right and left hand of a king was a position of power and influence. The other apostles recognized this because they were quite upset by request:

And when the ten heard [it], they were greatly displeased with the two brothers. [Matthew 20:24 NKJV]

So, since they all wanted the positions of power and influence, how did Jesus respond to this request? I think it is safe to say they did not get the response they were expecting:

25 But Jesus called them to [Himself] and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26 “Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27 “And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave– [Matthew 20:25-27 NKJV]

Jesus said if you want to be great, you must serve others. How does that fit into our society’s idea of greatness? But, Jesus didn’t stop there. He explained that not only should they serve others, but they should serve in a manner that followed His example:

28 “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” [Matthew 20:28 NKJV]

Jesus provided the ultimate example of service by allowing Himself to die a torturous death on the cross. When confronted by Judas and those with him in the garden, He noted that He could have called twelve legions of angels to prevent what was going to happen (Matthew 26:51-53). But, He didn’t. Because He came to serve mankind. Paul stated it this way in Philippians 2:5-8:

5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, [and] coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to [the point of] death, even the death of the cross. [Philippians 2:5-8 NKJV]

So, if we want to great in the kingdom of God, we need to quit asking, “Why isn’t everyone else serving me?” and start asking, “What can I do to serve others?”

Dan Fontenot

(editor’s note: Verse references are clickable links that will open the verses in context in BlueLetterBible.org)

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