“If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” Mark 9:35

You know, I’d wager that if we all went to heaven right now, we would be in for a huge culture shock. Yes, it is filled with the heavenly hosts all singing and praising God. And it would be bright all the time, because God’s glory will be illuminating the place. You’d also be walking on streets of gold, basking in the cool and calm of God’s serenity. But you’d also be in an economy that functions on this principle.

“If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all [in importance] and a servant of all.” Mark 9:35 [AMP]

What’s that all about? In life, we are taught; indeed, it is ingrained into our heads; that he who comes in second is but first amongst the losers. So just how does God make coming in last a good thing?

You know, I am but a man, and I don’t profess to be able to fathom the wisdom of God. But if we are honest with ourselves, this whole idea of being last to be first really isn’t all that foreign to the human psyche. We actually believe innately in it too. Let me show you why.

I was at a university conference once, and as expected, all the Deans of the various faculties were arriving in their cars, being chauffeured by their personal assistants. Mind you, their offices were no more than a block away from the venue. Still, they arrived in this manner and it caused quite a queue of traffic.

Then, through the side door walks an elderly man, who even though he had no pomp or pageantry to the way he conducted himself, he made everyone at the foyer stop and do a double-take. He was the nations’ ambassador-at-large, the guest-of-honor and keynote speaker for the conference. And instead of turning up with his rightful, state-provided entourage, he decided to drive himself from his office which was obviously off-campus, park at the visitor’s carpark which was a block away and walk up the hill to the conference venue.

He could have demanded preferential treatment from the organizers. He could have called ahead and had himself whisked by security to the front of the vehicular queue. I’ve seen mere ministers do that, and I am sure he would have received that courtesy from the organizers if he asked for it. But instead, he chose to take the humble route, be least in the group; yet, he really didn’t suffer any embarrassment for it, did he?

And that’s my point. In life, the ones whom we really remember with fondness and hold closest to our hearts are the ones who did the most for us. We naturally accord greater status to those who served us and sacrificed for us, rather than those who lorded it over us. So isn’t it therefore also true that in our mind’s eye,

“If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” Mark 9:35

Yet, when it comes to us, we hold ourselves to a different standard. We think that we need to be ahead to be top dog. Why? Strange, isn’t it? Seems the wisdom of God really isn’t all that difficult to appreciate after all.

Now then, with this in mind, we then can understand just where Jesus’ greatness comes from, because Jesus said,

“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” John 10:17-18

Now, I know it seems silly to say that, God gave Jesus the power over His own life and death, because Jesus is, after all, one third of the triune God. But in terms that we humans can understand and appreciate this side of heaven, let us just assume it is an simplistic as our minds make it out to be.

So, that God has given Jesus power over His own life and death, what does Jesus decide to do with it? He lays it down for our sakes. Indeed,

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15:13

And it wasn’t just His life that He lay down, for we also remember that after He had told His disciples that

“All things have been delivered to Me by My Father…” Matthew 11:27

He then extended this invitation to us to

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

And Jesus wasn’t all talk either. He let His actions do the talking and

“…when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” John 13:1

So how did Jesus show His love?

“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.” John 13:3-5

He washed their feet. Jesus was all about giving, and in God’s economy, as it is with ours if we are honest, that’s greatness.

Beloved, today I’d like us to challenge our notions of greatness, for we ourselves really do intrinsically and innately know that

“If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” Mark 9:35

The ones who are truly great in our lives are not the ones who took, but the ones who gave. And that is because the One who is truly great, set the example by giving first.

So let us look away from the errant definitions of greatness that the world propagates and go back to what we ourselves truly understand to be great; and let’s be great to someone in our lives today.

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