The Path To Greatness

Taken from a Red Rock News Article (March 15, 2024)
Rev. Dona Johnson | Jan 21, 2024

       Jesus is walking with the disciples towards Jerusalem the final showdown (Mark 10:32-45). They are being followed by a crowd of people. Jesus takes his disciples aside and predicts for the third time what is about to happen to him—he will be accused, sentenced to death, die and rise in three days. This would be a very troubling piece of news to hear—death by crucifixion. And yet it doesn’t seem to register with the disciples. The disciples immediately start thinking of their own futures. James and John boldly ask Jesus to assign them places on the left and right of him when he reaches the heavenly realm. They want to be given the greatness and power of Jesus but they have no idea how true greatness is achieved. Are they willing to drink from the cup of suffering and sacrifice—betrayal, rejection and death itself? 

       Many of us dream of being great at something but it often ends there—it’s just a dream. Maybe you’ve had a dream of becoming a concert violinist, or a jet pilot or astronaut or even a surgeon. The dreams and aspirations we have are really our secret quest to be great at something, to be recognized in the world in meaningful ways. Unfortunately, many people reevaluate their dreams after learning all that is required of them— years of training, sacrifice and of course all the lost opportunity costs.
       But in one single stroke, Jesus cuts through the disciple’s pride and ambition. Jesus tells them the only way they can be great in his Kingdom is to be a servant of all. Then Jesus gets more granular with the meaning of greatness: “Whoever desires to be first shall be the slave, not merely a servant of all” (10:44.)

       Now this action taken by James and John did not sit well with the other ten disciples. It seemed to them that James and John were vying to take an unfair advantage. And the age-old controversy on who was the greatest began to rage again.

       It is human nature to want to do as little as possible and get back as much as we can. It is only when we desire to put more into life than we take out for ourselves that we experience true happiness, peace and prosperity. In God’s Kingdom, greatness and the role of leadership is to suffer for the sake of others. To be a servant, to be great is not to be high, mighty and untouchable and it is not to be served by others. Instead it serves with boots on the ground, it rolls up it sleeves and suffers for the sake of others. And this reversal is something the world needs to hear over and over again, especially in our “Me” first culture.

       Simon Sinek, leadership consultant and author of “Leaders Eat Last” explains how it became clear to him talking with a Marine officer what it means to be a servant leader —”officers eat last.” He watched the junior Marines eat first while the high-ranking officers went to the back of the line. What was symbolic in the chow hall is deadly serious on the battlefield. Great leaders sacrifice their own comforts and even their own survival for the good of those in their care. Empathy is what drives great leaders to do the things they do.

       The greatest example of servanthood ever witnessed is found in the life of Jesus, who without sin and who committed no crime died on the cross to absorb the sin and crimes of humanity. This is a picture of the suffering servant—love that suffers for others without a tinge of resentment. Jesus’ suffering death was the only way we could be freed from our sin to brought back into the love of God. Jesus was a servant leader, a flawless sacrifice, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Prayer: Jesus may we find our greatness in you  alone and may we put more into this life than we  take out. Lord have mercy on us. Amen.