09 December 2010

Jesus Wants Us To Be Great

Jesus and Child - MyImmortal
  Mark 9:33-37

Jesus wants us to be great.  That is a phrase not often said, if at all, around many of our churches today.  Jesus came that we would have life and have it more abundantly.  He wants us to live the best life possible.  But, because we wanted to live life apart from the one who made life, we have very different ideas about greatness.

Jesus and his disciples did quite a bit of traveling.  They walked hither and yon.  I know that whenever I travel with people, the most interesting conversations ensue.  This conversation was no different.

Now, the disciples knew they were having a "silly" discussion, because they didn't want to answer Jesus' question about what they were talking about.  Now, did Jesus call their conversation silly?  Did he chastise the disciples for their pride and arrogance?  Did he warn them about pursuing greatness?

No.  He uses the occasion to teach his disciples about greatness.  "'Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.' Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 'Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.'"

Anyone can serve those who will help them.  That is the way the world works; you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. 

But, what can children offer?  Can a child give you a job?  Can a child give you money?  Can a child give you a home?

What's worse, children are high maintenance.  Children need just about everything done for them.  They need to be fed.  They need to be dressed.  They don't have proper social decorum.  Some are quite loud and energetic.  They need to be placed in their beds.  They are dry sponges eager and quick to absorb how the world works and quickly adapt to what they are being taught.

And yet, Jesus says that if we want to be great, if we want to be considered great in our Father's eyes, we must welcome children in the name of Jesus.  Jesus' brother James echoes Jesus' teaching when talking about faultless religion, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world."

Jesus wants us to be great.  Do we want to be great?  Who are we trying to please?  What do we want out of this life that we have been given?  Are we willing to be a servant to all?  Even those who cannot serve us in return?


  1. Society defines greatness in terms that the gospel does not. It is an attachment to the material world, an obsession with how things seem rather than how they actually are. If we become great through God, then it is a greatness of the spirit, and that will inevitably class with worldly needs.

  2. Your last sentence is a "quotable". You have keen insight.

    Could you explain how you believe things seem and how they actually are?

  3. Opps. I meant to say clash with worldly needs, but you got it. How things seem--illusion
    How things are---truth
    Consider the Sermon on the Mount. If one is following the worldly path, it is incomprehensible, not to mention impractical if one hopes to be "great" according to the values of man. So one can seem to be a benevolent person through giving of much charity, while messing around with dubious financial schemes. The world values things that God does not. Jesus never said: Don't make money. But he did say that you cannot worship God and money. Money in itself, is the source of so many illusions: social status, ego, power. Yet when we are called to leave this world, money does nothing. It is what we do as spiritual beings that is real. Does that make sense?

  4. Perfect sense. Thanks Susan for contributing as always.