Bible Reading: Mark 9:30-50
It seemed like the disciples of Jesus just never learned some lessons. As we read through the Gospels we find Him teaching them the same things over and over. One of the lessons that they had the most difficulty learning is one that we have the most difficulty learning…to put other people before ourself. They were constantly fighting with each other about who is the greatest, who is the leader, and who should sit in positions of authority. That is the way of the world. The most important people are the ones in charge. But Jesus turned that around and said that the most important people are the ones who serve others. That lesson was counter intuitive to everything that they knew. It was difficult for them. But they eventually caught on…because they saw it in Him. He was the Son of God, the Messiah…and yet, He gave His life in service to others.
Thoughts about God for My Grandkids:
For around four years Grandma and I lived in Ft. Worth, TX. I was in school at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, and Grandma was at Criswell Bible College in Dallas. Criswell Bible College had been started by First Baptist Church, Dallas, where W.A. Criswell was the Pastor for a long time. He was one of the most well known Baptist Pastors in the United States. While Grandma was in college there she met him several times and I met him a couple of times.
Several years later, my cousin Adele, was with a tour group in Israel. She heard some people speaking in English and being a typical Pennington, she knew no stranger…or if she met one, they would not be a stranger for long. So, she walked over to these folks and introduced herself.
“Hi, my name is Adele. Are you from the U.S.?”
“Yes, we are. And you?”
“Yep, my name is Adele Pennington and I’m from Florida.”
“That’s interesting, I know someone from Florida named Pennington.”
“Really, where are you from?”
“Well, most of the folks in our group are from the Dallas, TX., area.”
“That’s funny. I have a cousin named Jim Pennington who is in school in Ft. Worth.”
“That’s him. That’s the guy I know.”
“That’s amazing. You know my cousin. And what is your name?”
“My name is W.A. Criswell.”
Now, you have to understand…to me, W.A. Criswell was like a rock star, a super athlete, and a movie action hero…all rolled into one. I mean, I was studying to be a Pastor and he was one of the most respected and admired Pastors in the world! And W.A. Criswell remembered me! Jim Pennington! Me! For years after that, I told my friends how my cousin had been in Israel and met W.A. Criswell and he remembered me.
However, there is a catch. Adele was not the one who originally told me her story. I can’t remember who it was (probably selective memory), but another family member had told me her story. Years later, I was talking with Adele and asked her to tell me about the time that she met W.A. Criswell in Israel and he told her that he knew me. She gave me this puzzled look and said, “Oh, no. He didn’t remember you. He remembered Patty.” Pssssssssss….do you hear that sound? That’s the sound of my ego being deflated. “He remembered, Patty?” I asked. “Oh, yeah. He said she was an excellent student at their college. I don’t think he mentioned you, at all.” Pssss, psss, pss, ps…okay, it’s completely out of air, now.
Yesterday, we talked about the day when Jesus took Peter, James, and John to the top of Mount Hermon and He was transfigured before them. That was an amazing moment and they had probably already told the other disciples about it a hundred times. In fact, they were probably tired of hearing about it…over, and over, and over.
We don’t know exactly how long it was, but it wasn’t too long afterwards, that there was an argument among the disciples about which one of them was the greatest…meaning the most important, the most high-ranking, Jesus’ “right-hand-man”. Those three disciples probably used their experience on Mount Hermon as one of the reasons why they thought that they were the most important disciples. I can hear one of them saying, “Well, you’ve got to realize that Jesus selected only the three of us out of our entire group to go with Him up on Mount Hermon (he paused to let that sink in)…to see Him transfigured (another, longer pause)…to meet Moses and Elijah (he looked around nodding), and to hear God’s voice (he said that one word at a time for emphasis). Were any of you other guys part of that? I didn’t think so. Why do you think He chose us? Just sayin’.” And of course, the other disciples were quick to say, “Well, I handed out the most bread and fish when He fed the 5,000.” And another said, “When He sent us out to spread the Good News and heal people…I actually cast out the most demons.” And another said, “I’ve brought more sick people to Jesus than anyone else.” Every one of them probably had a reason why he thought that he was one of the greatest disciples.
Jesus heard them arguing and asked what it was about. Now, they were embarrassed and told Him, “Oh, it’s nothing. Really, nothing at all.” But Jesus knew. He also knew that attitudes like that (I’m superior to you. I’m better than you.) have no place among His followers. Attitudes like that divide people, and make people angry with each other, and jealous of each other…and keep them from working together. So, He said, “You want to be first?” I’ll bet that 24 eyes turned towards Him and 24 ears tuned Him in. This is what they had been waiting for…to find out how to be #1, Numero Uno, the Greatest Disciple of all, all, all (hear the echo?)! They leaned in close. Jesus said, “If you want to be first…you’ve got to be willing to be last. Because in My Kingdom…greatness is determined by how many others you serve, not by how many others serve you.” Psssssssss…you’ve heard that sound before, haven’t you? It even happened to the disciples. They allowed their ego, how much they thought about themself…to become more important than how much they thought about other people. And Jesus said that there is no place for that kind of attitude among His followers.
Doesn’t sound like the world we live in, does it? In our world, people who are the greatest, people who are the leaders, people who command attention…are the ones at the top of the ladder, the ones who have the most people under them in their business, the ones that people say, “Yes, Mam,” and “Yes, Sir,” to. And guess what? That is our world. But it is not Jesus’ world. In His world…greatness (and it’s even a little strange to use the word “greatness”) is determined by our willingness to express His love to other people by serving them, by helping them, by making a difference in their life. It isn’t that we become less than other people…but that we don’t worry about becoming more than other people. It isn’t that we think less of ourself…it’s that we don’t think about ourself, at all. Let God do that. We focus on serving others for God…and let God determine the result in our life.
Whose life is better because you…
- were kind to them?
- did something nice for them?
- said something encouraging to them?
- took up for them when others were criticizing them?
Be great for God, today. Serve somebody. Tell God how much you love Him…by helping someone…who can do nothing in return.
Love you more than bunches and bunches,