What It Means to be Great

In Mark 9:33, Jesus asked the twelve disciples a question, “What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?” The disciples neglected to answer.  Perhaps, the content of their discussion shamed them. Jesus needed no reply for the Bible affirms, “he knew what was in man” (John 2:25). Jesus knew the disciples had been vehemently arguing among themselves over which of them was the greatest.

In their defense, they had witnessed mighty things; the feeding of the 5000 and 4000, the transfiguration of Jesus, water miraculously turned into wine, the curing of diseases, the expelling of demons, voices from heaven, storms calmed, men walking on water, the dead raised, and multitudes upon multitudes following them. So isn’t it understandable when the twelve, being the closest and most loyal devotees of Jesus, began thinking of themselves as great through his association?

Nonetheless, the desire for self-greatness caused disharmony and division among the Lord’s immediate circle (Mark 9:33-34; 10:35-41). Jesus summed up what it means to be great—“be servant of all” (Mark 9:35; 10:43-45). Greatness in the sight of God is not preaching to 1000, or appearing on TV, or speaking on the radio. It is not found in a famous name, wealth, higher education, or having books published and signed. Greatness is in the humble of actions of serving others. Jesus used a child to illustrate that greatness is in humility (Mark 9:36-37; cf. Matt. 18:1-4). He also taught this by way of his example and demands it from his followers (John 13:4-17; Phil. 2:5-8).

All who graciously comply and imitate the Servant Savior are great from heaven’s perspective. They may go unnoticed and unappreciated because of their shroud of servitude. But as they compassionately serve others in whatever capacity is needed they have the Lord’s favor and love. “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Heb. 6:10; cf. Matt. 25:35-40).).

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