With the NFL preseason underway, there's been a lot of talk revived under the heading, "Who is the GOAT - the Greatest Of All Time? Could Tom Brady be the GOAT? Is he better than Fran Tarkenton? Better than Joe Montana or Steve Young or Peyton Manning? Which metrics should be used to measure The Greatest? Passing yards? Touchdowns? Super Bowl rings? We want to know - if they were to play side-by-side, who is the greatest?
Jesus' disciples might have had similar ambitions of knowing who the greatest follower of Jesus was, and each of them seemed to want to be at the top. Out of the 12 disciples, three seemed to have an inside track and two of those - James and John, who were brothers - had made a request via their mother that they would receive the honors of greatness in Jesus' Kingdom; they asked to be seated at the right and at the left of Jesus' throne (vs. 21).
Jesus diffused the tense situation among the disciples by using it as a teaching moment to pound in his point on who will be great in his kingdom - the first shall be last, and the last shall be first. Whoever desires to be great in his kingdom will be the servant of all (vs. 26). This primary lesson on the inversion of kingdom values reflects Jesus' own priority on earth - Jesus concludes that he himself came not to be served, but to serve, to the point of laying his own life down for the sins of many (vs. 28).
This lesson on following Christ's example of sacrificial service shines light on what it means to follow Christ:
It shows us what kind of God we have. Some gods in world religious structures celebrate violence or war or conquest, some revel in human lusts, but the true God values and models serving. Think of Jesus washing the disciples' feet - could there any better demonstration before the cross? It demonstrates that the cross was a deliberate act of ultimate serving. Jesus Christ, God's own son and representative of our human race, voluntarily gave his life on the cross in order to pay that penalty of death that each of us owe God in our sinful condition, giving his life as a ransom for anyone who believe in him and repent of their sin. The cross is a masterpiece of servanthood.
Exhibits what Christ's Kingdom in this world looks like. Our present world is a place of work for the Christian, not privilege. James and John learned that there are no thrones here - only the instruments of servanthood: hand towels and crosses.
Serving leads the self-centered flesh into holy transformation. Serving others goes against the grain of the flesh, but servanthood is a critical part of Christ's transformation in your character.
In servanthood, pride is swallowed up by humility, the 'me first' attitude is overtaken by an awareness of the needs of others and the blinders of self-love are removed as agape love is poured out of you from on high.
Make sure you find a place of service to Christ as you follow him; you are the most like your savior when you are serving.