Jesus knows what they are arguing about. So, he asks them. I bet the silence was deafening. It was less embarrassing for them to say nothing to say, “Well, Jesus, we just heard about what you came to accomplish for the entire world, and we were trying to figure out which one of us would be the most important after you were gone.” So, they say nothing. They sit there in shame. They didn’t get it. Shouldn’t it have been obvious to them that being the greatest was not the point? They had just heard how Jesus had come to serve the entire world, but they weren’t willing to serve. Instead, they wanted it to be seen how important they were. Forgotten was the great act of service by their great Master, so they could figure out who had the highest rank.
But, we shouldn’t think too little of the disciples, especially not before recog-nizing that we do this same thing. We miss the point too. Jesus tells us, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all,” and we give his words lip-service before going home or work or school and contradicting it. Or what else is behind the argument of a husband and wife, except that one believes they are more important than the other? What else is behind an attitude of a student who takes his ball and goes home because the other children won’t play the way he wants, ex-cept that he believes what he wants his more important? What else is behind that irk-some feeling you get when something at church is not done the way you want, except that you believe what you think is better? What if they took a poll at your work place about who the hardest worker, the most well-liked, or whatever, wouldn’t you want the results of the poll to be you? So that everyone can see that you are the greatest.
If you want to see an example of how convinced people are that they are the most important, just look at what happened in the NFL last weekend. If you didn’t know about this, there was a controversy about whether NFL players should stand for the national anthem. Some players chose to kneel as a form of protest. But, take a step back from that and consider the responses from different people. No matter what their position was on it, people have been willing to get into other people’s faces about it on the news. People have been willing to go on Facebook and Twitter and say just what they’re thinking. Can you sense how convinced people can become they’re ideas are the most important, that their ideas matter more than the other side, or my neighbor, or my country’s leader or the NFL commissioner? In all of that, do you get the sense that people are doing what Jesus says, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all”?
Admit it. Sometimes people just miss Jesus’s point. Sometimes, you miss Je-sus’s point. You want to be first, and you want to show that you deserve to be there. You want to be the greatest, and you want to convince everyone else that you are. How does Jesus respond to this? He responds in the best way. He doesn’t point to himself, and say, “Guys, don’t you realize that I am the greatest?” Then, he would be doing the same thing they are. Jesus doesn’t start posturing. He doesn’t pull rank. In-stead, he says, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” The disciples attitude, and ours, toward what it means to be great must be changed, in fact, it must be radically reversed. The person who is first, is not the one who towers over others with intelligence, position, or ability; the one who is the great-est is the one down in the dirt, who sympathizes with others’ needs, who helps every-one in any way possible, who isn’t out for themselves. The servant is the greatest.
Jesus doesn’t point to himself, because he doesn’t have to. If you look through all of history, can you find anyone better described by the words, “Servant of all,” than Jesus? This is exactly what he was teaching the disciples, and it’s what he is teaching us today. Jesus served you by being born as a tiny baby. He served you by living a perfect life in your place. He served you by dying on what should have been your cross. He served you by rising again. Jesus is down in the dirt, sympathizing with our every need, helping everyone in the best way. Jesus is the servant of all.