Greatness in the Kingdom of God

Written by allsaints on Oct 23, 2015 in - No Comments

Banner Article 10/23/15 – Submitted by The Rev. Anita M. Slovak, Pastor, All Saints’ Episcopal Church

Greatness in the Kingdom of God

Have you ever poured your heart out to someone, maybe hoping for some comfort or understanding, and instead you get totally ignored?  Or worse yet, the person listening to you asks you for something they want. You may ask yourself, “Are they really that self-centered?”
The truth of the matter is – we are all self-centered to some extent. We want what we want, when we want it – it just seems to be part of our nature.  As a pastor, I have to set my needs aside as I try listen to those in the congregation that need me to hear them.  I have to tell you – sometimes this is a hard thing to do.  Putting others first and serving others does not come naturally sometimes.  I think Jesus knew this about our human nature.
In Mark 10:32-45, Jesus has just poured his heart out to his inner circle of disciples a third time, telling them of the suffering, death, and resurrection that faced him in Jerusalem very soon. Yet, James and John, two of Jesus’ inner circle of disciples, picked this time to ask Jesus for  places of honor in his Kingdom.  Jesus could have got mad and lost his patience with the disciples, but he doesn’t.  Instead, Jesus uses this encounter with his disciples as a teaching moment and tries to channel their desire to be great into humble service.
In the gospel of Mark it says, “So Jesus called disciples and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them.  But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.  For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’”
Greatness in the kingdom of God comes through service to others.  This passage forces Christians to reflect on what it means to have a servant for a Lord. It also forces us to reflect on how we define greatness and to examine how we attain greatness in God’s eyes.
John Stott, an Anglican clergy and author, who passed away in 2011, said this in his book, The Cross of Christ (p.  286-287), “Our world, [and even in the church], is full of James’s and Johns, go-getters and status-seekers, hungry for honor and prestige, measuring life by achievements, and everlastingly dreaming of success.” But Jesus paints for us a different picture – greatness in God’s eyes comes through serving others.
It almost is funny how James and John are so self-absorbed that they miss what is going to be happening with their leader – their Lord, and our Lord.  It is funny until we look in the mirror and see James and John’s desires reflected in our own lives.
Seeing greatness through service is hard for us and it is even harder to live this way – but that is exactly what we are called to do.   This passage not only challenged Jesus’ disciples, but it continues to fly in the face of what and who we consider “great” today.
Jesus is our example – “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”  May we strive to follow Jesus’ example and serve others in this world, for greatness in the Kingdom of God comes through serving others.