Peter finished washing his hands in the outdoor basin.
He shook some water into the ground.
And grabbed a towel to complete the process.
It was evening.
They had been traveling all day and had arrived at a familiar home in Capernaum.
Peter was exhausted.
Physically and mentally.
He came into the living quarters and noticed an open space right next to another disciple by the name of Simon.
Which is why Peter decided to stand.
Actually, all the disciples were spread out.
They had socially distanced around the room.
But this wasn’t the type of social distancing to keep you safe from a virus.
This was good old fashioned, I’m angry at you, social distancing.
Everybody seemed upset.
Everybody, that is, except Jesus.
He asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?”(v.33)
No one said anything.
The silence was condemning.
They had been arguing about which one of them was the greatest. (v.34)
Now – the Bible doesn’t say what their arguments were.
But, being sinful people who have had sinful arguments before, perhaps we can hypothesize:
I’m the greatest, because I was the first disciple to follow Jesus.
Yes, well, I was the first disciple he wanted to follow him.
I’ve raised the most money.
I believed the best.
I’ve been rebuked the least number of times.
I’m most popular with the crowds.
I think Jesus has smiled at me most!
Jesus really likes the way I make his coffee.
I’m the greatest disciple!
But right now…
None of them felt very great.
This was the first step towards greatness:
Jesus said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (v.35)
I. Defining Greatness
There it is.
The definition of greatness from the greatest of all.
Do note; it is entirely different than the disciple’s definition of greatness.
It’s different than the world’s definition of greatness.
It’s different than sinful people’s definition of greatness.
At some level…
It’s undoubtedly different than your definition.
(1) Greatness Is Humble
This is so Un American.
Americans tend to think that greatness is proud, bold, and in your face about how awesome they are.
America is the greatest country on earth.
And I’m the greatest American citizen.
But it’s not just something ingrained in patriotism.
Have you heard of the Humble Brag?
It’s a statement posted on Twitter that appears to be humble, but is secretly bragging about how awesome you are.
A famous rock start tweeted, “Totally walked down the wrong escalator at the airport because of all the camera flashes…Go me.”
I’ve not had that problem…
A movie star posted, “What…does one wear to a meeting at the Style Network? Seriously.”
I’m usually more worried about what to wear to Walmart.
Somebody else Tweeted, “I just realized I’ve only showered in ONE of my FIVE showers since I’ve moved in here. This must change, #LifeProblems”
The thing is that these people have their Tweets retweeted.
They have hundreds of thousands of likes.
Their bragging makes them more popular.
Sinful thought says that in order to be truly great, you need to be proud, boastful, and in your face about it!
But in God’s kingdom, greatness is flipped.
It’s like a game of UNO Flip. You use your hand to play cards until you get down to zero. If someone suddenly someone plays the “flip” card, you have to flip your deck over and play with the other side.
And suddenly your DRAW FOUR wild becomes a measly “1”.
Jesus played the FLIP card.
If you want to be first, you’ll be last.
If you want to be last, you’ll be first.
(2) Greatness Serves
Jesus says, “You must become a servant…” (v.35)
Again, this is the reverse of society’s way of thinking.
Because if you were to go to a fancy restaurant, maybe the Angus Barn, and you’re all dressed up and looking nice.
In fact, everyone in your dinner part is dressed up and looking nice.
Sipping wine with pinky in the air.
Ordering the finest things off the menu just loud enough for everyone to hear.
Who is the greatest in the restaurant?
You might say that C.E.O. over in the corner who commands the most attention.
Or the government official who has four different waiters taking care of him.
But you’d be wrong.
In God’s kingdom the greatest in this scenario?
It’s the dishwasher covered in dirty dish sludge who’s running out to the rest room with a mop to clean up the plumbing emergency.
In God’s kingdom, greatness doesn’t get served.
in God’s kingdom, greatness serves.
(3) Greatness Serves ALL
Because the full transcript of Jesus’ conversation says, “You must become the servant of all.” (v.35)
To be fair, in society serving certain people actually lifts you up the social ladder.
I remember when I worked for a Valet Parking back at Seminary. We were charged with parking cars for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.
There were some nice cars.
And as they drove up, the other guys and I would always fight about how could take the nice cars.
I want that Corvet.
That Bentley is mine.
I’ll have the Red Ferrari.
But, then, I remember someone showing up who was driving a Station Wagon.
Nobody was clamoring to help that family.
In God’s kingdom, greatness serves all people.
The people who drive Ferraris and the people who drive scooters.
The people who live in mansions and the people who live on the streets.
The young and the old.
The white and the black.
The in person and online.
The Duke Fan, the UNC Fan, and the State Fan
The Republican, the Democrat, and the Unregistered.
The people who are nice to you, the people who are neutral to you, and that one guy at work who’s a jerk.
God calls the people of his kingdom to serve ALL people.
That means the person you are thinking of right now and you are trying to find a loophole NOT to serve.
God wants you to serve THEM.
True greatness serves ALL.
II. Greatness in Action
How great are you?
Not according to earthly standards,
But according to God’s standards.
If you are thinking…
I’m pretty humble. I don’t seek a lot of attention.
I have no problem serving others.
In fact, I served that underprivileged youth in my neighbor the other day, so…
Maybe I am great.
Here’s the problem with that assessment:
Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be first, must be last”.
And to be last, you need to want to be last.
If you want to be great, you aren’t.
Which was the problem for the disciples.
They wanted to be great.
And even if their arguments about their greatness were about how much they humbly served all types of people…
Just by mere virtue of arguing about greatness.
Indicated their desire for greatness.
Demonstrating their severe lack of greatness.
Do you know what Jesus said right before this?
Jesus who has the GREATEST amount of power.
Jesus who has the GREATEST amount of authority.
Jesus who has a place in the GREATEST heaven.
Do you know what he said before the disciples had their argument?
He said to them, “(I am going) to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill [me], and after three days I will rise.” (v.31)
Did you hear that?
Jesus was going to humbled.
Considered a sinner.
A horrible sinner.
The worst of sinners.
Jesus was going to serve.
By allowing himself to be arrested.
By allowing himself to be crucified.
By allowing himself to be killed.
Jesus was going to serve ALL.
By dying for the shame of his prideful disciples.
By dying for the guilt of those awful Pharisees.
By dying for the sin…of you.
Jesus had greatness.
But he didn’t care about maintaining it.
He cared about saving you!
And that is what made him great.
And that is what makes YOU great.
Part of God’s greatest family.
III. What Now?
Taking the cue from Jesus, we’ve got some ways to practice Jesus’ definition of greatness.
(1) Humble Yourself
This is actually the essence of faith.
Faith in Jesus says, “I am a sinner. The lowest of low. Scum of the earth.”
Faith doesn’t say, “I’m the greatest. You’re probably going to want to save me Jesus.”
Because in that scenario, you are making yourself the Savior.
That’s one of the key points of the Lenten season.
We spend a lot of time talking about sin.
We confess that we are sinners.
We sing songs that we are sinners.
“In Adam we have all been one, one huge rebellious man.”
“Chief of sinners though I be.”
To remind ourselves that it was Jesus who got us here.
It is so easy for church people to stop being humble.
To think of ourselves as better than other people.
To think of ourselves as great because…
“I’ve read all the Lenten meditations.”
“I wave a pretty mean praise hand.”
“I know all the verses of In Adam We have All Been One.”
And during COVID, we’ve developed new ones.
Because I’ve been to all the in-person services.
Because I’ve stayed at home for all the in-person services.
Because I’ve maintained faith by myself apart from any services.
Remember why we are here.
We are here…
Because God humbled himself.
Because God gave his life for us.
Because God died for our sins.
This is an application for your whole life.
But since we’re talking church, let’s stay in that arena.
One of the hidden challenges for churches over the pandemic has been a violent droppage in volunteerism.
A lot of our volunteer positions went away.
In person Sunday school teachers.
Greeters that shake your hand as you enter.
But while the position has went away.
Don’t allow serving to go away.
Because it’s easy to think of church as a place you come to be served.
The musicians serve up some music for me.
The snack people serve up some snacks for me.
The pastor serves up a message for me.
And it better be to my liking or I’ll let them know about it.
But Jesus wants this church to be a place where you serve.
This is VERY practical.
Head to GatherToTheGarden.com/SERVE right now to see all the ways that you can serve.
Even right now.
Even during a pandemic.
But you know.
There’s one more way that you can serve.
That doesn’t require you to go to click on any link.
You ready for it?
Because when you worship, it serves…
…me. I’m uplifted.
…your church family. They are uplifted.
…any visitors. “People care about Jesus here.”
Your simple presence is a way to serve.
(3) Greatness Serves ALL
Remember – that ALL means ALL.
It includes the people you like.
And, perhaps, most difficultly, people you don’t like.
Is there someone in your life that is hard to serve?
Someone who isn’t kind?
Someone who is annoying?
Someone who is kinda a jerk?
They are included in ALL.
And if it’s difficult to do, remember:
To Jesus, you were the hardest person to serve.
Because you are a sinner.
But God died for you anyway.
Because he’s great.
And in him, you are too.
In fact, Jesus wasn’t finished with the conversation.
After he dropped the definition of greatness, he thought he needed a visual aid.
So, he asked a little child to come stand by him.
I don’t know where the child came from.
One of the disciple’s kids?
A next door neighbor?
One of the impoverished kids on the side of the road?
We don’t know.
What we know is this:
Jesus took the child in his arms and said, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” (v.36-37)
Because when you serve a kid, you serve Jesus.
Because when you serve the someone society doesn’t see as great.
You serve someone who is eternally great.
Which is GREAT.