Mark 9:35 (NIV)
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
Our Verse of the Day continues our call to humility, and I used it in a previous commentary. Jesus taught that if you want to be a leader … if you want to be first … then you have to put yourself last. A leader is expected to be a servant … a servant of all.
Mark 9:30-36 (NIV)
They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because He was teaching His disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill Him, and after three days He will rise.” But they did not understand what He meant and were afraid to ask Him about it. They came to Capernaum. When He was in the house, He asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” He took a little child whom He placed among them. Taking the child in His arms, He said to them, “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.”
What I find fascinating concerning the argument over who was the greatest in the group of disciples is that the matter came up on the heels of their failure to heal a boy possessed by an impure spirit. Jesus had rebuked them for their lack of faith … even though He had given them power and authority to perform such signs and wonders. (Cf. Mark 9:14-29) Nevertheless, they were apparently enamored with their “power” to exercise authority over physical affliction, illness, and demonic oppression. One can sense that these giftings began to fill them with spiritual pride. It would seem they were misguided with self-importance because of the power and authority given to them. So, Jesus had to correct their wrong thinking. Their gifts were given to serve other people … not themselves or to affirm their own spiritual egos. Their gifts were given to draw people to the divine source of power manifested through those gifts and to confirm the truth of the testimony of God concerning His Son. Spiritual gifts are about Jesus … and not about us.
How easy it can become to glory in our spiritual gifts rather than to exalt the One who gave them. Jesus cautioned the disciples to keep their attitudes in check … to remain humble even while operating in the supernatural. This is evident from the narrative below:
Luke 10:17-20 (NIV)
The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
It is not always about what we do or how we serve the Lord Jesus. It is simply about Him … His Name … His Identity … His Love which surpasses all understanding! As Jesus stated, we should rejoice in our salvation through Him! The gifts of the Holy Spirit are the tools He uses through us (His servants) to show forth His power and glory … so that the Gospel is seen and heard in truth by unbelievers! Gifts confirm your authority to speak the truth – not to exhibit some sort of superiority over others. Spiritual gifts manifest your heart is obedient to the One who called you and gifted you to serve one another in love. And Jesus role-modeled this “unorthodox” approach to spiritual leadership with His disciples:
John 13:1-17 (NIV)
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God; so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to Him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For He knew who was going to betray Him, and that was why He said not everyone was clean.
When He (Jesus) had finished washing their feet, He put on His clothes and returned to His place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” He asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than His master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent Him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
Think about this scene for a moment. Jesus has just humbled Himself like an ordinary servant to make an important point with His disciples. Jesus had just taught them that He and the Father are One; and yet, Jesus demonstrates that He is willing to serve out of reverence to the Father who sent Him into the world. Servants are not greater than their masters. Messengers are not greater than the ones who send them. And that is what His disciples were to become … SENT ONES or Apostles. Likewise, we are sent ones … sent for the same mission … to share the good news of Jesus Christ. We are not greater than the One who has called us and sent us on this mission. Therefore, we are to follow the example of Christ – and be servants of all! Paul, as usual, shares some very practical advice on HOW to be a servant:
1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (NIV)
Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
As believers we are called to be “servants to all”. This is our job description as followers of Christ. We are to be ambassadors of the good news found in Jesus Christ … as though God were making His appeal through us. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20) Paul did the most incredible work in this regard, and he urges us to follow in his footsteps. Yes, we as believers have been ordained to join the “legacy of witnesses” who have testified to the truth that is found in Christ Jesus! We came to faith because of hearing the message of Jesus Christ that was preached to us and we received it in our hearts. We were born again of imperishable seed through the living and enduring Word of God. (Cf. 1 Peter 1:23) And like the Apostles before us, we have been “sent” to serve living in our generation.
Will we be obedient to His call to share the Gospel with those God has chosen for salvation? Are you and I willing to wash feet? Are you and I willing to become all things to all people so that by all possible means we might facilitate their coming to faith in Jesus Christ … and therefore be saved … bringing glory to the God who saved us? What are we willing to do for the sake of the Gospel? These are the questions of “servant leadership.” Indeed, we must humble ourselves to answer them as Jesus did…. Amen.
So Now You Know…
Have a Blessed Day!
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many. ~ Mark 10:42-45