Jesus called the twelve 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.”
Everybody wants to be great. Although we sometimes suppress it, there is something within each of us that drives us to the pursuit of excellence. Our problem is not that we seek greatness, but how we seek greatness. James and John came to Jesus seeking to be great. But not knowing about true greatness, they sought to establish their own. They wanted the crown without the cross, the position without the pain, the stature without the sacrifice. After all that is how greatness is sought in this world. We’ll inflict others with pain to ensure we get our position. We’ll make others suffer to secure our stature. We’ll step on others as we climb the ladder to success. We’ll crush others dreams to ensure that ours are fulfilled.
But when James and John came seeking a crown, Jesus offered them a cross. He introduced them to a new definition of greatness; a definition that would forever change the way we think about what it means to be great. “If you want to be great, be a servant,” Jesus would say. “If you want to be first, choose to be last.” And when the great God in heaven humbles himself to become a human; when the Lord of Lords lowers himself to become a slave, when the King of Kings forsakes his crown for a cross— that changes the way we think about how to achieve greatness. Suddenly greatness is no longer about pushing people down—instead its about pulling people up. It’s no longer about exalting ourselves, it’s about humbling ourselves so that others can be exalted.
And this is good news for us. What’s great about this is that Jesus’ new definition of greatness gives everyone an equal opportunity to be great. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “By that definition, everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.” So now is our opportunity to become great. In the kingdom of God there is no higher rank than that of a servant. Now is the time for us to pursue people over positions. Now is the time for us to seek service over stature. After all, “even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” This is true greatness. This is how we become great—by becoming more and more like Him.If service is the standard, what about you? Are you becoming great? Choose the cross and you’ll receive the crown. Choose to endure the pain and you’ll be put in position, perhaps not in this life, but certainly in the life to come. Choose to suffer and one day you’ll receive the highest stature, a place with the sovereign Lord in the heavens. Choose to become great by becoming a servant, by becoming more and more like Him.