What I’m Thinking: Greatness

Through history, people have debated the nature of greatness. Jesus didn’t settle the argument – it rages still – but it’s clear where he stood. Greatness is service of neighbor.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the ninth chapter of Mark’s Gospel (Mark 9:30-37). Now in last week’s gospel lesson, Jesus for the first time told his disciples that, in Jerusalem, he expected to be rejected by the leadership there. He anticipated that they would arrest him, even hand him over to the Romans for trial and crucifixion.

Jesus’ announcement resulted in an argument. Jesus even said to his dear friend Simon Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!”

In this reading, Jesus told his disciples once more about his expectations: rejection, arrest, crucifixion, resurrection. He told them this while traveling. At the end of their journey, Jesus asked them what they had been talking about. The right answer, of course, would have been, “Well, we were talking about what you told us. We’re struggling to come to terms with it. We hope that you’re wrong.” But instead of that, they said nothing it all. It turns out that what they had been doing during the journey was arguing about which one of them is greatest.

Jesus said to them, “The one who serves all is greatest of all.” Further, he found a child somewhere and said, “The one who welcomes a child is the one who welcomes me. The one who welcomes me is the one who welcomes the God who sent me.”

Throughout the Hebrew Bible there is an interplay about what the nature of greatness is. We find greatness expressed in familiar terms, about monarchs and palaces and armies and victories. But we also find greatness expressed about care for the neighbor, about reverence for God, about making certain that the most vulnerable in society – the widows and the orphans – that they are fully cared for and fully included in the community.

Here at the end of this journey with his disciples Jesus made clear which end of the spectrum he fell on. Greatness, said Jesus, is about service. Greatness, said Jesus, is about the welcoming and the care for a child.

This argument about the nature of greatness has never ended. If I’m honest, I have to say that the winners of the argument have typically been those who look to the grand buildings and the great armies and the victories and the titles.

Jesus says that they are flat wrong. Greatness is the service of all and the welcome of a child.

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m curious to hear what you’re thinking. Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below; I’d love to hear from you.

Categories What I'm Thinking | Tags: , | Posted on September 13, 2021

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