Have we ever asked ourselves which is the greatest nation or who is the greatest person today? If we want to understand true greatness, we need to start with Jesus.
I want us to understand the importance of true greatness from God’s point of view.
We will discuss what constitutes greatness, what makes someone first in God’s eyes and see a couple of examples.
Who is the greatest
Who is the greatest? Whether it be sports, national greatness, talent or celebrity, we have heard that question answered with numerous opinions. In sports the rivalry is most often just a conversation starter. In national bigotry it is just a variation on old the worn out theme of why our country is the “master race.” Sometimes the sentiment is disguised in terms of “manifest destiny” and other times it is expressed bluntly in exaggerated terms such as ours is the “greatest country in the world.” All this is the exact opposite of the true greatness that Jesus described in Mark 9:30-37. If anyone desires to be first, they must be last of all, and servant of all. That does not seem to fit personal fame, covetousness or national military might, but it does fit anyone who selflessly serves others.
Who is the first
What makes us first, nationally or individually? In heaven the first are “last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:30-37). When a neighbor rescued the person next door at 2:00 AM from a burning house and gave temporary shelter he joined the ranks of the first. When red cross helpers came at 3:00 AM with aid, they joined the ranks of the first. Nurses speak often about the joys of their profession, because they know the secret. It is not about what we can do for ourselves. It is not about fame, fortune and power. It is about service to others. This is also service to God. As Jesus said, as much as we have done for one of the least of these his brothers and sisters, we have done it for him (Matthew 25:40).
Those who watch
Those who watch and protect are quiet heroes. Susan had gone blind in her thirties. She was angry and bitter and deeply depressed. When she was ready to return to her job, her husband Mark drove her to work faithfully. He knew she would eventually need to take the bus on her own. In anger, Susan refused, but Mark gently insisted and rode with her the first week. Eventually, she ventured out alone. After a week, the bus driver said he envied her. Why? She was blind and felt useless. The driver explained that each day she got off the bus, a handsome young man was watching from the side and when she got off safely he silently saluted and left her. It was her husband Mark. Truly the first are those watching and waiting to serve (Mark 9:30-37).
Those who sacrifice
Her baby was born with good hearing but without ears. She knew her son would struggle. As he grew into a handsome young man, the boy’s father asked about an ear transplant, but he needed a donor. Eventually one was found and the operation was remarkably successful. The young man married and had a successful career, but he wanted to know about the person who was an ear donor. An agreement had been made to keep the donor’s identity secret. Then the young man faced that dark day that we all face when a mother dies. As father and son approached the casket, the father reached forth his hands and raised his wife’s beautiful, thick hair to reveal to his son that she no longer had outer ears. Truly the first are those who sacrifice for others (Mark 9:30-37).
True greatness is not counted in dollars, or fame or military might, but is measured by sacrifice for others? If we want to understand true greatness, we need to start with Jesus.