Take a look into the world of sports, literature, art, music, politics, coffee, movies and you will find the same debate raging in every one of those worlds. Who is the Greatest? There are yearly challenges made, ceremonies observed, articles written and prizes awarded to pronounce judgment. And after the all of that is completed the very next day the debates begin all over again.
But if we would look into the world of our own hearts we will find that the same debate rages there as well. Who is the greatest? And every heart is viciously rooting for itself. It is an ugly passion that we all share, even spiritual heroes. In Luke 22 we read of an intense theological debate among the disciples:
24 A dispute also arose among them, as to
which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.
This argument would be comical if it weren’t so tragic. Our problem is not that we want to be great but that we don’t know what great is. Jesus is about to define greatness for them. And he said to them,…
25 …“The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them,
and those in authority over them are called benefactors.
Jesus is saying, “Take a look at how the world works. People who aspire to high positions and great authorities do it out of selfish motives. They want to be on top in order to be served by those beneath them.” That is the model everywhere you look. That is how it’s done is “real life.” Everybody knows that that’s how it works. So Jesus’ next words must have been shocking.
26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you
become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.
27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table
or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table?
But I am among you as the one who serves.
A few moments before this argument arose Jesus had risen and wrapped a towel around his waist and filled a basin with water and washed the dirty feet of the disciples. It was the job of the lowest servant and the disciples considered themselves too great for such a lowly task. The beauty of the Gospel had not yet registered.
Jesus was God in the flesh who came as a ‘table waiter’ in order to serve the unworthy that we might share in his greatness. He did it by putting all of his attributes – his wisdom, power, justice, authority, position, purity -to use for the benefit of others.
Greatness is not how many people you have beneath you but how many people you help to raise up higher than where they currently are. Our greatness lies not in what distinguishes us from one another but in our likeness to God. When we take our position, authority, gifts and abilities to make others better we show the world what God is like. Nothing is greater.