“If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Mark 9:35
This is in some ways one of the saddest, yet funniest, scenes in Mark’s gospel in my opinion. The disciples are following Jesus to Jerusalem, where He will die on a cross. Jesus has been telling them that He did not come to build a Kingdom of worldly power, glory and wealth, but that, instead, He would die on the cross and that anyone who wants to be a part of His Kingdom needs to follow in that same manner of life.
So what were the disciples talking about on the road to the cross? They were arguing “about who was the greatest.” Talk about not getting it!
The force of Jesus’ teaching is pretty clear. If you want worldly power, glory, and greatness, then Jesus isn’t for you. Jesus shows us the way to true greatness through the cross. The kind of greatness God wants for us, and even for Himself, is that greatness that comes through serving others.
Paul put it this way to the Philippians. “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…” (Phil 2:5-7). It is God’s nature to pour Himself out in love, and our attitude should be the same. If that isn’t a wonderful lens through which to view the celebration of Christmas, I don’t know what is!
But let’s take this a bit further. Do you see what happens when we seek glory for ourselves? Or when we want to be served? Or when we stand on our rights and what we deserve? Arguing. Strife. Discord.
Service, though, leads to unity, harmony, peace, and healing. Serving leads to beauty.
As a pastor, I know that many families do not enjoy holiday gatherings because they are marked by arguing, strife, and discord. Maybe it isn’t your family, but your workplace. Or your school. Or your neighborhood. We’ve all got a group like that. When we take the attitude of serving – giving instead of getting – we foster unity, harmony, peace, and healing.
Something profound changes when look at our spouse and ask ourselves how we can serve them. Or when we look at our children and ask what we can do to make them more like Jesus. Or when we look at our neighborhood and ask how we can make it a better place to live. Something profound happens when we look at our marriages, our families, our workplaces, our schools, and our neighborhoods as a place to serve in love.
Serve up some beauty in this holy season! Foster unity, harmony, peace and healing as you give yourself to others.