“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Status has always been a thing, hasn’t it?
Even from the earliest days in the garden, Eve desired the same kind of knowledge as God. For whatever reason the serpent could sense she had a desire “to be more and know more.” And ever since, history has been full of humans striving for God-likeness, greatness, kingship, and powerful places of position and status. In the New Testament, we read that the disciples weren’t immune to these desires either. And while they didn’t have online social feeds to broadly promote their reputation as Jesus’ disciples, walking with him from town to town always drew a crowd. Naturally, conversations about status and position soon started to stir among the group.
And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”
And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
And while Jesus was gracious with their limited understanding of his Kingdom work, he continued to showcase the humblest positions of status in their culture as true greatness. Children (mentioned in chapter 9) were the least important members of ancient society. They had no wealth, status, or power and were completely dependent. Slaves (mentioned in chapter 10) is another word for bondservant (one who sells himself into slavery of another person). To receive the elevated status they desired, it would require humility, suffering, and sacrifice. To be known by Christ and to be like Christ would require a shift in mindset and a seismic shift of heart. These things were, and still are, incredibly hard to comprehend.
And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life, will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”
– Mark 8:31-37
It’s interesting that right after he scolds Peter for his misaligned priorities, he again extends an invitation to the disciples and the nearby crowd. The same is true for us. Surely many of our priorities and possibly some of our life ambitions grieve God, but he never stops welcoming us back into alignment.
Today, TV and social media platforms hype up the benefits of being important and well known by the world. But Jesus wants us to be known by a different set of priorities. We are to be known by our love and service to others. We are to be known by our Christ-like welcome. A welcome that gives eternal life-giving status to every soul we encounter.
- Try this exercise: Write down a general list of personal daily/weekly/annual priorities. . . .
- Circle priorities that you’d consider eternal, Kingdom-building priorities.
- Does pursuing others for the purpose of welcoming them into the Kingdom make your list?
- The disciples often confused and prioritized earthly kingdom work above eternal kingdom work. Can you relate? What are some priorities you sometimes confuse and elevate above eternal things?