This Easter season I am preaching on questions that arise in the Easter story. One of the surprising things about the events leading up to Jesus’ last week is that the disciples debated among themselves “Who among them was the greatest?” The Gospels record that they had this debate on different occasions.
That the disciples are having this discussion troubles us. That they had this conversation more than once troubles us further. To realize that at least two of the disciples involved their mother in the dispute troubles us even further. These are not kids. These are young adults to whom Jesus is entrusting the inauguration of His Kingdom and though they don’t know it, the implementation of the Church after His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. They should by now have a more Christlikeness about themselves. And, Jesus has just revealed to them His impending death.
Here are the wrong people having the wrong priorities at the wrong place in time.
Unless you are completely out of touch with our world you know that we have lost arguably the “greatest preacher” of our lifetime in recent days. Billy Graham died last Wednesday. Some have estimated that Graham preached to over 215 million people combined in his ministry. Three million people responded in making a decision at one of his crusades. I have seen it reported that 1200 people called the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association number on Wednesday alone to indicate their decision to trust Christ as Savior and request follow-up materials (or literature, as Graham often referred to such). What a legacy! What an inspiration! We could say indeed, “Greatness.” Interestingly though, the quality of his ministry admired by so many is that Graham himself would have never referred to himself as great.
So, how did Jesus respond to this rather unbelievable dispute among the disciples? Jesus gave them a rather unpopular definition of true greatness. He revealed that the ones considered great in His kingdom would be those who served, not those who would seek to be served or seek status. Then, Jesus gave an unprecedented demonstration of greatness. True greatness was laying down one’s life for others as Jesus did when He gave His life “a ransom for many.”
Rather surprising, this conversation with the disciples ends with Jesus promising that they will, in fact, rule with him. This would not come as the result of their greatness, but rather Jesus’ grace in their lives to appoint them to such a place in His kingdom.
So, how do we seek Godly greatness? We seek Godly greatness by seeking the Savior and by seeking to serve.
Dr. Graham often said that the first thing he would do when he got to heaven was to ask, “Why me, Lord? Why did You choose a farm boy from North Carolina to preach to so many people, to have such a wonderful team of associates, and to have a part in what You were doing in the latter half of the twentieth century?” He would say that “only God knows the answer.”
Now he knows the answer as well.
The only way to come to Jesus is the way that Billy Graham invited so many to come to Jesus. “Just as I am without one plea. . . I come.” Are you willing to say that today? Putting aside whatever you might offer up as your greatness, come to Jesus.
(This post is based on the message “Who Is the Greatest?” which you can watch at fbclaf.org/video)