Mark 9:33–35: “Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, ‘What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?’ But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.'”

November 3rd, 2018 by Pastor Ed in devotional

The disciples’ argument was along the lines of “which one of us gets to be chief of staff in Jesus’ kingdom?” These arguments seem to rise up at the most inappropriate times imaginable. Jesus had just again reminded them of His coming death, but they were too busy positioning themselves for the earthly kingdom they were sure He was going to establish at any moment. They also probably wrongly thought that they were far enough away from Him that He couldn’t hear them. But Jesus knew what they were talking about and His question was also a rebuke. They probably felt like kids caught with their hands in the cookie jar, which is why they kept silent.

The Lord used this awkward moment to teach them something about true spiritual greatness in the kingdom of heaven. Attitudes of pride and power seeking have no place in the true believer’s life. The path to spiritual greatness is never paved over the backs of other people. Jesus’ statement, “he shall be last of all and servant of all,” must have sounded like a very strange paradox to their ears. It still sounds backwards in the world’s economy today, running counter to conventional wisdom. Jeremiah said, “Are you seeking great things for yourself? Do not seek them” (Jer. 45:5).

Notice that Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be first.” This implies that ambition, in and of itself, can be a good thing. We should seek to be the best our God can make us. But, if our ambition is for self-glorification and gratification, then it is coming against the kingdom of God. Jesus wasn’t criticizing the desire to be first, but He did carefully define what it meant to be first. If we are seeking first His Kingdom and righteousness and seeking to be great in our usefulness to Him, we are ambitious  for a worthy thing. We are to become others-centered—servants to others. Contrary to both the 1st century and the 21st century, it is not how many serve us, but how many we serve.

“LORD, we desire to be useful servants in Your Kingdom. Please show us others who need us to serve them, and then bless our lives so we can be a blessing to them.”