The measure of greatness

By Michael Smith

“Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.'” (Luke 22: 24-26)

“The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”  (John 13: 2-5)

From an early age we discover how to distinguish between the popular and the unpopular, the normal and the different, the leaders and the followers. For those who know me, it is not a shock that I was not one of the popular kids in school. But what is most fascinating as I reflect is that even in the realms of ‘nerddom,’ there are still distinguishing marks that separates u. First chair, section leader, president of the Thespian Society, drum major, Dungeon Master- Okay, that last one was for the really geeky kids out there.

We, like the disciples, want to know our place in the pecking order of life. Just imagine the disciples as they are arguing about which of them was considered to be the greatest around the ‘Last Supper’ table. In the midst of them arguing like little middle school boys, Jesus – the Lord of all – gets up from the table and shows them what greatness truly is; Service. John shows us how he takes a towel and wraps it around his waist. Jesus pours water into a basin and washes the disciple’s feet. “The one who rules should be like the one who serves.”

I’m greater than you are. Funny statement isn’t it. Why do we push others down thinking it will raise us up?

Let me give you an old Delanco illustration… My summer on permanent staff was great. I was the lifeguard that summer. It was several years and a few pounds ago. When I was taking my life guarding courses before the summer they taught us how to approach a drowning victim. It was pretty much like attacking them. Seriously. When someone is drowning they panic – obviously. As they panic they will pull the lifeguard (the very person who is trying to help them) under the water in an attempt to remain above it. Clearly, you cannot save someone if you are pulled under yourself. So they taught us all sorts of moves on how to block and maneuver our way to get to a place of safety where we can get ahold of the victim and bring them to safety.

My instructor told me, if that doesn’t work, punch them in the face. Seriously, true story.

Whenever we argue about who is greatest, whenever we put our own interests first, we are in contrast to the purpose of God in our lives. Jesus said that the servant is not greater than the master. So whenever we say that taking up the towel is just not “our thing,” we are saying that we are better than Christ. Don’t put people down in an attempt to raise yourself up.

As we enter the Season of Lent in the church, I want to ask you – What are you doing with the influence you have in this world? Are you lording it over others or using it to serve others? Take some time during this season to reflect and to serve. Jesus gave us the example and said, “Now that you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” Let us not be only hearers of the Word, but doers. Serve somebody today.

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