Measuring greatness seems to be a major part of the human psyche. Our standards may vary, but we all do it. We play “King of the Hil” as children. We play “Red Rover”, trying to defeat, breakthrough or be subdued. We play “Monopoly”, you name it. In sports, the conversation is often about who is the “G.O.A.T.” If you don’t know that acronym, it means the “Greatest Of All Time”. Is it Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods in golf? It is Michael Jordan or Lebron James, or someone else in basketball? Who was the greatest president, Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, or Reagan?
This discourse by Jesus follows yet another “dispute” among the disciples over which of them (v24) was considered to be the greatest. So, a dispute, that is contentious strife, arose over who had the reputation of being the greatest. They weren’t arguing over who WAS the greatest, but who was CONSIDERED the greatest.
Jesus doesn’t weigh in on the argument. He just resets the standard for consideration.
v25 – Gentile kings lord it over them … It means to dominate. Their greatness is forced through power.
v26 – But you are not to be like that … He is changing the standard, shifting their gaze. … Instead … The word means “rather, on the contrary, but, yet, certainly, by contrast.” … the greatest … the word is MEGAS – “great, large, important, full-grown, adult, deep, strong.” … among you, should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table, or the one who serves? … (then he answers with their true thoughts) …Is it not the one who is at the table? But … Oh we need to pay attention when God says “But”.
Here comes the New Standard … This is like the “Sermon on the Mount”, when Jesus says You have heard it said … but I say … So here he says v27 … But I am among you as one who serves … Jesus says “I am one who –diakoneo-” It means “serves, waits on, helps, acts as an agent, to wait at the table.”
There is the new standard for greatness … then he continues
v28 YOU are those who have STOOD BY ME in my trials … “stood by me” is –diameno- “asasociate, to continue, to endure, abide with”. If HE came as a “waiter”, then we are just “bus boys” and “dishwashers”. And we are in the worst possible places of service. We are not ser ving in the most beautiful palace with a fancy uniform and great pay. No, He and We serve in our position through TRIALS –peirasmos- “process of testing, fiery ordeal”. We are serving in often the worst of times, the worst of trials, undervalued, underappreciated, misunderstood, attacked, maligned, and mistreated.
But Fear not , fret not. Do not desire greatness or reputation, gratitude or consideration, because Jesus says, … I CONFER on you … -diatithemi- “decree, ordain, arrange, to establish a covenant”. It is Jesus saying “don’t worry about consideration here because I have a covenant with you, I have made arrangements for a kingdom.” We want a reputation, a position, and he says “I have a kingdom for you.” We always receive from him MORE than we can imagine.
v29 … Just as my Father conferred one on me …
When you stand with Christ, you get what he gets. As his “table cleaners” and “dishwashers”, when he is exalted, we are exalted. … Just As … -Kathos- “to the degree that, inasmuch as, just as, when”. When, as, to the level of, his exaltation, will be our exaltation.
v30 – … So that … your greatness will be not here but there … lift your eyes … set your affection on what is to come. …you may eat and drink at MY table, in MY Kingdom and sit on thrones … If we want greatness HERE, it will be fleeting and will ultimately be destroyed and blown as dust away. But his kingdom is FOREVER. What we eat and drink at HIS TABLE will truly satisfy us eternally. What we receive here is often hollow and empty as sugar to the body. But what he has for us is filling and nourishes our souls.
So then in context Jesus tells Peter that satan wants to sift him …
Oh the temptation to seek Greatness
But know this, as he says to Peter … Jesus
1) Has defeated our tormentor
2) Is aware of our struggles
3) is Praying for us
4) Has a ministry for us on the other side of our trials
Lord, Let me be a dishwasher behind Christ and one day I will take my seat at your table. Until then, hand me another plate. I will stand with you in any trial.