Why do we follow Jesus? Are we doing it for glory? Are we hoping for fame? For those of us called to ministry, do we dream of being the next mega church pastor, getting the next book contract, being the next tv preacher everyone talks about?
The Call to Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark, Day 44
They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, ‘The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.’ But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him. Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the way?’ But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’ Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’ John said to him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’ But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward. Mark 9:30-41
Well after Jesus has just explained to the disciples about the cross and resurrection. They continue on the way and when they stop, Jesus asks the twelve what they had been talking about on the way. The disciples didn't answer; they were silent. They knew Jesus wouldn't be happy with their discussion of who is the greatest, who among them was the best. They were discussing glory and so didn't answer.
Jesus sat down and called the twelve to him. And he talks to them about greatness. Jesus explains, "if anyone would be first, he must be last of all, servant of all." To make his point, Jesus gives the disciples a visual clue. He brings a child into their midst and then takes the child in his arms and says, "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me," and by receiving me receives God.
John wants to clarify greatness, so he asks about a man, an ordinary man, who is able to cast out demons, but he is not one of us. He isn't here learning from you, being authorized by you to cast out demons. We told him to stop because he wasn't following you.
Jesus' response is to open up the mission and ministry. He says if they can get rid of evil in my name, they will have a hard tie speaking ill of me. If they give you water in my name, they are part of the kingdom. "For whoever is not against us, is for us."
Greatness for Jesus is the greatness of the small, the least, the lost, the last. To be great, we are invited to become God's servant. To welcome the children and those who are rejected by society. To invite into ministry those who are doing good in Jesus' name. Who is great is not about having the biggest, brightest, shiniest ministry. You aren't necessarily great because your congregation has more members, more money, more programs, more fame. For God the question of greatness is about service and welcoming the outcast. Letting God shine through what you are doing so God is the focus not you.
He knew the weakness of the small Who dandles babies on his knee, And knelt with those who could n't see But dared to call; He told the frail they would be strong; He stirred their song.
And so the kingdom comes, he said, In hidden ferment of the yeast, In vagrants summoned to the feast, In broken bread: What's undervalued in its place Is charged with grace.
When we defer to sight or size, Believing big is always best And falling for the Tempter's test, God open our eyes To see how Christ, the Lord of All, Smiles from the small. The Iona Community