Lent 2017 - Who is Greatest

Jesus tells his closest friends and followers that he is going to be killed, and they are too nervous and confused to even ask what he is talking about. Instead, they occupy themselves with petty arguments about who is the “greatest.” They are too busy with spats about status to hear Jesus’ message of service and sacrifice. They are still trying to secure their lives and reputations, still trapped in the patterns of comparison and competition that lead to division and hostility. The desire for credit creates cracks in the foundation of our unity. In their self-importance and insecurity, the disciples even want to stop and suppress others from doing good in Jesus’ name. This ties into Ignatius’ second stage of humility—to be indifferent toward wealth and honor, free from the need to be recognized and rewarded. This humility does not suppress but celebrates goodness regardless of who is responsible. Without concern for credit and contest, we can be free from mentalities of “you vs. me” and “us vs. them.” In this context, Jesus’ lesson on stumbling blocks and severing sinful body parts takes on a new dimension. It is about eliminating impulses to compete and compare—instead forgetting yourself and making sacrifices to practice peace. If your hand is holding down your fellow human being, cut it off. If your eye is fixed on what you don’t have, cut it out. If your ear is straining to hear what others think about you, cut it off.

  1. Read Mark 9:30–50.
  2. Ask God for the freedom to be indifferent to riches and recognition.
  3. Feel the disciples’ embarrassment—like children caught fighting about something they immediately realize is stupid. Feel their shame deepen as Jesus challenges them to amputate their ambition and “be at peace with one another.” 
  4. Reflect on the second kind of humility—to be unaffected by wanting honor, money, or even long life, instead desiring only whatever will best serve the Lord and save one’s soul (by losing it for Christ). What would it mean to be completely free of the impulse of compete and compare with others? No more basing your identity and worth on others, no more jealousy of peoples’ social media posts, no more eagerness to get credit for things, no more seeing other churches as competing with yours, no more self-seeking ambition, no more needing nice new things.
  5. Imagine Jesus with a child on his lap. Talk to him about becoming free in his “salty” way of service and self-sacrifice.

About the Author
Nick Chambers is the Associate Minister at Peachtree Christian Church in Atlanta, GA and the former Director of Spiritual Formation at Calvary UMC.