Greatness in Service ~ Mark 10:32-45

Fr. Luke Veronis
Pastor, Ss. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox ChurchWebster, Massachusetts

What does it mean to be great in life? How many of us would love to achieve great things, to leave a legacy of distinction?

Well, greatness depends much on the standard that one uses. Many people think of Tiger Woods, in terms of greatness. Other standards might look at Bill Gates and his wealth in terms of greatness.
For Christians, there is only one standard that determines greatness, and that is Jesus Christ – the perfect man and the epitome of perfect love. What is surprising for many, however, is that our Lord’s standard of greatness stands quite opposed to the world’s view of distinction and eminence!
We see this stark contrast of ideals one day when Jesus catches his disciples arguing among themselves about who is greatest. Imagine, the followers of Christ quarrelling with one another about who is the most important, or maybe who was the most famous. Even in the Gospel lesson of today, we see two of our Lord’s most intimate friends, James and John, holding onto this worldly view of greatest by asking Christ to allow them each to sit at His right hand and at His left when He enters into His glory. They both want the seats of honor in worldly terms so that everyone else will know them as the most favored.
Yet Christ views greatness from a radically different perspective than most. In the Gospel lesson, we see the perfect man, the Son of God, God Himself incarnate, talking to His disciples about greatness in terms of His upcoming death. Imagine, equating greatness to a most ignoble death -an atypical death preceded by a humiliating betrayal, a painful persecution, an unimaginable suffering, and the ultimate fate of the worst criminal.
How is such an ignoble end greatness? It is greatness because the action is motivated solely by unconditional, pure, divine love. Christ concludes His life by personifying His teachings. To love the other with divine love, this is the only standard of true greatness!
Of course, the disciples didn’t understand Jesus and all His talk about death. They still were caught up in His earthly life and the fame and adoration of the masses.
So our Lord spoke more bluntly with them by explaining, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be a slave of all.”
In this single explanation, Christ turns the values of the world upside down! The rich and arrogant and powerful think that greatness revolves around dominating others, being held in honor by the crowds, and basically controlling the destiny of others. In other words, many in the world consider themselves important if others wait on them and serve them. Jesus says that Christianity has a radically different perspective. We do not find greatness in being served, but in serving others, not in dominating others but in humbly submitting to others. Why? Because the root of humble service is selfless love.
Talk about love is cheap. Concrete actions of love reveal what lies hidden in one’s heart. Greatness, Jesus showed, comes through feeding the poor, visiting the sick, sharing our material blessings with others less fortunate, bringing good news to the troubled, washing the feet and caring for one another, and ultimately, through sacrificing your life for the other. “No greater love can one have than this,” Christ taught, “to lay down your life for one another.”
When we hear about this path of greatness, how many of us still want to leave such a heavenly legacy of distinction? To become great in the eyes of God implies a readiness to sacrifice, to deny oneself, to humbly serve one another, and to willingly give our life for the other!
Today’s modern, secular-influenced pseudo-Christianity promises a life of comfort, ease, and security, even prosperity. The secular deception offers a mindset which pushes our faith into a tiny corner of our lives. The secular worldview thinks that one’s faith should not affect our daily lives. Say with your words that you are a Christian, but follow the world’s path of greatness through material possessions, dysfunctional and dominating relationships, and superficial and fleeting fame.
Our Lord Jesus tells us today that humble service is what greatness is all about. Being the servant of others. Thinking of others before yourself. Willingly accepting to lift others up.
Look at the example of Christ Himself:
– in heaven, yet accepts to come on earth
– not as a powerful king, but as a simple village carpenter and itinerant rabbi
– never to control others, but to humbly help others, serve others, lift others up
His entire life is one of humbling placing himself last, so that others may be first.
What an example and model to follow!
“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.”
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