True Greatness

Read: Mark 9:30-50

Last Sunday we considered Mark 9:14-29 and how the Lord helps us learn from our failures, leading us to deeper faith. This Sunday Pastor Ken will preach from Mark 9:30-50 and consider what the Lord says about true greatness. As you prepare your heart for our corporate gathering, let these words from Dr. Akin encourage you and move you to further consider the state of your heart before God.

Heart Preparation

We Must Overcome the Desires of Pride (Mark 9:33-34)

Jesus confronts [the disciples] about what they had been talking about. They admit they had debated “with one another about who was the greatest” (v. 34). Matters of rank and recognition were important to the Jews of Jesus’ day. The nature of man and the times have not changed all that much. Pride and the cult of personality arise even among the people who follow after the lowly Jesus. Let’s take a “painful pride” test.

  1. Am I upset if I am not praised for my work?
  2. Do I like and even long to sit at the head table in the seat of honor?
  3. Do I seek credit for what others have done?
  4. Do honorary titles pump me up?
  5. Is popularity crucial to my sense of self-worth?
  6. Am I a name dropper of those I know (or pretend to know?!)
  7. Do I think I have something valuable to say about almost everything?

Proverbs 11:2 says, “When pride comes, disgrace follows, but with humility comes wisdom.” James 4:6 adds, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

We Must Overcome the Desires for Position (Mark 9: 35)

With a heart of pride comes a desire for position. Jesus, in grace and tenderness, gives the Twelve a simple proverbial maxim: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” Jesus does not repudiate greatness. He redefines it. Be great in things that matter to God not man. Plato said in Gorgias (491e), “How can man be happy when he has to serve someone?” (Edwards, Mark, 287). Jesus says you will only find real and lasting happiness (joy) when you do serve someone, not because you have to but because you get to and want to. Jesus does say there is a position you should aspire to obtain: a diakonos, a waiter of tables, one who washes others’ feet (John 13:1-20) or changes their soiled undergarments. The work is not glorious in man’s eyes, but it is great in God’s! Here is a posture and position worthy of heaven!

We Must Overcome the Desires for Prominence (Mark 9: 36-37)

Jesus illustrates what it means to be a servant of all: He “took a child, [and] had him stand among them.” However, He does not stop there but picks him and takes him in His arms. This would have been unusual. The ancients, with high infant mortality rates, did not exalt the merits of children as do many modern cultures. A little child was an excellent example of the last or least. Jesus then startles the disciples by saying that if you receive one like this on My behalf, you receive Me. It gets even better: receive Me and you receive the One “who sent Me” (v. 37). Effectively, “Treat well those who have no standing in this world (children, lepers, AIDS victims, the mentally impaired, the physically disabled, the aged), and you will receive an audience with My Father!” Jesus points the way to true greatness: Die to self, serve others, care for those no one else cares for. Receive them in Jesus’ name, and you receive Jesus— and His Father too! The way up is down. The way to get is to give. The way to be first is to be last. This is the way of Jesus. This is the way to true greatness.

Excerpt from Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Mark, by Daniel L. Akin, pp. 193-195.


Song List for Sunday

  1. “Hosanna (Praise Is Rising),” Shane and Shane Arrangement
  2. “Great I Am,” by New Life Worship
  3. “Holy,” by Matt Redman
  4. “Man of Sorrows,” by Hillsong Live
  5. “Jesus Paid It All,” by Kristian Stanfill

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