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Who Will Be the Greatest?

Who Will Be the Greatest?

Helmets on. Shields down. Laser swords up. Sabers held high throb with light while Darth Vader breathes his insanely evil inhale and exhale. The battle begins.

My six-year-old and three-year-old grandsons have never even seen Star Wars, but the way they go at it, you’d never know. They grunt and shout in victory and defeat. It is a run-for-your-life war to the finish. Apparently, it only takes a few years of life to figure out someone gets to be the greatest. One of them will reign king of his little mountain.

“Who will be the greatest?”

It was a contentious question between Jesus’ disciples in the Gospel of Mark: 9:33-36.

The immaturity of Christ’s followers was revealed in an embarrassing argument while they walked toward home.

Can you picture it?

They walked together through Galilee as Jesus explained clearly his coming death and resurrection. The disciples really didn’t get it, and as the group of twelve split off into clusters, discussions went awry. They began to squabble on their own who would be the greatest in the kingdom, something like kids contending for top dog.

Arguments have a way of being obvious. They thought Jesus didn’t know about their disagreement. In fact, they didn’t want him to. So, when they arrived at the house where they stayed in Capernaum, Jesus’ question seemed to come out of the blue.

“What were you arguing about on the road?” Jesus asked them.

Like children caught in wrongdoing, nobody said anything. But, Jesus knew, as He always did. After all, He was Omniscient.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’” Mark 9:35 (NIV)

Parenthood is also servanthood. It is a cycle of being awakened from sleep, of making food and changing diapers. There are tears to wipe, high pitched excitement to hush, and scrapes to mend. Despite being in a position of authority, life revolves around little ones whose needs outweigh our own. Regardless of career, a parent’s position is one of service.

An important part of discipling our children to follow Christ is teaching them “who will be the greatest” is the wrong question to ask. We disciple well by directing their eyes toward a much different question, “How can I serve?”

It’s a battle at every age.

Remembering these two things will help.

  1. Discipleship moves the one discipled to know God’s greatness.
  2. God’s definition of greatness is servanthood.

True greatness belongs to God. Our human tendency seeks it through the biggest, best, richest, most successful, or most popular. These we weld like swords.

Jesus brought a child to illustrate the true posture of greatness. He contrasted their definition which stemmed from self-service with the humble position of a child. The greatness they argued about didn’t match the example of servanthood in front of their eyes.

In the arduous process of raising children sometimes we forget Jesus desires the inward kind of spiritual maturity that isn’t flashy but transformative. It doesn’t look like king of the mountain, nor does it act to exalt itself. This was Jesus’ message to his disciples.

He came to serve not to be served.

This morning I changed my youngest grandson’s diaper. I’ve changed a lot of diapers in my life, but this one may scar me for what remains of my diaper changing life. But in that stinky labor, I found great joy. Not for the chore, but for the little child on the table.

“Icky,” he agreed, shaking his head.

It’s not always glamorous. Sometimes it’s not pretty. But what a privilege is ours to be part of God’s plan of discipleship through parenthood and grandparenthood.

It is actually pretty great.

By: Sylvia Schroeder serves in member care with Avant Ministries. Mom to four, grandma to 14, and wife to her one and only love, she enjoys writing about all of them. Find her blog at When the House is Quiet. Like her Facebook page or follow her on twitter.

Join us at for our parenting blog each Monday-Friday and for info about the Just 18 Summers novel.

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