Jesus and his disciples did a lot of walking; they had few other options for getting around. There were boats to get them across the water (though Jesus still preferred to walk!) but no mini buses to get them over land. And they did a lot of travelling up, down and across Israel and into Samaria and even into Syria. And it wasn’t always a gentle walk, there were times he led them up a mountain and down again. So there was plenty of time to talk.
Having spent some time on a mountain with Peter, James and John, at what we call the transfiguration, Jesus then takes them all through Galilee to Capernaum. They walked as a group, but the disciples were clearly not always in direct conversation with Jesus, and sometimes their conversation got a bit heated. We know this because, when they got to Capernaum, Jesus asked them what they had been arguing about while they were walking along. They weren’t going to tell him they were arguing about who was the greatest, probably as a result of Jesus only taking three of them up the mountain and leaving the others at the bottom. But Jesus knew (a sobering thought!) and proceeded to tell them that whoever wants to be great must become a servant (Mark 9:33-35).
In saying this, Jesus is standing conventional thinking, both then and now, on its head. The world measures greatness in terms of wealth, authority and power, but Jesus measures greatness in terms of service. Which actually means we can all be great in God’s sight!
Now I’m not sure, if asked, that we would all say that we wanted to be great, but I do think most of us would say that we wanted to be valued, appreciated and respected. Which I think is just more acceptable ways of saying wealth, authority and power. And Jesus still measures greatness in terms of service.
Being a servant to others is not something we would naturally seek, and can bring with it thoughts of being put upon, taken for granted or treated like a doormat. But that would depend on our heart attitude. When we have an opportunity to serve, whether voluntarily or enforced, we have a choice as to how we respond in our hearts. Jesus willingly chose to be a servant. We too can make that choice, and we can become great in the Kingdom of God.
Theophilus is the guy for whom Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. (Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1) Theophilus means ‘Lover of God’ so, if you love God, it was written for you!