No Place For Pride.
Matthew 17:24-18:35; Mark 9:33-50
He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.” – Mark 9:22-35 NLT
This is a fascinating section of Scripture. It is filled with powerful words from the lips of Jesus which are directed at His disciples. As they were journeying back to Capernaum, the disciples had gotten into an argument among themselves about who was the greatest. What makes this so mind-blowing is that Jesus had just told them that He was going to be betrayed into the hands of His enemies, be killed and raised from the dead. And yet, all they could think to discuss along the way was which one of them was the greatest. I would have loved to have heard that discussion. I’m sure Peter, James and John argued that they were because they alone got to witness the transfiguration of Jesus. Peter probably make a point of referencing the episode where he walked on the water (at least for a while). Each of them probably had ample reasons to vote themselves into the prime spot and just as many reasons for discounting the greatness of one another. Embarrassed at Jesus’ questioning about what they had been arguing about, they refused to answer. But Jesus knew. So He sat them down and gave them a lengthy lesson on the reality of life in His Kingdom. First, He rocked their world by telling them, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else” (Mark 9:35 NLT). So all their talk about greatness was misplaced and a waste of time. In His Kingdom, humility was the key to greatness, not pride. Servanthood was of greater value in God’s economy than leadership. True greatness began with an attitude marked by humility, dependence and need. To further illustrate His point, Jesus invited a little child to sit down among them. In that day, children were of little value. Other than male children who could carry on the family name, children were a burden. They had no rights. They were obligated to obey and honor their parents. They were worked hard and often taken for granted. But Jesus took this little child, placed him in their midst and said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4 NLT). This child was weak, defenseless, unimportant, completely dependent, and had not Jesus called him over, would have gone totally unnoticed by the disciples. Jesus’ point? That’s the attitude required of every citizen of His Kingdom. When Jesus called this little child over, he came. He obeyed. He did as he was told, no questions asked. The disciples were constantly questioning Jesus and doubting His methods. They were self-consumed and prideful. They truly believed that because they were followers of Jesus, they would play a prominent role in His coming Kingdom.
Even after hearing Jesus’ words, John seems to still be promoting his own greatness when He informs Jesus that they had stopped some arrogant outsider from casting out demons in Jesus’ name. I’m sure John was expecting a commendation, but instead he got a rebuke. Jesus responded, “Don’t stop him!” (Mark 9:39 NLT). Jesus seemed to be saying, “This is about the Kingdom, not getting credit for what you’ve accomplished.” John saw this man as competition. But Jesus said, “Anyone who is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40 NLT). Rather than worry about getting recognition for what you’ve done, willingly serve any and all who are helping the cause of Christ. Interestingly enough, this outsider was doing what the other disciples were unable to do while Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration – cast out a demon. Whoever this individual was, he had enough faith in Jesus to use His name to cast out demons. But the disciples had commanded him to stop what he was doing. Jesus made it clear. In doing so, they were causing this man to sin. “But if you cause one of these little ones who trust in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck” (Mark 9:42 NLT). This man was waging war against the enemy in Jesus’ name, but the disciples, due to their own pride, had told him to stop. Their own pride had done harm to the Kingdom of Christ and caused this man to sin. That was a dangerous thing to do. The key issue here is pride. Jesus wanted the disciples to examine their hearts and get to the root of the problem, then cut it off. “If one is characterized by pride rather than humility, and if one consistently acts in pride so as to offend those who believe in Christ, he is demonstrating that he does not belong to Christ and such a one would consequently ‘be thrown into hell’” (J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ). Pride is a powerful force in the life of the believer – for bad, not good. We must watch for it and do everything in our power to remove it. We must be as little children – humble, dependent, recognizing our own weakness and turning to God for all our needs. Our lives should be marked by compliance and complete submission to the will of the Father. There is no place for competition in the Kingdom of Christ. We all serve the King.
Father, pride is a constant reality in my life. It raises its ugly head on a regular basis, and sometimes it becomes to familiar that I fail to see it for what it is. Open my eyes and examine my heart. Show me the pervasive presence of pride in my life and help me remove it. Replace it with an attitude of humility and service. Give me the heart of a child. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men