it is a difficult lesson to learn obviously because Jesus had an extremely difficult time getting it through to the twelve men who walked with him, watched his actions, saw him heal and care for people in trouble and love on little children. They heard the sermons over and over again. Yet, for them to think in terms of others rather than themselves was almost impossible. I wish it were possible to step inside the minds of these twelve men for just a few nights as they laid down to go to sleep and began thinking of who they were and what they were doing. I’m certain different ones had different thoughts. But the reality that the argument about which one of us is the greatest is recorded as happening on at least three different occasions says a whole lot about where their minds were much of the time.
Imagine as Jesus confronted them about what they had been arguing about as they walked along and they had to admit it was about which one was greatest or perhaps, the leader of the group. Jesus took a little child and had them stand there in the middle of the group. He said to them, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” What if you and I had been in that crowd and heard Jesus lesson to the group, would we have picked up on the point? Would the concept of humility, trust, dependence on others or compassion have come to mind? It is difficult to get our minds off ourselves and really think about others and what they need.
Whatever passed through their minds, it didn’t change their thinking. It’s just two chapters later in Matthew’s account that James and John bring their mother with them to plead with Jesus that they can sit at his right and left hand when he enters his kingdom. He explained they didn’t really know what they were asking. He asked if they could drink the cup he was going to drink and their response was “Sure thing, we can do that.” He informed them those places would be reserved for the ones whom the Father had prepared them. Now we might look at James and John and their mom and think, well, it was just them. Others didn’t feel that way. But when the word got out that they had made the request it made the other ten very angry at them. “Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
God came to live among us in a human body, going through our pains, suffering, rejections, and concerns. He had all the power. He could cast out demons, still, storms, cause the blind to see or lame to walk. He could raise the dead and feed the massive crowds with meager amounts of food. Yet, as God among us, he served. He forgave those who were guilty of terrible sins and gave them a fresh start. Even though this band of disciples continued to mess us, have bad attitudes and fuss with each other right down to the end, he continued loving and working with them. The very one who denied him three times was given the chance to confess his love three times and given a mission to feed and tend his sheep from then on in his life.
Jesus, even on the cross, kept thinking of others. “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” He told the repentant thief, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
As hard as it is to think of others rather than ourselves and how we can promote ourselves, it is the only way to become like Jesus. Think about different aspects of your life today and determine a time you are going to focus completely on others and not think of yourself. It is tough to do. Even in our worship when our whole purpose is to be to please and glorify God, it is difficult not to become frustrated when things don’t go our way or some leader does something that I don’t really like. If it is hard there, it will certainly be a challenge in other aspects of life. But I want to follow Jesus and be great in his thinking so I long to get my mind off me and on to others.