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True Greatness

(Mark 9:33-37; 10:35-45)

Lesson 13 -- second quarter 1998
May 24, 1998

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 1998, Christian Light Publications

"What were you arguing about on your way here?" Like children caught in wrongdoing by their favorite teacher, the disciples stood in silence. Were they, like children sometimes are in such circumstances, stunned, shamed, sheepish or sullen? We don't know. But they held their peace. What was there left for them to say? They knew that nothing they could respond would enlighten the Master. He already knew! Perhaps they wondered how they could have forgotten that He would know.

"What were you arguing about?" We have never heard the Lord ask us the question audibly. And very likely, we have rarely thought to wonder when He would have the occasion to ask us such a question. But I hope that now we will think of Him asking us the question. It isn't that He needs to know the answer, but that we need to know that He knows!

What were you arguing about...with your sibling, with your friend, with your parent, with your neighbor, with your teacher, with the clerk, with the person on the phone, with your enemy? We argue a wide range of subjects: from whose turn it is to drive, to who is to blame for whatever, to why such and so should be thus and so, to how we should conduct ourselves on Sunday.

How were you arguing? I can argue forcibly or mildly. I can argue in even, pleasant tones or in hard, unkind tones. I can argue "peaceably" or I can argue in condescension. I imagine you can also.

Why were you arguing? You thought you held a superior view, or at least a more defensible one. You didn't want to be cooperative or submissive or congenial. You didn't like the person or his attitude. You were just feeling out of sorts. You were showing off. You wanted to be right, to win, to put her in her place. My! Have we got lots of reasons for getting into our arguments!

"What was it that ye disputed among yourselves?" I hope we can learn the discipline of remembering the Lord's question. At least after the argument. Better yet, during the argument. Best of all, before we even get started. He knows, my friend! And He wants us to know that He knows. Do we care that He knows? Do we care about the lesson He proceeded to give His disciples back then? I believe we do.

"Last of all, and servant of all." Pretty difficult position from which to argue, don't you agree? So many of our arguments stem from an unwillingness to be the very last and the very lowest. Therefore, so many of our arguments stem from an unlikeness of the Master!

"Their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you." The world has a high consciousness of position and the self-serving exercise of it. But among the servants of the Master, greatness is measured by selfless service: "whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister." By what do you measure greatness? The answer often resounds from the words, actions and dispositions which characterize our relationships with those with whom we disagree.

People often rub each other the wrong way, and yet manage to rub off on each other. For example, the authority figure will rub the "peon" the wrong way, yet when the "peon" comes into authority, observers will note he acts like the one he used to condemn! In the Lord's kingdom, we should let the Master "rub off on" us: "For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister."

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