First shared 11.16.22. First posted 11.18.22. Much of this material was first presented in a previous Mark 10:35-45 sermon.
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Who’s The G.O.A.T.?
God is great and greatly to be praised! Great is His faithfulness (Lam 3:23). Great is His mercy. And thanks be to God, we have a Great Savior, who performed a great service.
God is great. So, if we want to be great, we have to be like God. For as the song goes, there’s “Nobody Greater”. God, there’s nobody greater than you. And that’s a great song, because God is the greatest.
Speaking of great songs, who is the greatest singer of all-time? Who is the greatest singer of all-time?
Now, many of us will have different answers because we have different criteria for greatness. Is it about record sales? Is it about sold-out concerts? Is it about musical talent?
Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard great singers in the church who are greater than the so-called “great” singers on the radio today.
You see, it doesn’t really matter how well you sing, if you’re singing about garbage. And it doesn’t really matter how well you sing if you’re singing about God.
You might be a good singer, but to be a great singer, you should sing for the Great Savior. A great record is about our Great Redeemer.
And when it comes to greatness, Christ has a different criteria.
You know, Christians have been singing “Great is Thy Faithfulness” since 1923. “Amazing Grace” was written in 1772.
Hymns in the hymnal have been sung for centuries. And, Psalms in the Scriptures have been set to music for millennia.
The so-called “great” songs on the radio today will be played out tomorrow. But the great songs about our Great God will never fall out of fashion in the faith. For His greatness endures forever – for all-time.
Another question, when it comes to sports, who is the G.O.A.T.? Who is the greatest of all-time? [Pause]
Again, many of us will have different answers because we have different criteria for greatness. Is it about having won the most championships? Is it about having the best individual stats? Is it about being dominant for the longest time?
But when it comes to greatness, Christ has a different criteria. You can be a good runner, but to be a great runner you have to run the Christian race.
Now, whether it’s on a sports show or at a backyard barbeque, people can debate about who’s the greatest athlete of all-time all day long.
But when it comes to who’s the greatest man of all-time, there should be no debate. For Jesus Christ – who is more than a man – is the greatest person to ever walk this planet.
His words are found in the best-selling book of all-time. He has more followers than anyone at anytime in the history of the world. And His death and Resurrection split the history of the world (BC to AD). Our Savior is the greatest of all-time, so we start counting from the time of His sacrifice. (Give or take a few years. Jesus likely lived from 6 BC to AD 33)
In any case, Christ’s influence can be felt in almost every aspect of modern life. The legal freedoms we enjoy are a product of His principles. The earliest colleges and universities were actually founded by Christians to train Christians.
Believe it or not, most of the earliest scientists were devout Christians, and many of them were trained ministers. Did you know that Isaac Newton actually wrote a commentary on the Book of Revelation?
And have you noticed that many hospitals have Methodist or Presbyterian in their name? And about 15 percent of all American hospitals are Catholic. Chances are the hospital you were born in was founded by servants of the Savior.
And the red cross – the blood-red cross of Christ is the universal symbol for healthcare. And, in general, the cross is likely the most recognized symbol across the globe. It can actually be found on the flags of 28 countries in the UN.
I can go on and on, but there should be no debate: Jesus Christ is the greatest of all-time. (Check out How Christianity Changed the World by Alvin Schmidt).
Worldly Greatness vs. Godly Greatness
So, if we want to be great, shouldn’t we to try to be like Jesus?
God is great and we should strive for godly greatness.
But as Jesus explains to His disciples, godly greatness differs from worldly greatness. When it comes to being great, Christ has a different criteria.
Even before our text today, Jesus has to set them straight. Earlier in Mark 9:33-35, it says:
33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servantof all.” (Mk 9:33-35, NIV)1
You see, Christ’s criteria for greatness entails servanthood. The Christ’s criteria differs from the culture.
In our society, greatness is about who’s at the top of the charts, the top of the record books, the top of the corporate ladder – the head of the government, the head of the organization, the head of the team.
Worldly greatness is about how many people are below you; godly greatness is about how people you put above you.
Worldly greatness is about you being first; godly greatness is about putting others first.
Worldly greatness is about how many people serve you; godly greatness is about how many people you serve.(cf. Bock, 495)
And no one exemplified this more than Jesus. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many (Mk 10:45).
Our Great Savior exemplified great service.
Now in Matthew, the request of James and John follows Jesus’ statement that, at the end of the age, the Twelve would sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Mt 19:28; cf. Lk 22:28-30).2
(Also see parallel the parallel passage in Mt 20:20-28.3)
But Mark does not mention this so let’s save that topic for another day.
In this context, Jesus and His disciples are on His final journey to Jerusalem. And He Jesus has just predicted His death and Resurrection for the third time (Mk 10:32-34).4
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In conclusion, the Messiah’s mission was not to going to lead to a royal coronation, but to a rugged cross.5 To correct their earthly expectations, for His disciples, Jesus had to redefine greatness.6
And Christ’s criteria for greatness is servanthood. It’s not about being first, it’s about putting others first. It’s not about how many people are below you; it’s about how many people you put above you.
It’s not about how many people serve you; it’s about how many people you serve.
And no one exemplified this more than the Son of Man, the Suffering Servant. No one demonstrated greater service than our Great Savior.
One final illustration: what is the greatest fast-food restaurant?
Again, many of us have different criteria for fast-food greatness. But, McDonald’s is the largest fast-food chain in the world. They’ve served more people than any other.
And do you remember what it often says under the sign with the golden arches? “Billions served.” “Billions and billions served.”
My brothers and sisters, who is the greatest person to ever walk this planet? Jesus Christ. He’s served more people than any other.
So let’s always remember what it means when you see the sign of the cross: “Billions served.” “Billions and billions served.”
Our Great Savior performed a great service. He came not to be served, but to serve – by giving His one life as a ransom for many – a redemption price for all. Billions and billions served.
For our damaged relationship with the Father, Jesus paid the price and made it right. He paid all the cost when He was slayed on the cross. Our Redeemer redeemed us from our slavery to sin. He released us from the consequences of our moral crimes. He saved us from our condemnation to death.
And, as we’ve said before, He served to save us; and we have been saved to serve Him – and to serve others in His Name.7
Jesus gave Himself as an atoning sacrifice for the whole world – that all who are faithful to our Resurrected Lord shall not perish, but have everlasting life (Jn 3:16).
That’s the Gospel. That’s the Good News. That’s the great news!
So, do you want to be great? Then we have to be like our Great Savior – not seeking worldly greatness, but godly greatness.
It’s not about how many likes you have on Facebook, it’s about how much you like putting your face in the Book. It’s not about how many people follow you online, it’s about how well you follow Christ inline. It’s not about how many fans you have, it’s about how fanatic you are about the faith.
You may be a good student, but to be a great student you have to study His word. You may be a good musician, but to be a great musician you have to be an instrument for righteousness (cf. Rom 6:13). You may be a good employee, but to be a great employee you be a worker in His harvest field (Lk 10:2).
Great athletes run for the Redeemer. Great singers sing for the Savior. Great cooks prepare spreads with the Bread of Life. Great healthcare professionals care their patients’ spiritual health. Great speakers speak the words of God.
My brothers and sisters, what are you good at? Whatever it is, don’t just seek to be good, strive to be great!
With whatever gifts and talents God has blessed you, you should use in the service of God – serving others according to their needs, in the Name of Jesus (cf. 1 Pet 4:10). And there is no greater need than salvation from sin.
Jesus served others, that they might be saved. Will we serve others in the Name of Jesus, that they might be saved?
Church services come to a close, but the service of the church should never end.
So, as we are enabled by the Lord, let’s be great today and everyday. Let’s be like our Great Savior and exemplify great service.
May the LORD bless you and keep you.
- Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. [BDAG]
- Balz, Horst Robert, and Gerhard Schneider. Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1990–. [EDNT]
- Bock, Darrell L. “Mark”. In Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 11: Matthew and Mark. David Turner and Darrell L. Bock. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2005.
- Bratcher, Robert G., and Eugene Albert Nida. A Handbook on the Gospel of Mark. UBS Handbook Series. New York: United Bible Societies, 1993. [UBS]
- Carson, D. A., R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, and G. J. Wenham, eds. New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition. 4th ed. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994. [NBC]
- Edwards, James R. “Mark”. In The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary. Edited by Gary M. Burge and Andrew E. Hill. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012. [BIBC]
- English, Donald. The Message of Mark: The Mystery of Faith. The Bible Speaks Today. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992.
- Evans, Craig A. The Bible Knowledge Background Commentary: Matthew–Luke. Edited by Craig A. Evans and Craig A. Bubeck. First Edition. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2003.
- Garland, David A. “Mark”. In Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke. Vol. 1. Edited by Clinton E. Arnold. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002. [ZIBBC]
- Hurtado, Larry W. Mark. Understanding the Bible Commentary Series. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011.
- Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Second Edition. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2014.
- Kernaghan, Ronald J. Mark. The IVP New Testament Commentary Series. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007.
- Lane, William L. The Gospel of Mark. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974.
- Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. New York: United Bible Societies, 1996. [LN]
- Plato. Plato in Twelve Volumes Translated by W.R.M. Lamb. Vol. 3. Medford, MA: Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd., 1967.
- Schmidt, Alvin J. How Christianity Changed the World. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004.
- Silva, Moisés, ed. New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014. [NIDNTTE]
- Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996.