When I was a girl, one of the most popular programmes on children’s tv was Record Breakers, with the wonderful Roy Castle. People on that had proved themselves to be their greatest in their chosen talent, be it tap dancing like Roy, or being fastest at something, tallest, or the most of any number of amazing feats (some of which are mentioned in the iconic theme tune!). People who had worked really hard to excel at something – to be the best.
Being the best is the question at the forefront of the minds of Jesus’ disciples. They had been arguing about which one of them was the greatest. Whether they meant the closest to Jesus, the best at being a disciple, or the best all round good bloke, who knows, but what a ridiculous and futile argument. Jesus has just been telling them how he will be killed for what he is trying to do, and they think which one of them is greatest is an important issue to debate!
So Jesus explains, if you really want to be first, you must put yourself last. The path to true greatness is not looking at yourself, seeing how well you’re doing, telling everybody, or getting a certificate. The way to be truly great is not to look to yourself – but to look to others and their need. To be willing to be a servant to those who need it.
We can spend our lives thinking only about ourselves, concentrating on our lives – or we can think about others, campaigning against injustice, sharing what we have, welcoming others on God’s behalf. Looking to see what others need, and seeking to make it happen.
Jesus was willing to give up everything he had for the people of the world – even his life. What are we being asked to do?
Who do we want to consider us great? People – or God??