Jesus calls us back from our tangents. Again and again He gently sets our feet on the right path after we have wandered off on a side road. Take the subject of greatness: the disciples were interested in it, and we are interested in it. The world has its own definition of greatness, and being in the world, we are pulled in that direction. The disciples came right out and asked the question, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" (Matt. 18:1). They wanted to know the rules so they could begin the competition immediately. Mrs. Zebedee unashamedly asked that her two sons, James and John, might sit one on the right hand and the other on the left when Jesus came into His kingdom. She was interested in achieving greatness for her sons. And today we are not much different.

The world says greatness is accompanied by applause, recognition and power, but Jesus said whoever would humble himself as a little child and become a servant of all would be the greatest: quite a contrast in concepts, opposites, in fact.

This great Jesus who swept the common people along with his compassion and gentleness and his words "that never man so spoke," commanded such devotion that a woman in the crowd was moved to cry spontaneously, "Blessed is the womb that bore you." But Jesus gently put her, and us, back on the truer track, "Yes, rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it" (Luke 11:27, 28). Mary was indeed blessed, but more blessed are they who keep the Father's word.

Once someone said to Jesus, "Your mother and your brothers stand without desiring to speak with you. But He answered, Who is my mother? And who are my brothers? For whosoever shall do the will of my Father who is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother" (Matt. 12:47ff). No lack of love and respect for his family is here indicated, but there is a gentle, determined emphasis on a more important and transcendent bond. His family enjoyed no special degree of greatness because they were physical kinsmen of our Lord, but they, like us, obtain favor by obeying His Father's will and becoming His spiritual family.

When the seventy disciples returned from the limited commission, flushed with victory and exulting, "That even the devils are subject unto us through your name," Jesus gave them a different and better reason to rejoice: "Notwithstanding in this, rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven." It is still so easy for us to rejoice at the wrong things even in the spiritual dimension of our lives.

God is no respecter of persons. The way to greatness in the Lord's kingdom is the same for us all: humble service to others and obedience to the Father's will. It will not help to know someone, to hear the world's applause, to have great power and wealth and to be called great by those around us. There are no shortcuts to greatness: His way is the only way, but it is the road to the greatness that counts and to eternal rejoicing.

Aline Edson

Published in The Old Paths Archive