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A disciple's greatness is found in being sent by Jesus, not in exalting themselves.
We all long for greatness, for significance.
Often we pursue that through competition: pulling others down or pushing ourselves up.
Jesus shows us true greatness through his obedience all the way to the cross.
He gives each of his followers significance by sending us with that message.
Because it’s there
“Because it’s there” - those famous words belong to one George Mallory.
This was his reply when asked why anyone would attempt to climb Everest, why they would expose themselves to such great risks - why he would attempt something which, ultimately, would kill him.
Just because it’s there.
I don’t think that’s really the whole story.
I think there’s more to this.
I think what really drove Mallory is something at work all around us.
At work in the important and famous people of our world.
At work in ordinary, everyday people too.
I think all humans long for greatness.
We desperately wish we could be something, we could do something.
That we could make a name for ourselves.
That we could make a mark on this world - even just a small one.
Though I don’t think many of us would admit it.
And perhaps sometimes we don’t even really know it.
But so often when we pull back the covers and question what’s really driving people, this hunger for greatness is often found.
Heard of Elon Musk?
Here’s what close associates say about him:
“He basically wants to save humanity – it sounds very grandiose, but he perceives that he will contribute to saving humanity” says one.
Another explores why: “he doesn't share credit with anyone.
It's all Elon.
He wants to do great deeds for humanity, but he wants to get the glory for it”
Ok - so maybe that’s true for some of the grandstanding bigwigs of our world, that they’re in hot pursuit of their own greatness - even though they’d deny it if you asked them straight up.
But what about ordinary people?
Well, if you work in an office, who’s had their boss take credit for their work?
Or a colleague “spin” their contribution to a project, making out it was bigger.
If you’re at school, what about the playground between lessons: how many people do you see trying to outshine everyone else, kick better, run faster, be funnier?
This is the desire for greatness driving ordinary people.
But let’s be honest: have you never felt it stir in your own heart, that desire to be someone, to be more than those around you?
I think we all have if we’re honest.
I know I have.
Humans are hungry for greatness.
What does Jesus have to say about this?
Does he have any solutions for this ugly desire and the damage it does?
Today we’re continuing our journey through the gospel of Luke, Luke’s telling of Jesus’ life story, and Jesus hits this straight on.
Find Luke ch 9 and we’re going to pick up part way through v43.
That’s page 1040 if you’re using one of these bibles.
Luke chapter 9 - big 9 - verse 43 - small 43.
Let’s read together.
Who’s the greatest?
It’s no wonder the crowd is marvelling at Jesus as our reading begins.
“everyone was marvelling” - everyone.
Because he’s done such amazing things: welcoming the outsider; teaching the crowds; healing the sick; delivering the possessed; cleansing the lepers; even raising the dead.
And the crowds haven’t even seen it all - the raging sea stilled, Jesus transfigured.
Jesus has been amazing everyone - and the crowds are busy applauding him for it.
And it’s in the midst of this that the disciples end up arguing the ugly question of which disciple might be the greatest.
Which one of them!
Does it matter, boys?
When Jesus is right there?
I guess given the crowds cheering about Jesus’ greatness, perhaps it’s only human of the disciples to be thinking about where they fit it, where they land in the pecking order.
Who’s going to win “greatest disciple”?
Would it be Peter - because he’s correctly identified who Jesus is: God’s Messiah, that is, the chosen rescuer of God’s people, long-awaited by the Jews.
Is he going to find himself ahead of the others as a result?
his own assigned parking space?
Or would it have to be shared among the special three who Jesus just took up the mountain to see amazing things?
A secretary and corner office each?
Hard to believe it could be the other 9 out of the 12, left behind at the bottom of the mountain and, as we heard last week, unable to even manage a simple exorcism while Jesus is away.
Which of the disciples would turn out to be the greatest?
But even as the crowds cheer the amazing signs, and the disciples bicker about which of them will take that coveted “greatest disciple” award, Jesus’ greatness, his true greatness, hasn’t even begun to be seen yet.
No-one has grasped it.
No-one understands where Jesus’ true greatness will be found, where it will finally be revealed.
No-one except Jesus.
He knows what is coming.
He knows what it will take to demonstrate his true greatness: much more than healing diseases or calming seas.
It will take his obedience all the way to death, even death on a cross.
In v44, right in the midst of all the cheering, it’s as if Jesus turns to his disciples and says to them “this isn’t it, you know”.
He has something to say, something important, something that must stick with them no matter what: “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.”
The Son of Man is one of Jesus’ favourite titles for himself - for those in the know, it connects to the Jewish hopes of a Messiah.
Daniel 7 if you want to track it down.
But this messiah, the son of man, will be betrayed into the hands of men, Jesus tells them.
I say betrayed because that word “delivered” carries dark undertones.
It’s the same word that will be used repeatedly of what Judas does in chapter 22.
Jesus knows what lies ahead of him in Jerusalem: betrayal - betrayal by one of his inner circle.
Torture at the hands of the oppressor Romans.
Death by the scheming of those who should have rejoiced to receive him, the religious leaders.
Jesus knows what lies ahead of him in Jerusalem.
And yet he goes on anyway.
Verse 51, “Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem”.
At this moment where the crowds think him the greatest, he shares with his disciples the reality of what’s ahead.
He could have turned away, run into the desert and hid, or just become an anonymous carpenter somewhere else.
This is Jesus’ true greatness.
Jesus’ greatness is found in him walking this path all the way to the cross, and there bearing our sins - all the wrong we do; all the right we ignore, every way in which we’ve failed to be what we should.
Jesus takes all the punishment for all of this.
Jesus’ greatness is found in his obedience to the Father’s plan of salvation, obedience all the way to death.
Because when the punishment has been laid on Jesus, when it’s all spent, then the door is open for us to go free - even though we’ll never deserve it.
The door is open for us to be reconciled with God no matter how far we’ve run away from him.
That’s true greatness.
That’s worthy of applause.
That’s what marks Jesus out as the one above everyone.
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