I love the disciples! These guys are great. They are so down-to-earth and real. With the disciples, what you see is what you get. No pretense or posturing. If they think it, they say it. These are salt-of-the-earth kind of guys - fisherman and tax-collectors - regular Joes who were fully human and lived out their faults and failures right out in clear view for everyone to see.
I guess that's why I can relate to them. But if the truth be known, I used to look down on and judge the disciples for their seeming ignorance and inability to trust Jesus for who He was. I say, "I used to" because one day I woke up and realized that I am just like them. I can be just as stubborn, near-sighted, and self-absorbed that I fail to see the truth in who Jesus was and what He was saying.
I can relate to the disciples. I can see myself in their thoughts and actions. Take a look at verse 24:
And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded as the greatest.
Amazing! Look at the context. Jesus has just shared the Passover meal with them. He has been talking to them about His coming suffering. He has talked about giving His body and His blood. He has revealed that one of them is about to betray Him. And their response? They immediately break out into a discussion over which one of them was going to be the betrayer and that naturally led to a debate about who among them was the greatest.
This wasn't the first time this topic had come up. It seems that this was a favorite point of discussion among the disciples (Mark 9:34; Matthew 18:1; Luke 9:6). Even the mother of two of them got into the act by asking Jesus to "command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one of Your right and one on Your left" (Matthew 20:21).
Power, position,and prominence were important to the disciples. Why? Because they were looking for a different kind of kingdom. They had each followed Jesus because they believed Him to be the Messiah, but their understanding of what Jesus had come to do was off? They had each followed Jesus for purely selfish reasons. For what they could get out of it. They saw Jesus as a conquering king who was going to set up His kingdom on earth and each of them would get to play a part in helping rule over and administrate that kingdom. Therefore the debate.
But isn't that what we do? Isn't that how we think to some degree? Didn't many of us come to Jesus for what we thought we would get out of it? A better life, a happier marriage, a ticket to heaven? We can even be guilty of jockeying for spiritual significance in the kingdom of God. We want to be thought of as more spiritual than someone else. We want to be given authority or some degree of honor for who we are and what we contribute to the kingdom cause.
But Jesus had other plans. He had come to bring another reality. His kingdom was about serving, not being served. In His kingdom the first were to be last and the last first. In His kingdom the least would be the greatest. The leader must be like the servant. He even told the disciples, "I am among you as the one who serves" (Vs 27) and "the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve" (Matthew 28:20).
Paul describes it this way in his letter to the Philippians:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:3-4
He goes on to use Jesus as the perfect example of this new mentality we are to possess as His followers. We are to have the attitude that Jesus had. One of service and self-sacrifice for the good of the kingdom. An attitude of self-denial and humility, putting the will of God above our own, and the kingdom of God in place of our own.
So how are we doing? Do we have the attitude of Christ? Or are we spending our time debating where we stand in the spiritual pecking order? Are we more interested in being served or serving? Do we prefer special treatment or treating others as more important than ourselves?
What is amazing is that Jesus chose the disciples - men just like you and me - and He was able to use them. But first He had to transform them. Which is what He is doing in us. He is slowly weaning us off our obsession with power, position, and prominence and transforming us into His own likeness. Selfless, sacrificial, humble, and possessing a heart for the things of God.
Father, forgive me for being too obsessed about me. Help me to see that your kingdom is not about me. It is about You. Continue to open my eyes and give me a heart for others. Give me the attitude of Christ so that I might consider myself as "the least of these" and others as more important than myself. Thank you for your patience with me as I struggle with my humanness. Continue to transform me into Christ's likeness. And may Your kingdom come and Your will be done in my life. Amen.