“Who is the greatest?” asked the disciples. Jesus is on His grim march to the cross, the sacrifice of His very self in utter servitude to save us all – and His dense disciples want to know who gets the executive office suite with the corner window in the coming kingdom.
Peter, James and John were chosen to accompany Christ to the Mount of Transfiguration. They were, by Jesus own orders, tight-lipped about what they had seen. On an earlier occasion, Jesus chose these three also to witness the raising of Jairus’ little girl. Later, they walked with the Master into the shadows of Gethsemane on that dark night of betrayal and arrest.
Maybe the others wondered. Was Jesus grooming these three for higher positions in His kingdom later on? And why these three and not the others? The Bible does not tell us why Jesus chose these three in particular. But egos were bruised.
Who is the greatest? It is an ugly question when asked in the presence of Him who came not to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many. Jesus pointed to a small child to make a point about real greatness.
It was not the last time the subject would come up. In the upper room on the night of the betrayal, they argued about it again. “Who is the greatest?” Jesus shamed them into silence by getting down on His knees and washing their feet.
It’s an embarrassing virus in the hearts of each one of us, this ladder-climbing, status-conscious, ego-stroking obsession with being the greatest, the most recognized, the most admired, the most influential, the most important. It is the opposite of a humble and contrite heart.
For men who wanted to be gods, God became Man. For people who thought themselves great, Christ became little – yes, became a Child Himself. And for all of us who are tired of pretending to be what we are not, He gathers us like helpless children into His strong arms. “Dear Lord Jesus, You are my righteousness; I am Your sin. You became what You were not, and made me to be what I was not.” What could be greater than that?