Verse #18 of 2015 is Mark 9:35. The Seeds Family Worship song is called “Servant of All,” track 6 on “The Power of Encouragement.” It is a super fun song! I have fond memories of my preschoolers dancing around with air instruments to this one when I was teaching my own small class. Seeds uses the 1984 NIV which is different from the updated NIV, and I like the ESV (which my church uses) so that is what I’ve included here.
And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”
This statement from Jesus is so foundational to his earthly and eternal character, to our understanding of the character of God, and to our understanding of the gospel in our lives as Christians. Jesus’ serving others was one of the ways he showed that he was the Messiah and set an example for us to follow (Phil. 2:7).
Earlier in Mark 9, we are told of the transfiguration (2-13), at which point I have to assume that Peter, James, and John knew Jesus was the Son of God; and the story following the transfiguration details Jesus’ casting out a demon that the disciples had failed to cast out earlier (13-29). In verses 30-37 (which contains my memory verse, 35), Jesus speaks with his followers and predicts his death a second time and gives further evidence of his being one with God the Father.
Jesus shows his omniscience by speaking to something the disciples wouldn’t tell him about: that they had been arguing about who was “the greatest” in their group (33-34). Again, they have missed the point entirely, but Jesus takes the opportunity to lead them back to the real point (which is the classic Sunday School answer: God). He tells them that if they want to be first, they must be last, and a servant of all (35).
I don’t think Jesus was saying that the way to win and be the first or best is to do our time by humbling ourselves and serving others; it’s not a means to an end kind of thing. Or just not the means to the end the disciples were thinking about. Certainly, Scripture tells us that those who put others before themselves will be rewarded, but again that is not the main point. God is first! God is all! His glory is the goal.
So in the process of serving others we should lose our initial desire to be first or raise our status or be above others at all as we become aware of our humble position in comparison to God’s holiness, and we recognize the importance of elevating the truth of who God is for all to see and believe.
With Mother’s Day coming up, I can’t help but think of a mother’s sacrificial love when I read this passage. My own mother lives a life of putting others before herself, and I have had the privilege of knowing many other mothers who live this way, specifically my grandmother and my mother-in-law, but also countless other ladies who were and are part of my church life. This love lived out is a great example, and it doesn’t take great wisdom to recognize this- we all know we need to thank our mothers for everything they have done and continue to do for us.
Even in preschool last week as we asked the kids about their moms for a special Mother’s Day gift, we heard the most precious responses. The words of these children revealed the service and sacrifice of their mothers. Many of them said, “She plays with me,” or “She gives me food,” which may seem like simple things but are sacrifices of time, effort, money, and planning. The sweetest thing I heard by far was when I asked a little girl what her mom does that makes her happy. She said, “She thinks about me.” That is being a servant: thinking of others first.
So my first encouragement is to put a little thought into how you will thank your mother (or grandmother, or “other mother”) for thinking about you! Then, put some thought into how you will serve others through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, available to us because of Jesus’ perfect life and sacrifice. We do not do this on our own, but through him and for him, so we can acknowledge that HE is first.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this verse, on mothers, on this passage in Mark, or whatever comes to mind from reading this post. Thanks for reading.