Whoever wishes to become great

Published 2:30 pm Saturday, October 27, 2018

by Charles Qualls

Jesus arrived so differently than what the people were expecting. So different from what they were looking for. He lived among them well into adulthood before anyone around him much caught onto the notion that Jesus was special.

He toiled away as a good son to his parents. Despite his pronouncement at 12 years old in the temple that he must be about his father’s business, tradition holds that he really just quietly stayed home and worked at his other father’s business. That is, Joseph’s carpentry shop, it seems.

Hardly the stuff from which a Messiah might come. Certainly not the hoped-for wealth, might, power, fame or prominence from which one might conventionally expect to see the Promised One emerge.

Weird thing is, when Jesus went on and started healing and teaching in the name of God, he told us of a completely inverted kingdom that God cared so much about.

Everything seemed to be the opposite of the way most hierarchies worked. Here, in Mark 10: 35-45, he capped off this teaching by being sure he told his disciples more than once something like “But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

That’s perplexing on some practical levels. It’s perplexing to many of us still on a religious level, too. Everything in us fights Jesus’ values in some ways. We will often read Jesus’ upside-down teachings and then we start trying to see if we can’t turn them back right-side-up.

Two-thousand years later, I still see Christians fighting the life, message and teachings of Jesus Christ because we assume he must’ve misspoken.

Jesus couldn’t have meant it when he said what he did in Matthew’s Beatitudes. That is a veritable litany of inverted belief. How will the poor in spirit be so blessed that theirs is the kingdom of heaven? How will the meek inherit the earth? How can they who mourn be blessed when they look and sound so broken every time we encounter them?

He must’ve misspoken when he said that the little Widow’s Mite was the most generous gift in the house. Jesus just didn’t do things like he was expected to. That must be why he also said things like, “Whoever wishes to become great must be your servant.”

Rather than always hobnobbing with the pious or wealthy, Jesus was more likely to go home with likes of the sinful Zacchaeus for lunch. I’ve noticed that pastors don’t get away with that. He dared to sit around having some private time at a public well with a known adulterous woman. My congregation wouldn’t respond very happily to that one.

Jesus never intended for life to go on working the way that prevailing culture was trying to exist. He wanted to help us to find life by giving each other life. His ways always seem a little backward.

  • That’s why loud doesn’t always mean power, and the first voice to speak up isn’t always the wisest voice.
  • It’s why the the prettiest isn’t always the most beautiful.
  • The thing that seems most fun at first doesn’t always turn out to be the most important in the end.
  • It’s why the smallest gift might be the most lavish one when given from a poor persons’ purse, while the largest gift might be stingy when it’s not nearly reflective of the rich person’s vast wealth.
  • It’s why God didn’t really have it out for the “wealthy,” but did have it out for the crooked, unjust or selfish among the wealthy.

He made room for you and me when we accepted his salvation. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t bring a lot to the table when Jesus reached out to me and offered His hand. Then placed a calling upon my life.

When we stop all our striving long enough to actually pay attention, though, we notice the kind of people whom we actually love deeply. We realize the kind of people who end up being beloved on a wide scale in groups, churches and in communities. They are usually selfless, giving and loving people.

We are drawn to people who make us want to be better people.

“Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.”

Maybe Jesus was on to something after all.

CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.