The Four Faces of Jesus: Mark’s Pattern for Greatness (Part 8) (4-30-17)

But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.’” (Mark 10:42-43)

Throughout human history, greatness is always linked with dominance. Mighty empires such as Rome imprinted their heavy tracks upon this world by conquering entire kingdoms with their powerful legions. Their keen ability to consistently triumph over their foes on the battlefield is lauded by history as their source for greatness. In sports, (as a secondary example) the athlete who can overcome his competitors time and time again to earn the crown, seeks to be immortalized in the pages of human history not by his name but instead with the epithet “Greatest Ever.” The greatness of a team is often measured by the amounts of trophies they have been able to acquire in a competition or the number of records they have surpassed in a season. An award is given yearly to that player who outshines the rest of the league, crowning him as the “Most Valuable Player” to distinguish him as the greatest of them all. Indeed, the human concept of what makes a man or kingdom great is easily identified by us in how domineering we are toward others. Needless to say that our concept of becoming great is measured and driven by how ambitiously selfish we can be. If we pay closer attention to the two sets of examples this author has included, notice that each one is centralized around the concept of sacrificing others, for what I want to gain. Rome attained its greatness at the cost of the freedom lost by the conquered kingdoms. The champion received his crown by ignoring his competition and focusing solely on his personal goal. In closely examining the human understanding of greatness, it becomes visible that we have truly bought in to the selfish idea of “only the strong survive” or “survival of the fittest.” Therefore, when Mark depicts Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah conquering the world by serving, we begin to understand the Divine interpretation of greatness. Let us recall that Mark is portraying Jesus fulfilling His Messiahship as God’s suffering servant described by Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 53). A prophecy that was not readily accepted by the Jews because they, too, had fallen into the human interpretation of greatness. As a result of this, they viewed their Messiah as a warrior who would defeat Rome and restore the much anticipated throne of David; not as one who would conquer the world by dying on a cross. Yet, Mark’s explanation was aimed more toward the Gentile Christian residing in Rome during the perilous time of Nero’s persecution, and not as much for the Jew who had yet to accept this reality concerning Christ. Essentially, Mark is encouraging his brethren to endure the hardships Rome was inflicting upon them by reminding them that the Savior assured His disciples that “whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul” (Mark 8:35-36)? Here, the Master reveals (according to Mark) the true definition of greatness. Jesus taught His disciples that God measures and rewards greatness not by what he seeks to gain from Him, but rather by what he is willing to give to Him. This was a lesson that Jesus, irrefutably, taught by example. The apostle Paul validates the greatness of Jesus as a man since “being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7). It is of utmost importance to acknowledge first that Jesus was, is, and will forever be God (John 1:1, Hebrews 13:8)! This is necessary so that we may be able to analyze correctly the lesson being put forth by both Mark and Paul. The purpose for revealing Jesus’ Divine nature is to make man understand that He was not obligated to suffer as a man; He volunteered His services. This fantastic lesson is revealed by Mark in quoting the Redeemer’s words that “even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45a). Unarguably, as God, Jesus could have displayed His greatness (in light of the human definition) by exercising His Divine authority over all of humanity in a domineering way. Due to His omnipotence, man would have never been able to lift that submissive yoke since man could never defeat the Almighty God. This is what both inspired men are seeking to make their readers understand by manifesting Jesus’ Divinity. Because this is irrefutable, His greatness (in light of the Divine definition) becomes resplendent in the fact that He refused to wield His power for personal gain. Instead, He used His power to serve His Father and to serve His brethren. How did He accomplish this task? Jesus came specifically to the world, as a man, so that he could “give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45b). With these words from the Master, we are able to marvel in the beauty of His greatness. He would not dare ask from His followers anything that He would not first practice Himself. Hence, Paul’s exhortation to men to “look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interest of others” because doing this is allowing “this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:4-5). Following the thread that Mark laid concerning the Lord reveals that as the Messiah he would not only be King, but he would also be Servant. He did not deem it to be beneath Him as King to transform Himself as Servant to His subjects. Rather, He understood the powerful value of exemplifying to His kingdom the true nature of greatness. After all, His selfless service to the Father and mankind is why “God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9). This apostolic claim is supported by the reality that “no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” exists outside of Jesus (Acts 4:12). Where man believes that greatness is attained by reducing others for personal gain, God clarifies that true greatness can only be obtained by reducing oneself for the service of our fellow man. It is wise to understand that He, too, reduced Himself from King to Servant, but could only do so by going from God, to man. To be continued…

Comments are closed