The Christian life is a paradox. You go up by going down; you gain by losing; you live by dying, etc. Jesus Christ was very careful and concerned that His first disciples understood this. He wanted them to learn that Christian discipleship is all about servitude not status. But this goes against every grain in our natural constitutions as fallen beings – everybody wants to be great – first and the important man. And yet, this is the life to which the Lord Jesus Christ called His first disciples and to this same life, He calls all of His disciples today – a life focused on servant-hood and not status. I was helped in thinking about this in a recent study in the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 9:30-41. I have been preaching through the Gospel of Mark in our local congregation over the past year or so and we are now towards the end of chapter 9. I preached on THE BIG MAN SYNDROME last Sunday and was greatly helped by the LORD in delivering His Word to His people. If you would like to listen to that sermon, please click on the image below.
The wonderful news is that with the call also comes the grace necessary to carry it out. The disciples were not a perfect bunch of people. A cursory study of Mark 9:30-41 makes that absolutely clear. They did not understand why Christ had to die. Worse still they were arguing about who was the greatest among them while Christ was talking to them about His impending death. We may criticize the disciples for their lack of understanding. True, they didn’t understand. But do we? Sadly, many a Christian has fallen prey of the BIG MAN syndrome. Everybody wants to be great even in the church. In this, the truth that Charles Spurgeon so clearly articulated in his Morning and Evening, hits home for me. He said, “The best of men are conscious above all others that they are men at best.” He goes on to say, “Empty boats float high, but heavily laden vessels are low in the water; mere professors can boast, but true children of God cry for mercy upon their unprofitableness.”
Thinking upon this in relation to my own weaknesses and specifically my pride, I am encouraged by how the Lord Jesus deals with the disciples who are clearly very slow learners (I am worse). But I am encouraged because contrary to human expectation, Christ does not chuck them off as useless. He does not give up with them. He doesn’t even scold them. Rather, He sits down and begins to teach them (Mark 9:35). He sticks with the disciples with all their pride and slowness to learn. I am encourage, He will stick with me too. Are you?
We must get rid of the false notion that the disciples were a perfect group of people. There was no perfect unity among them and they were all very proud people at the core. But it’s wonderful to see that their imperfections as evidenced by the disciple’s arguing with one another for greatness, does not hinder the Lord from using them to fulfill His purposes here on earth. He is patient with them. Instead of scolding them, He takes the time to teach them. And by and by, they learn to be humble; they learn to serve; they learn to look out for others interests first before their own. As Christ patiently and persistently works with them, among them and in them, they are consequently transformed into His likeness. In all this, the Lord wants all who follow Him to cultivate servant-hood in our lives and be willing to serve even those who may be beneath us in one way or another. A servant of God is recognized not only by his humility, but also by the honor, respect and dignity that he gives to those who have no honor, no respect and no dignity.