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I wanted to begin this morning by considering some famous quotes on the subject of Greatness – what makes someone attain to Greatness? What is the pathway or the secret to Greatness?

“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” Greatness comes in various forms; you need to embrace it, not fear it

― William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

“You were put on this earth to achieve your greatest self, to live out your purpose, and to do it courageously.” Be the best YOU (sounds more like the Joel Osteen self-help approach)

― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

“The mark of a great man is one who knows when to set aside the important things in order to accomplish the vital ones.” Matter of priorities

― Brandon Sanderson, The Alloy of Law

“All greatness of character is dependent on individuality. The man who has no other existence than that which he partakes in common with all around him, will never have any other than an existence of mediocrity. “ Be the unique YOU

— James F. Cooper

Probably closest to the truth – but still not capturing the biblical perspective:

“A great man is always willing to be little.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nothing wrong with having ambition and wanting to make a difference with your life – in fact there is something very wrong with not caring about greatness and excellence and just being comfortable with mediocrity

It is a matter of our motivation and whether we are self-centered or God-centered

What does Jesus teach and what did Jesus practice with respect to the Pathway to Greatness?



The perspective of the Cross is fundamental to all that we are as Christians; it is fundamental to all that we do as Christians

A. (:30-31a) Urgent Need for Indoctrination

“And from there they went out and began to go through Galilee,

and He was unwilling for anyone to know about it.

For He was teaching His disciples and telling them,”

Shift to what has been called the Retirement ministry of Jesus – where He pulls back from the crowds and invests his final time (last 6 months) in intimate training of his closest disciples; journey from the northern area of Galilee down to Jerusalem in the south of Judah

People today don’t place much importance on indoctrination

Cults do – they make it a point to carefully educate their members in all of the details of the catechism of their religious system

But evangelicals today place a very low priority on systematic instruction – Why is that?

– Jesus taught Truth – He presented Himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life

– Jesus taught the Truth with authority – not just suggesting some possible interpretations of what God might want to communicate; not a sharing or pooling of ignorance

– Jesus taught the Truth with repetition – understood that His disciples were slow to pick up on new truths; used everyday illustrations to make the truth memorable

– Jesus taught the Truth with practical application – not just ivory tower truths; these were essential truths for wise living – listen to Dean belting out the simple gospel song: The wise man built his house upon the rock …

– Jesus taught the Truth to those He was equipping to teach others the exact same content

Edwards: Although Mark often refers to Jesus as a teacher, he seldom reports what Jesus taught. This pericope is an exception, however.

B. (:31b) Significance of His Death – Death is Necessary – 8:31 – followed by interaction with Peter; 9:31 – followed by interaction with John; 10:33-34 – followed by interaction with James and John

“The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him;”

“delivered” — Technical, legal term used for a criminal being handed over to judgment and punishment

Hiebert: a futuristic present – carries a note of the certainty of the thing announced

Contrast between “Son of Man” and sinful “men”

MacArthur: It starts with Judas who delivers Him up, to the Jews. The Jews deliver Him up to Pilate. Pilate delivers Him up to the executioners. But the real story is not understood until you read Acts 2:23 where Peter on the Day of Pentecost says, “This man,” meaning Christ, “delivered by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God.” God delivered Him up. Judas delivered Him up. The Jews delivered Him up. The Romans delivered Him up. And after all of that, He is crucified. He was delivered into the hands of men. Judas put Him in the hands of the Jewish leaders. The Jewish leaders put Him in the hands of Pilate. Pilate put Him in the hands of the Roman executioners.

C. (:31c) Significance of His Resurrection – Resurrection is Certain

“and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.”

The Death of Jesus is not the end of the story

Hendriksen: Mark represents Jesus as predicting that he shall “rise again”; Matthew, “be raised up.” These are not in conflict. Both are true. What Mark reports Jesus as saying is that he is going to rise again by his own power. This is in harmony not only with Christ’s own teaching as found elsewhere but also with other passages of Scripture.

John 10:17-18 “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”

D. (:32) Two Impediments to Learning

1. Lack of Comprehension – Too Short-sighted

“But they did not understand this statement,”

Why didn’t they understand?

2. Lack of Humility – Too Proud

“and they were afraid to ask Him.”

Why were they fearful?


A. (:33-34) Lesson Introduced – Concern Over Status in the Kingdom

“And they came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them, ‘What were you discussing on the way?’ But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest.”

MacArthur: They’d been walking for a long time, we don’t know exactly how long, but it would be a significant journey from…for miles, 20, 30 who knows miles, up Caesarea Philippi, coming all the way down to Capernaum. And on the way, they were having a discussion, it was a prolonged discussion. It was a heated discussion. It was, frankly, a really ugly discussion. . . Pride destroys unity.

Edwards: a jarring contrast between Jesus’ humility and the disciples’ desire for distinction and recognition. . . Jesus speaks of surrendering his life; the disciples speak of fulfilling theirs. He counts the cost of discipleship; they count its assets. The disciples have yet to learn that the rewards of discipleship come only as a consequence of following Christ on the costly way to Jerusalem.

Hiebert: The dispute shows that the disciples did not regard Peter as having been assigned a position of primacy among them at Caesarea Philippi (Mt 16:17-19).

“the house” in Capernaum – possibly Peter’s

Illustration: all the politics at work regarding who has the parking spot closest to the door – the spot of rank and distinction; just as you would assign seats at a banquet

Greatness in Christ’s kingdom is different than kingdoms of men – cf. Mt 20:20-26

What is the pathway to Greatness?

– Hard work?

– Sacrifice and Discipline?

– Great Intellect?

– Impressive Achievements?

– Loyalty and Faithfulness?

– Popularity?

– Riches?

B. (:35) Lesson Taught – The Way Up is Down

“And sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them,

‘If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all.’”

Surprising and Shocking when Jesus first said this

Despite Jesus having clearly laid out this proven road map centuries ago – you still don’t find people today advocating for such an approach – it is still Surprising and Shocking

Edwards: The challenge is to be great in things that matter to God. Nothing is greater in God’s eyes than giving, and no vocation affords the opportunity to give more than that of a servant (10:43).

Hendriksen: their idea of what it means to be “great” must be changed, in fact, radically reversed. True greatness does not consist in this, that from a towering height a person, in a self-congratulatory manner, has the right now to look down upon all others (Luke 18:9-12); but in this, that he immerses himself in the needs of others, sympathizes with them and helps them in every way possible. So, if any person – whether he be one of the Twelve or anyone else – wishes to be first, he must be last; that is, servant of all.

What does it look like to be last of all and servant of all??

Luke 22:27 “For I am among you as one who serves”

Cf. the role of a deacon in the church

C. (:36-37) Lesson Illustrated and Applied – Greatness in the Kingdom is Measured by How You Humbly Serve the Most Insignificant?

“And taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms,

He said to them, ‘Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me;

and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.’”

Ministry to those who need it most

Child is not here just an example of humility – but one of being insignificant and helpless

Hendriksen: Jesus is telling his disciples to forget all about rank, pre-eminence, prominence. Instead, they should concentrate their attention on the needs of one, any one, even just one, of such little ones; for example, the child which Jesus is now holding in his arms, or any similar one. . . in his weakness, need, and humble dependence

Constable: A child was the least significant person in Jewish and in Greco-Roman culture. By using “a child” as His object lesson, Jesus was saying that service involves caring about people, even insignificant people such as children.


The lessons of the Cross are foolishness to our human reasoning – these lessons can only be comprehended by the insight provided by the Spirit of God – 1 Cor. 1-2 “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.’”

Phil. 2:1-11 Look at Jesus Christ and His humble service for our pattern for Greatness