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What are the real character traits of Christ and how can we emulate him or increase our worship of Him? JP preaches from Mark 10:32-45 and speaks on who is the greatest, who is not the greatest, and what is greatness really? Jesus is the greatest. We are not the greatest. Jesus used his greatness to serve others, while we tend to use our greatness to serve ourselves. The greatest thing we can do is to humbly serve others while preaching Christ, even being willing to give up our lives. Will you respond to this great call?
Redemption: The Message of Reconciliation
Trusting God in Temptation
The Greatness of Christ: Christ's Humility
I remember when I saw a male lion in the wild for the first time. I had this incredible opportunity years ago to go on a photo safari on the back end of an international discipleship trip to Africa. It was a friend and me. He invited me; I was his guest. We were there in the jungle, and on the horizon I saw the king of the jungle.
With every step he took you could see the muscles flex in his back and his legs, and it was every bit as great as I had heard, so much greater than anything I had seen on TV or behind the safety glass at a zoo. This guy walked carefree. There were no predators in the world. He could sleep where he wanted. He could go where he wanted. He was indeed the king of the jungle.
That night… It's about a seven-hour time difference. I was talking to my wife on the phone about midnight before going to bed. It was the middle of the day here. I was in this tent, and outside my tent I heard a Grr… Grr… I froze still. I told her, "Hey, I have to go." She said, "Why?" I said, "I think there's a lion outside my tent. I'll talk to you tomorrow," which is a terrible way to get off the phone. She's like, "Maybe you'll talk to me tomorrow…"
I know my place when there's a lion outside my tent. I'm frozen still. Somebody there had told me, "They can't actually get into your tent. Lions don't know they can tear through the cloth material." I'm like, "Who tested that theory? Because I don't want to." I'm being completely still there. I tried to go to sleep.
The next morning came, and I got up and told my friend and our guide as we began our photo safari again the next day. I said, "I think there was a lion outside my tent." He said, "Yeah, probably." I was like, "What? What do you mean, probably?" He goes, "Let's drive around and see."
We drive around on this dirt road, and sure enough, right beside this bush there were two male lions sitting there, kind of like brothers. They were sleeping on each other. I sat there, this time now about 15 feet away in an open-air vehicle, completely amazed and completely terrified, seeing the king of the jungle.
As I'm looking at him, I can't really look away. It's this serene picture. They had no care in the world. It was like they didn't even notice us, but all I could do in my mind was run this nightmare. I pictured Aslan in Narnia where he's like Grr… I just pictured this lion leaping forward into our car and devouring me, and there was nothing I could do. It was, as I said, both beautiful and terrifying. I'll never forget how I felt as I sat beside the king of the jungle in his domain.
Over the next four weeks, what I hope to do is take you and sit you beside the King of the universe in his domain as we move through a series called The Character of Christ. It's a double entendre. We're talking about the character Jesus, a real historical figure, a man who walked the earth, but also we're learning what of his character traits we can emulate in our own lives and what of his character traits move us to simply worshiping him, King Jesus, the greatest king.
I think we're called as Christians, or little Christs, to be like Jesus, but a lot of us have a misunderstanding of what he was actually like, or what he is actually like. What are the real character traits he has? We maybe have potentially embraced some misrepresentation through pictures with the long, flowing hair…peaceful Jesus. He was the Lamb indeed, but also the Lion, beautiful and terrifying.
I hope as we move through this series to learn more of how we can be like him and what made him so great. This morning, in fact, we're talking about the greatness of Christ. To talk about the greatness of Jesus is really to talk about the humility of Jesus, how God of the universe, all-powerful, a power we can't even fathom, became a man, and as great as he was, he humbled himself.
As we move through this text in Mark 10, the second book of your New Testament… Matthew, then Mark. Move 10 chapters in, and we'll start in verse 32. I'd like to look at who is the greatest, who is not the greatest, and what it really means to be great by King Jesus' standards.
We'll start where the disciples are walking with Jesus. Remember, the disciples had followed Christ. He came up to them and said, "Follow me." Here's why that went down. At this time, if you were a male Jew in the first century, you wanted to come under a rabbi, someone who would teach you the Holy Book, someone who would disciple you, a word we still use.
When Jesus shows up on the scene, he grabs a bunch of rejects, those no rabbis had taken. When Jesus says, "Follow me," this is a great ask to them. They're like, "Okay. Indeed. We will." This rabbi, Jesus, was a known, established rabbi. Remember, he was teaching when he was 8 years old in the synagogue. He was an established rabbi. When he tells the disciples to follow him, they do. They throw down their nets, they throw down their livelihoods, and they go with him.
Right about now in the text, they're starting to like that decision. Here's why. Jesus has done some incredible things. He's walked on water. He's made lots of food from little food. He's healed the blind. He's healed the deaf. He's healed the lame. They now walk. They've seen this, and they're like, "Man, we may have chosen correctly." What that meant to a Jewish male at this time is, "This guy might actually be the Messiah. He might be the Christ." What that meant was someone who would come and set them free from the Roman oppression.
You have the Romans, who are representative of the government there, and then you have the Jews, who are both an ethnicity and a religious group. The Roman government is oppressing this Jewish religious group, this people. They believe this Christ, this warrior, is going to show up and set them free in a really courageous, heroic way, and they're starting to think, "Hey, this might be Jesus."
Verse 32: "They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples…" Those who knew him the best, who had spent years with him. "…were astonished, while those who followed were afraid." You have Jesus, the rabbi, leading the way. He's walking in the front, and it would have been said the disciples followed so closely they would have been covered in his dust.
Those who know him… The word to describe their emotions is astonished. Those who are still kind of sizing him up are watching him like a male lion. It says they were afraid. Why? Because he was powerful, and word had gotten out. They're trying to figure out, "Who is this man?" So they watch him. The crowd is following him wherever he goes.
They wake up… "What are you going to do today?" "I'm going to go see what Jesus is doing. We'll watch from afar. I don't know exactly if it's by the power of Satan or by the power of God he does these things, but he's doing incredible things." "Again he [Jesus] took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him." This is thousands of years of prophecy culminating in these few sentences here.
"'We are going up to Jerusalem,' he said, 'and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.'" We will come back to the gravity of that statement, that foreshadowing, but my first point this morning is a very simple point with a very great magnitude of application for us. It is simply…
1._ Jesus is the greatest._ We get this from this text that Jesus was, indeed, walking in front. He was in a position of authority here on earth. The crowds were afraid of him while his followers were astonished by him, but moreover, guys, don't miss that he has the power to bring himself back to life from being dead three days.
Make no mistake about it if you're a guest here this morning…Jesus is the greatest. We so often ascribe people in a position of power as being the greatest. All power is Jesus'. Everything was created by him and for him. He is all-powerful God in the flesh. There is nothing he can't do. Colossians 1:15 says,
"The Son [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him [King Jesus] all things hold together."
Do we really believe Jesus is the greatest? Not do we know he's the greatest, but do we believe he's the greatest? It's been said people miss heaven by 16 inches. It is the distance from your head to your heart. It is one thing to believe or to know Jesus is the greatest; it is a whole other thing to come under his authority and say, "Jesus, you are the greatest. Use my life as you please."
We see in this text the foreshadowing of the gospel and what's going to happen. Jesus used his greatness to serve everyone else. Jesus did not abuse his greatness as we see so often in this world. Jesus used his greatness to serve everyone else, to provide a way for them to be with God forever, dying for their sins on the cross, the foreshadowing he's telling the disciples right here. How did he use his greatness? He emptied himself. He became like a servant, a sacrifice for you and me.
Todd said last week in moving through James that you can measure a man's greatness by how he treats those who can do nothing for him. How did Jesus treat those who could do nothing for him in return? That's you, by the way. He died in your place. He gave his entire life for you so you could be in a relationship with God.
Last week, Monica and I were in Houston, Texas, driving down 610 when we came to an abrupt stop. There had been a car accident, so traffic was moving very slowly. It was like stop, then go one mile an hour, and then stop… Right beside us was this older gentleman on his Harley, except it had broken down and there was a slight incline in the highway.
It was about 102 degrees there in Houston, so this man in his denim sleeveless vest, tattoos, and do-rag (he was a bigger guy with a bigger bike) was pushing this motorcycle up a slight hill in the heat. Monica, my wife, says, "What can we do?" I'm like, "We can try to get to where we're going because we're running late. That's what we can do."
She's like, "No, we have to do something." She takes her water bottle, wipes off the lipstick, rolls down the window, and says, "Do you want this?" To which he says, "H yeah, I want that." He takes it and downs it right there on the side of the road. Some people say, "What can we do?" and others say, "What can we do?"
Monica reminded me of Jesus there when he says, "What can I do? Give my life for them? I will. I'll do it. I will die for them, be publicly humiliated for them, be tortured for them, be crucified for them. I will do it." We're talking about the character of Christ. It's good to move to where we're headed in the text to show the opposite of the character of Christ, not wanting to worship Jesus on his throne but wanting to fight him for the throne.
We see this so often in the world, particularly in people in power or in positions of fame. We'll talk about Kanye West for a moment. He's easy to pick on. In an interview with Zane Lowe on BBC, he said, "'I am a god,' [and] everybody says, 'Who does he think he is?' I just told you who I thought I was. A god. I just told you. That's who I think I am.'" When you see it, it's gross. You go, ugh.
Most of us would not say it like that, but we would go and live like that. "I want to be a god. I want to build a kingdom on this earth. I want to have notoriety. I want to have authority. I want to have power. I don't want to worship Jesus on his throne. I want his throne. In fact, I'll worship Jesus for his throne. Maybe he'll give me good things if I do so."
When we stop believing Jesus is the greatest, we start trying to be the greatest. This is really dangerous territory, because this is the message of Satan the Enemy. "Jesus is not the greatest. You can be the greatest," and all of a sudden our lives are marked by this selfish ambition which is satanic.
You say, "Wait a minute. Satanic?" Yeah. Let me show you from the Scriptures where James 3:14 says, "But if you harbor bitter envy [desires] and selfish ambition [drive] in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such 'wisdom' does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic [of the devil] . For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice." James says selfish ambition is satanic. Pride is satanic.
Let me show you this in a really strange way. I want you to picture with me a basketball player in the NBA. He gets a fast break and moves down the court. There's a defender there sitting in the key. He moves past the free throw line and jumps up for a monstrous tomahawk dunk, hand behind his head with the ball. The defender jumps up straight. He slams it on him and one and lands, and what face does he make? Does he say, "Yes, yes I did. Go team." No, he says, "Yahh!" Talk about another king for a minute.
What's going on there? Why would anyone do that? It is the manifestation of pride and evil. We don't have a joyful face. We have an angry face. "Yahh! I'm the greatest! I'm the greatest!" The Scriptures warn us against it. No, no. Jesus is the greatest. Jesus is the greatest, and Jesus being the greatest means you don't have to be the greatest. Let me show you in the Scripture.
Jesus says, "I'm going to go there. They're going to spit on me, whip me, flog me, and kill me at the hands of the government and at the hands of the Jews, and then three days later I'm going to come back from the grave." "What are they going to say? Wow, Jesus. Are you serious? What are they going to say?" This is what they say. "Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. 'Teacher,' they said, 'we want you to do for us whatever we ask.'" What?
"Hey, buddy, I have cancer and I'm dying."
"Oh, cool. Hey, can you do me a favor? I don't want to tell you what the favor is, but can you promise to do it for me before I even ask you what the favor is?"
"I have cancer. Did you hear about the cancer part?"
"Yeah, yeah. I'm sorry about that. I hate to hear that, but can you do me a favor?"
Jesus says, "What do you want me to do for you?" I would have just sent lightning right there and done away with them. That's why I'm not God. "They replied, 'Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.'" They're asking this question: "Jesus, that's cool and all that you're going to die and come back. Hey, what's in it for us?"
They say Millennials, or Generation Y, those born between 1980 and 2000, whom I spend a lot of my time with… The number one question they ask is, "What's in it for me?" Well, this is Generation A, and the number one question they're asking is, "What's in it for me?" I'll show you from the Scriptures.
Matthew 18:1: "At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?'" Mark 9:34: "But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest." Luke 9:46: "An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest." Luke 22:24: "A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest."
These guys are narcissistic. They're so very focused on what they want that they're missing everything Jesus is doing. The answer to the question, gentlemen, is that Jesus is the greatest so you don't have to be. "'You don't know what you are asking,' Jesus said. 'Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?'"
This is Jesus saying, "Can you go through the sentencing…" The cup would have represented the sentencing. "…I'm about to be sentenced with? Can you go through the baptism…" That doesn't mean baptism as we think of today in this time. That word just means being held underwater. "Can you endure the calamity I'm about to endure?" to which they say, "Well, of course not, Jesus. We're not God." No, they don't.
They say, "We can. We absolutely can. Yeah. We don't even know what you said, but we can. Sure. We'll do anything." "Jesus said to them, 'You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with…'""You will indeed endure calamity. In fact, James, you're going to die first." This is not James, Jesus' brother. This is James the elder.
"James, you're going to die first, and then John, you're going to die last, and you're all going to die in my name. That will happen. You will indeed endure persecution…" "…but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared."
Now the other 10 are seeing James and John have cornered Jesus, and it says they became indignant, or felt unfairly left out with James and John. We know James, John, and Peter were kind of the inner circle. The others are saying, "Wait, wait. They're asking to be the greatest disciple? We want to be the greatest too. Why do they get to… I don't understand. We want to be the greatest." James and John don't get it, and the others don't get it either. My second point is equally as simple and very equally as important.
2._ You are not the greatest._ We are not the greatest. Jesus is the greatest. Therefore, we are not the greatest. Jesus says, "Can you endure this?" to which they say, "I can." Here's what I'm here to tell you from the Scriptures. You can't you can't endure or do everything. Maybe your mama said growing up, "You can do anything you put your mind to." I'm here to tell you the truth. You can't. You weren't meant to. There are things you just can't do. In fact, God didn't make you to do everything. He made you to do some really specific things.
The Scripture says he put you in a specific time, 2014, in a specific place, Dallas, Texas, at a specific company, in a specific neighborhood. He gave you, he entrusted to you some specific talents, specific resources, specific relationships, specific gifts he gave you and uniquely you to do something for him. The Satanic Bible says, "Do as you please," a mantra many Christians live. The Holy Bible, the real Bible, says, "Do as God pleases, that God will do as he pleases through you, that God is accomplishing things through us for his greatness."
Ephesians 2:10 says it like this: "For we…" For you, my friends. "…are God's handiwork, his workmanship, his masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do." Literally, the Greek is, "…to walk in the good works which God has prepared in advance, before time, before the creation of the earth, for you to walk in." He has some stuff he wants to do through you, and if you're so concerned with your glory, you're going to miss out on what he's doing, just like James and John.
See, Jesus used his greatness to serve others, but we use others' greatness to serve ourselves. Do you see the difference? Jesus said, "What do I have that makes me great, and how can I leverage it to serve everyone else?" So often we say, "What do they have that is great, and how can we leverage it to serve ourselves? What can we do? What can we get? What can we gain?"
It is so easy for us to pursue greatness in this temporary, fallen, broken world in the wrong things. We say, "Give me Jesus plus a better house; Jesus plus more money; Jesus plus a higher-paying job; Jesus plus a better, kinder, hotter spouse; Jesus plus…something. I'll take Jesus, sure, but Jesus, now that I'm here, can I use our relationship like a genie to get me something else that's going to make me great in this temporary world so I can leave it and be with you forever?" We don't believe that, maybe.
Our misunderstanding of greatness… Having more and having access to more than any other generation that has ever lived, you would think we would be happier, more joyful, more satisfied, and more content, but, indeed, we're actually the most depressed humanity has ever been right now. Depression rates are at an all-time high. Why? This sense of entitlement we have been owed has led to a real despair and a real depression.
We can learn from those who have gone before us and who have had much of what we want. I hate to use sad tragedies as an example, but I think we can learn from Brittany Murphy, Heath Ledger, Junior Seau, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse… People who died untimely deaths because the greatness they had was not enough. They went searching for it in things beyond Jesus, which led them to the end of themselves. They were great by the world's standards.
Let's learn from our friend Brad Pitt, who's still alive, the man many men want to be and many women want to be near. He says this in an interview with Rolling Stone, "Man, I know all these things are supposed to seem important to us—the car, the condo, our version of success—but if that's the case, why is the general feeling out there reflecting more impotence and isolation and desperation and loneliness? If you ask me, I say toss all this—we gotta find something else. Because all I know is that at this point in time, we are heading for a dead end, a numbing of the soul, a complete atrophy of the spiritual being. And I don't want that."
Rolling Stone says, "So if we're heading toward this kind of existential dead end in society, what do you think should happen?" Brad responds, "Hey, man, I don't have those answers yet. The emphasis now is on success and personal gain. I'm sitting in it, and I'm telling you, that's not it. I'm the guy who's got everything. I know. But I'm telling you, once you've got everything, then you're just left with yourself. I've said it before and I'll say it again: it doesn't help you sleep any better, and you don't wake up any better because of it."
The answer to our desperation or depression is not having more power and having more of what we want. It's knowing the One who is all-powerful and has everything and who is doing what he wants through our lives as we surrender to him. He's serving others through our lives and emptying of our lives, but so many of us actually live lives that distract from him as we pursue our glory in this broken world. We want to make a name for ourselves, and we get in the way of Jesus. We're not pointing to his greatness; we're pointing to our greatness.
This Memorial Day, there's a parade that goes through our neighborhood, and our children were like, "We want to be in the parade." I had access to this obnoxious orange car, and I thought, "Great. We'll be in the parade." As the parade day came, it began to rain that morning. The car is a convertible, so we didn't make it into the parade, but we went after the parade. I pretended to be in the parade with them, and we drove at the end of it. Then we went and parked where all the parade cars were parking.
Let me tell you a little bit about this car. Do you know how, in most cars, when you shift into reverse the reverse lights come on? With some big trucks, when you shift into reverse it goes, "Beep, beep, beep." This car had something really interesting. It had a megaphone in the trunk, and when you shifted into reverse, it said, "Attention, please. This car is backing up. Attention, please. This car is backing up." It would say that over and over…very, very loudly.
After the parade there's a party to celebrate and to thank the soldiers that had given their lives for our freedom. We pulled up, and there are hundreds of people there. Our friend, Sam Brown, a soldier, is leading a conversation and then a prayer. Hundreds of people are sitting there with their heads bowed.
Weston and I pull up in our orange car, and as I go to shift to park right beside them, it gets stuck in reverse and says, "Attention, please. This car is backing up. Attention, please. This car is backing up." I watched as hundreds of people lifted their eyes up from prayer to look at this obnoxious orange car. I panicked, I ducked, and I held up Weston. "He did it. Sorry."
So many of us live our lives this way. When people in this broken world are trying to find God and the greatness of God, and we show up and say, "Attention, please. Affection, please. Promotion, please. Notoriety, please. Fame, please. Fortune, please. Pay attention to me. Like me. Like my photos, my status. Like me." We don't appropriately point to the One who is great. He's the greatest. You don't have to be the greatest. He's the greatest. Brad Pitt is saying, "No, it's not here. It's not found here." Jesus is saying, "Hey, let me show you where it's found."
Verse 42: "Jesus called them together…" He senses they're arguing. "Come on, boys. Circle up." "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them." He's talking about the government, to which the disciples would have been like, "Yes. Yes, we do. Is this where it's about to go down? Are you about to unleash… Are we about to open up a can? Is that what's about to happen, Jesus? Tell us. Yes, yes, they do. They lord it over them, and now we're about to… Tell us, Jesus. Tell us we can."
"Not so with you." What? "No, you're different." "Instead, whoever wants to become great among you…""We want to be great, Jesus. He's talking about us." "…must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Jesus flips the script. He's like, "You heard greatness is this. I'm telling you, greatness is this. Everybody thinks this is greatness. Let me show you the antonym of greatness is actually greatness. Can you imagine with me one moment if everyone here left those doors, walked out, and really embraced this definition of greatness that God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, gave to us? It is about you serving those around you with everything you have to serve them with, your life. What if we did that? What would Dallas look like? What would Texas look like? My third point is…
3._ Jesus invites you into true greatness._ Jesus invites you into true greatness, his greatness. Consider Jesus' example. He is God who created all things, and he puts on humanity. He does not take off deity. He's still God. Instead, God, Creator of the heavens and the earth who made all things, and all things were created by him and for him, puts on humanity.
He stretches humanity over deity, and now all of a sudden he has boundaries of sleep, soreness, aches, and temptation. He's tempted. In this world his feet get tired from walking. He has to go to the bathroom. He has the boundaries of humanity that God in the flesh has placed on him, and he does so for no other reason than to free you from your sins to God. This is a servant, an incredible, humble, amazing, terrifying servant. He became a humiliated servant.
This is depicted in many movies, The Passion, of course… One of my favorites is in Narnia. It's an allegory. Jesus is Aslan, the lion. The powerful lion walks in the midst of all these people whom he could devour in one moment. They're afraid of him, and yet they mock him. He holds his paws together to be tied, they humiliatingly shave him, and then he dies for the very people he loves.
Of course, it's an allegory, and I think what happens with the gospel is it does become legendary in our minds. It becomes this event we hear that's incredible, and we're like, "Oh, man. I know that's so awesome," but we forget it actually happened and that it happened for you. Can you imagine if today somebody pushed you out of the way, and they died in your place? This is what Jesus did, not to save your 80 years but to give you eternity with God. It's not a legend. It's real. Philippians 2:5 says,
"In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on [an instrument of destruction and torture] a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Forever and ever and ever.
I'm telling you, the first-century Christians got this. The disciples, when they saw the resurrected Lord, got this. You know, they all died a martyr's death. These cowards became courageous men who advanced the gospel so strongly that it made it to us today, that even in this room thousands will gather in his name today. Across the earth, hundreds of millions of people will gather in his name because of the work of these 11 men who gave their lives for the cause. They got it.
In fact, just this week on CNN in their Belief Blog they were talking about the plagues that hit Rome in the second and third century. These were terrible, unimaginably horrific plagues that killed up to 5,000 people per day. Their bodies piled up in the streets, often set on fire and burning. The smell was terrible.
CNN was talking about it because they had recently uncovered some new bones. Archaeological sites had found evidence of the plagues, and it started back up in the media. What the blog said on CNN was this caused the boom of Christianity. What? Five thousand people dying a day caused the boom of Christianity? Why? Here's why. Christians believed what Jesus said here in Mark 10:45. They exchanged their comfort and well-being for the disease of those who were dying around them so they might both die in peace.
Let me show you a writing from Dionysius in AD 260. He wrote this: "…Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty; never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains."
The whole world, or at least the whole empire, said, "Who loves like that?" To which they said, "Jesus does. Jesus, King. Jesus loves like this, and his followers, mini-Jesuses, also love like this, in a way that's uncomfortable. They give so much of themselves they actually lose their lives for the sake, the comfort, and the well-being of others around them, because they've been promised another life, an eternal life with God. They don't need to be great in this world. They serve greatly, because they believe God, Creator, redefined greatness."
His followers actually serve like that. Can you imagine if we did? Our example… We put on humility, which is flattering to everyone. Humility looks good on everyone. We put it on in this broken world, this self-forgetfulness. We remove ourselves from it, for Jesus says in Mark 8:35, "For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it."
Jesus says to you, "Come and die." If you hold on to your life and you try to serve with your life, you're going to wear yourself out. If you try to hold on to your life and hold on to your greatness, and then you try to be great in service, you are going to be tired, weary, and upset with the church. You're going to say things like, "The church asks so much of me." Jesus asks for all of you. He says, "Come and die. Come and die."
When you realize Jesus is the greatest and you are not the greatest, you can lose your life for his sake so others might know him. You can give more of yourselves to those around you, believing a sovereign God has you where he has you for his purpose and that he desires to use you there. If God is God he can define the terms however he wants, and he says greatness is actually self-forgetfulness and service.
I fail so miserably at this. Just this past week I was in the airport walking around, and there was this gentleman in a wheelchair who had evidently just had some surgery. He appeared to be very sick, and he was all by himself. He was in my way, and I walked right up, sidestepped him, and kept going, because I didn't want to miss my flight. In fact, I wasn't in danger of missing my flight, but I wanted leg room.
I got on the plane, and I was haunted. Why didn't I just stop and say, "Hey, man. How are you doing? Is there anything I can get for you? I'm a follower of Jesus. I see you're in some need. What can I do for you?" Trust God has you where he has you for a purpose, that he's doing something through you.
A life lived for you is a life wasted on you. A life lived for those around you is indeed a great life. When we're so concerned with our comfort, as I am often, and was, we miss out on what God is doing. We don't see it. We're distracted by this temporary world. We have forgotten Jesus, the greatest servant, offers us another world.
In summary, Jesus is great, so you can stop being great by the world's standards and start being great by Jesus' standards. Jesus says greatness is you serving others. What is the application? What I want you to do from this text as we look at the character of Christ is self-forgetfulness. Look deeply at King Jesus, and forget yourself. Be humbled by who he is.
Serve others around you. Coworkers, people in line, neighbors in your community, your spouse, your children… Whoever it is God has you around, how can you be selfless toward them? This third one, a very unpopular one, is you have to enter into their world. It's messy. Jesus entered into our world. It was messy. The cross was so messy. God as a human was messy.
Sometimes God has somebody in your path, and you have to move into their world. It's going to take time and resources. It's going to be annoying and obnoxious, even, but God has people in your world, and he wants you to move into their world. That is greatness defined.
Can I show you a real-life example of this, a man named Father Damien? I pulled this from one of John Ortberg's books, God Is Closer Than You Think. It's a true story. I checked it out. It's an incredible one.
A priest, Father Damien, who became famous for his willingness to serve lepers, moved to a quarantined leper colony in Kalawao Village on the island of Molokai in Hawaii. He moves to this village. It's a leper-quarantined area, and he moved there and lived there with the lepers for 16 years. He gave 16 years of his life to care for these people everyone had forgotten.
He learned to speak their language, he bandaged their wounds, he embraced the bodies no one else would even touch or come near to, and he preached to the hearts that would have otherwise been left alone. He organized schools, bands, and choirs. He even built homes so the lepers could live in actual shelter. He built by hand 2,000 coffins so they could die and be buried with dignity, because he thought they should be.
Slowly, Kalawao became a place to live rather than a place to die, for Father Damien offered hope. Father Damien was not careful about keeping his distance. He did nothing to separate himself from his people. Together they shared meals. He shared his pipe with them. He did not always wash his hands after bandaging open sores. He got close, and for this the people loved him.
Then one day, he stood up and began preaching a sermon, and he started it with two words: we lepers. He had become one of them. Now he wasn't just helping them. He was one of them. From this day forward, he wasn't just on their island. He was in their skin. First he had chosen to live as they lived. Now he would die as they died, for they were in it together. Jesus comes to this earth, and he says, "We lepers."
I told somebody I was going to tell you that story this morning, and they said, "Yeah, but he dies." To which I said, "Yeah. So did Jesus, and so might you. The good news is you have another life, a forever life with God, and you can serve dangerously. You can serve scandalously. It's not holding on to your life while trying to check some box in service, but a giving, an emptying of your life for the well-being of those around you.
Imagine a city that would be transformed by these warriors of Christians who would show up and say, "We love radically because we've been promised another world, and our God loves radically, selflessly. We will give of ourselves for you." Let me pray that we would.
Father, thank you for your amazing example in your Son, Jesus. You didn't just leave us here to flail and try to figure it out. You not only gave us your Word, but you gave us this incredible example in your Son, who loved so well that he gave everything he could. He completely used his greatness to serve us.
Father, as we're led to the cross, as we stand before the cross, I pray we would be brought to our knees in humility, a humbling of oneself, a self-forgetfulness, that we would not try to serve, but that we would literally, God, for your sake, lose ourselves, not to earn anything from you but because we've been given everything through you. Father, would you take us there as we worship you? In Jesus' name, amen.
Jesus used his greatness to serve everyone. The disciples were tempted to use his greatness to serve themselves. I pray you would use any greatness that has been entrusted to you to serve and to love those around you. I'd love for you to join us back here at 5:30 this evening as we pray for this very movement, that we would do more of this at Raise the Mark. Thank you guys so much for being here. I'm excited to move and look at the King, not of the jungle, but of the universe with you. Have a great week of worship.