A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. ‘You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
‘Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.’
He said to them, ‘When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?’ They said, ‘No, not a thing.’ He said to them, ‘But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, “And he was counted among the lawless”; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.’ They said, ‘Lord, look, here are two swords.’ He replied, ‘It is enough.’
It’s such a playground argument. Who is the greatest?
But of course there’s a bigger lesson to be learned for a group of people who seemed to have learned very little.
You have no idea what greatness even is!
Everything you think greatness is made up of… it isn’t. Everything you think is the opposite of greatness is actually what greatness really is.
And the lesson continues.
You’ve stood by me… but you won’t.
I sent you out with nothing and you had all that you needed, but you still crave more.
This upside down Kingdom stuff is hard, even for those who spent all their time with Jesus. But then they knew they were not Jesus, so how could the be like Jesus? They were just people. Women and men who watched and wondered but never quite grasped, who listened but never quite understood, who imitated but never quite became.
Soon it will be your turn.
With all your faults and failings, all our pettiness and jealousies, all your aspiration and ambition.
Even the swords are there to make the point (pardon the pun!) that the way you think power works isn’t how it actually works with God.
The be great you must be less. To lead you must serve. To be trusted by others you must trust completely in God.
We still don’t get it, God. All the stuff the world tells us Is wrong. Winning isn’t everything. Greed isn’t good. The end doesn’t justify the means.
Show us our place in your upside down kingdom. Help us to put aside ego And take up service, To let go of our own desires And meet others’ needs, And in doing so Find our world transformed Into your world. Amen
The Rev’d Stewart Cutler is minister of St Ninian’s Stonehouse, an LEP of the Church of Scotland and the URC.
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