The Secret Path to Greatness
Text: Luke 22:24-34 | Listen to Message
The Rightside-Up World of Jesus
How do you define “greatness”? What makes a person great or important? What, to you, are the primary indicators of a person’s significance?
The world defines greatness in terms of power. In various contexts, that power might be exercised as brute force, authority, or influence, but the bottom line is the ability to command and control other people.
The world also defines greatness in terms of prestige. Who are the celebrities, the rich and famous, the people whose reputations precede them? What qualities – tangible or intangible – do they possess so that we admire and exalt them?
In every generation and culture, you see people striving for these two things: power and prestige. Those who have them are considered great; those who lack them are considered of less worth.
Jesus recognizes these superficial valuations and responds, “This is not how it’s going to be with those who follow me. In my kingdom, greatness isn’t about getting other people to honor and serve you. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.”
Jesus goes on to say true greatness is the willingness to faithfully, humbly serve God and others. Notice that true greatness involves both right attitudes and right actions. As Jesus humbled himself and took on the form of a servant (Luke 22:27; Mark 10:45; Philippians 2:3-8), so we must humbly take the place of a servant.
So that’s it, then? Just take the low place and faithfully, sacrificially serve others? And then I’ll be significant? Well, not exactly.
See, the Apostle Peter tried that. He hears Jesus discounting power and prestige in favor of personal sacrifice, and he responds, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33). In other words, “Jesus, even if I have to serve you to the point of death, you can count on me to do everything you just said!”
But do you see the problem? Peter is seeking his identity and significance in the quality of his love for Jesus, rather than the other way around. He thinks he’s great because he thinks his love is great. But in just a few short hours, Peter’s love is going to waver . . . and utterly fail. He’s going to curse Jesus and run for his life. Let’s face it: If all Peter had on this night was his love for Jesus, Satan would’ve crushed Peter.
This brings us to the key to the whole story: When Peter’s love will fail Jesus on this night, Jesus’ love will not fail Peter.
So, you want to be truly great in God’s eyes? Then here’s the “secret” path: Don’t base your identity on what you do for God; rather, understand your significance in terms of what God in Christ has done for you!
True greatness is not giving up power and prestige only to be a self-righteous moralist who boasts in his or her humility and service. True greatness is humbly serving others because your heart is captivated by the magnitude of Christ’s unfailing love for you!