One conversation kept creeping up among Jesus’ disciples. Right until the night of his arrest they were debating, arguing and evaluating it amongst themselves, despite everything Jesus had already said on the topic.

James, the son of Zebedee tells us of just one of these encounters:

We’d just come down from the mountain with Jesus. It had been awesome. I know it’s hard to believe but we saw Moses and Elijah! Jesus’s face went dazzling white and we heard the voice of God! We were bursting with the news as we met up with the others, but Jesus had told us not to tell them, so we didn’t. Still, I think they were envious that the three of us had been chosen once again to go where they hadn’t been invited, and they started an argument with us. Peter rose to the bait—as always—and started saying that we were Jesus’ favourites and the greatest in his eyes. The conversation stopped as soon as Jesus appeared, but of course he knew what we had been saying. It’s uncanny but he always did.

I’ll never forget his words: “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone.”

Everyone? Even Samaritans…women…lepers? Surely not! Of course I didn’t say it, but the way he looked at me–with a hint of sadness–I might as well have.

How I can relate to these disciples. Despite their great mountain-top moments with Jesus, despite watching him consistently modelling love and humility, despite experiencing his servant nature as he washed their feet, they fell into the same worldly trap over and over again: – They wanted to be known as the greatest.

It prompts me to question my own motives. Yes, I yearn to serve God with my life and writing, but are there also selfish motives interwoven in this longing? Do I long for just a touch of greatness and recognition? Do I consider certain people unworthy of my time and attention? I may want to hide it, but Jesus has an uncanny ability to see into the depths of my heart. He recognises the pride disguised as piety, the egotism that does not want to take last place or be a servant to all.

My only consolation is that he also sees my desire to change.

Based on Luke 9:46-48 / Mark 9:33-35


If you enjoyed reading this “Step into the Bible” Devotional, you might also enjoy The Empty Cushion.