I’ve wanted to achieve greatness for as long as I can remember. For years, the drive surged from the dark underbelly of pride that scratched and clawed to be let loose. It was an ugly desire–baring nothing good or wholesome about it.
I think the desire for greatness is not altogether bad. The desire to succeed has driven many a person to become world-changers in their own right. The conviction that drives creation and improvisation, in and of itself, is not a wicked thing. The trouble arises when we misuse our gifts, misunderstand our purpose and mishandle our desires. The trouble is, we forget the One who equips and calls us to such labor. Like the disciples, we want the glory apart from suffering.
In Luke 22, Jesus is gathered with the disciples at the Last Supper when they begin to argue about which one of them is considered the greatest. As Jesus prepares to head to the cross, the 12 are concerned about which one of them will be remembered above the others. At first read, I balk at their audacity. I can’t imagine sitting beside the SON OF GOD, bickering with my friends about who among us would be considered great. But my inability to imagine the audacity of this scene only stems from my pride, because as quickly as I have that thought, I recognize that the only reason I cannot imagine it is because I have already claimed my own greatness over that of the disciples. I would never do that, I presume. And in that quick twisting of thoughts, I find myself there at the table, tossing my own name in the ring for greatness.
Jesus silences their dispute by telling them that the greatest among them ought to become like the youngest, He asks them who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? “Is it not the one who reclines at the table?” Jesus asks. (Luke 22:27) Then, He likely blew their minds when He immediately tells them that the one who reclines at the table is He who serves–in other words, the greatest among them is Christ Himself (“the one who reclines at the table”). Then in an act of true hospitality, Jesus extends to them, a permanent invitation to “eat and drink” at His table in His kingdom, but assures them of the suffering that must come first.
Tim Chester paraphrases Jesus this way, “if you endure suffering with me, then you will experience the joy of my eternal feast,” reiterating, “Jesus promises suffering followed by glory.” He then reminds us, that “if you follow the way of the cross, then you will experience the glory of the resurrection.”
He silences their pride, redirecting the conversation to the truth of what greatness is–who greatness is, which is found in God’s perfect Son. Jesus sets the table for the very men who would soon fail to keep watch and wait with Him. He sets the table for us, who routinely fail to uphold the standards and example He set for us.
The Host of Heaven remembers His disciples (and us) with a generous act of mercy and love. I continue to marvel at the utterly undeserved patience of Christ for the folly of humanity. Grace upon grace.
I love the mercy exhibited in the passages of Luke 22. Like the disciples, we crave the status of greatness, and often clamor for the thrones of our own lives, eager to lord over all we deem good and right and salutary. But what we forget–what I forget–is that the greatest is the one who serves. The greatest is the one who embraces the cost, willingly sacrificing, bending to offer themselves in the name of hospitality. Greatness is only achieved when all things are in their proper order, beneath the foot of the cross.