Who is the Greatest?

September 23, 2019

There are a lot of lists in the world.  We like to do a lot of comparisons.  Who’s the greatest baseball player, Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb?  We even like to make sub-comparisons, such as who is the best team in this decade.  Sometimes we are enamored by the question, “Who is the greatest?”  Hollywood assigns greatness by box office success or an Oscar. TV gives out Emmys and theater gives out the Tony Awards. There are so many awards in the Music Industry that sometimes I wonder if there is any song that doesn’t get rewarded.  Yet, although we may never agree on the answers, we still can get caught up in the discussion.   This same question was posed to Jesus.

To be named the greatest or best, there is measuring involved.  Some measure with statistics, others with emotion, yet when we calibrate greatness there is a criteria we use.  It is just to this that Jesus addresses His answer.  In scripture Jesus tells His disciples, the measure you measure with will be measured back to you.  To me those are the toughest words of the Gospel.  Every time we judge, the criteria we use will be used back on us.  We can be pretty brutal at times.  So when Jesus answers who is first and who is the greatest, He takes away all possibility of comparisons.  He says to be the greatest one must be a servant.  A servant cannot be used in comparisons. He goes on to say you must be a servant to all.  That puts you at the lowest of the low, it puts you behind everyone.  From that place there are no comparisons.  From that place there are no distinctions.  To be a servant of all is to be lower than all; to be behind all.  That is a tough strategy.  We all like to play the comparison game.  When I was a child I usually used negative comparisons.  When my parents would ask about my test grade, I would answer “Yes, I got a D, but most of the class got an F.” To justify their actions, sports figures sometimes say “Everyone else was doing it, and I am just the one who got caught.”  None of this brings us closer to the profound teaching of Jesus.  To be a servant of all is to never be able to compare yourself to anyone.

Jesus showed us the way.  He was the Son of God, yet He emptied Himself to come to this world and take the form of a man.  He did not use His divine powers to overthrow governments.  He could have, but He didn’t.  He washed the feet of the disciples and said, here, you should do the same…

Who is the greatest? Our best answer is no answer.

Reverend John J. Ouper