They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him. Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
Mohammed Ali was one of the most famous boxers of all time. He used to boast he was the greatest. One time, when he was flying, he didn’t have his seatbelt on. The flight attendant came and asked him to buckle up. With typical arrogance Ali said, “Superman don’t need no seatbelt.” The attendant responded, “Superman don’t need no plane.”
I don’t think that did anything to deflate the boxer’s massive ego, but some of us possess ego’s just as large as Ali’s. Some of the apostles definitely had supersize egos. Two of them thought themselves great enough to sit beside Jesus in heaven and actually went to him requesting he make this happen (see Mark 10:35-45). The others were not much less, as seen in today’s story.
One their way from Galilee to Capernaum they were arguing with themselves about who was the greatest. You gotta remember that most of these dudes were fishermen, who probably didn’t even have a high school education. They were chosen by Jesus because they were simple, humble people, but a few months with him had gone to their heads. Now, not only did they think of themselves as great, they believed themselves to be greater than the other.
It was time for an ego deflation. I liked what the flight attendant did, but Jesus did it better. He said, “If you want to be first, you have to be last.” How does this work? Let me tell you another story. Friday was the day when the boys from a boarding school received a special treat. Every morning they would form a line after morning prayers and wait their turn to receive their goodies. The older, stronger boys would push the younger, smaller boys to make it to the head of the queue.
One day, the man distributing the treats saw this happening. He waited until the line was formed, then with a big smile on his face, went to the BACK of the line and started serving. The little ones who were last, were now first. I imagine a lot of egos deflated that morning. This may not be the perfect analogy, but I hope it makes the point. The last shall be first.
And this one too: Egos have no place in a Christian’s life.