And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” —Mark 9:35
From these sayings of Jesus, three important themes emerge. First, membership in the kingdom of God is bestowed upon us, we don’t earn it. The very idea that membership in this kingdom bestows some kind of new status and prestige upon us which will impress others around us is not only absurd–the world will hate those who follow Jesus, to even think in this way betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Jesus calls us to deny ourselves, because his call is not a call to greatness, but to service.The cross comes before the empty tomb, even as our own suffering must precede our entrance into glory. As servants of Jesus, in turn, we must become servants of others. We must think of ourselves like children (not because children are innocent and naive), but because children are among the “least” in terms of rank and standing. Christ is our head and we are his servants. As he denied himself, so must we.