How should we pursue greatness? Is greatness associated with Godliness? I think it’s clear in Scripture not only what greatness is, but how we can live it out.
Greatness is washing feet. It is kneeling before our peers and serving them regardless of occasion or convenience just like Jesus did. In His last moments with His Disciples, Jesus wrapped a towel around His waist and began to scrub the Disciples’ feet (Jn. 13:1-17). As Jesus continued to wash, Peter began to question Him. When a king stoops down to the level of the lowliest servant, we have no choice but to ask the question “why.” This vital question gives Christ the opportunity to tell us that this life should not be characterized by performance, fame, or fortune. The successes and greatness in our lives should be exemplified through our service, even the service to our crucifiers. In an age of rampant self-obsession we must remember Jesus’ warning that “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35) The King of all Kings knelt down to serve the vilest of sinners. The love and grace of Christ is undeserving and incomprehensible because we were the ones who put Him on that accursed tree. Out of unfathomable love, Jesus submitted to being slaughtered as the perfect Lamb of God under God’s wrath to pay for our sins. God raised Him from the dead, and while we deserve death and Hell, because of Jesus every day God’s mercies are all the newer. We are responsible to carry the grace and mercy which we’ve received and we are responsible to show it to others as they wrong us. Our faith and grace cannot stop once we leave church, it must permeate throughout our lives. Like it says in 1 Peter 5,“cast your anxieties upon Him, because He cares for you.” Jesus removes the our burdens and our sin, replacing them with holiness and purity. He cleanses our feet and calls us His children whom He will love for eternity. I think the Glory of Christ is further magnified when we understand just how corrupt man is. Despite our brokenness, doubt and betrayal, Christ took those 39 lashes, carried that cross, hung naked in view of all, and was crushed under God’s wrath. Christ still offers eternal life to those who deliberately spit in His face–this is washing feet. This is greatness.
Going back to John 13 and Mark 10, Jesus challenges the disciples to mimic Him. The most important distinction in our service is to be like Christ, not to be Christ. The tendency in our lives is to be consumed by divisive and graceless arguments about theology while failing to worship and obey the Jesus we are arguing about. This knowledge is good, but at the end of our lives, Christ is not going to ask us what we knew or how much Scripture we memorized or whether we are Calvinists or Arminians, He will simply ask, “What did you do with what I gave you?” I think Jesus will look us all in the eyes and ask about the feet we washed and the way we served those who persecute us. Our greatness will be illustrated in the way which we have served. Like it states in Matthew 5:17 we cannot just know what our responsibilities are, we have to do them. If we become hypocritical in the way we think and act, we become Christs greatest opponents, Pharisees. We must do! Yes, we are saved each day by grace through faith alone, but our works should further qualify our faith in Christ. Are we really Christians if we sit around and do nothing with all we know? Jesus is not just looking for people who know stuff. His disciples were fishermen, not scholars. Jesus was a carpenter, not a rabbi. Our knowledge only makes us more accountable for what we do. When we know lots of stuff and forget to exercise, or as Matt. 28:19 says “go,” we become fat Christians.
I would argue that greatness has nothing to do with any of us. Greatness is taking the spotlight off of our services and talents and aiming it right to the work of Christ on the cross. I assert greatness is the service and work of Christ which goes beyond us to prompt the difficult questions. These difficult questions we sometimes cannot answer… and if we could answer all of the questions, would we really be God? We are not capable of this “great” service, but it is the Holy Spirit acting vicariously through us to show the power of Christ. This should bring us so much peace because the God of the universe has gone before us and beyond us to enlighten the path for us. Our works and faith rest in the finished work of Christ. So we should strive for understanding and knowledge with the intention of being subordinate to the overarching will of Christ. This submission should bring us peace because as it discusses in 1 Thessalonians 4, we are not living for this world; we have our eyes fixed upwards to a greater hope, a greater God, and a greater heaven.
Based on Christ’s sacrifice we are made new, we are made great by Him and through Him. As believers, we should aim to carry our cross, delivering a message of grace to a world characterized by uncertainty and wandering, washing their feet all along the way.