The text is probably a familiar one, at least it contains a couple of Jesus’ aphorisms that still have public purchase. “The one who wants to be first must be the servant of all” and “who ever welcomes the little child, welcomes me and the one who sent me.” These two sayings form Jesus’ teaching on ambition, although as I’m always saying the context of Jesus’ aphorisms is important. This sermon ponders the struggle of the divine and human ambition with Jesus himself. And this struggle (think about the Garden of Gethsemane) is the frame for a Christian teaching on ambition. Crucifying our ambition toward domination (“Who is the greatest”) and raising our ambition for service toward those whose only recompense is from God.
The text is the second passion prediction of Jesus. The first one ended in Peter attempting to rebuke Jesus and Jesus calling Peter Satan. The point of all these passion predictions has to do with the question “where do you find God?” It is natural to think you find God in the power and the glory – at the top of the mountain. The point of the passion predictions is that God in this world is found most securely on the cross. In out lives, the place we are most likely to find God is not in the mountaintop experience. In fact those mountaintop experiences are often false or even manufactured by the enemy. In our lives the place we find God is in service to our neighbor. So while the world is obsessed with status, and that is what the disciples are discussing on the road. Who has the most status after Jesus? The Kingdom of God abides by a different idea. The idea that our status chase is an unnecessary fear, because the Father watches even the sparrow. The son embraces the least among us.