We’re talking about Jesus in this series. We exploring the idea that he is like a discordant note; a note which shouldn’t fit and yet a note which everything better by its presence.
Our culture says achieve achieve achieve…and do it at any cost. We use phrases like climbing the corporate ladder or upwardly mobile.
I recently saw someone tell a young girl that being beautiful isn’t the most important thing. I’m on board with that. I think we need to give our young ladies and our young boys better messages…but this person told the girl the most important thing is to be clever.
We sell this story that being clever, that being able to achieve is the most important thing. We build our education system around the idea of how to best achieve in the world of work and the pursuit of making lots of money. But I’m not sure being clever is the most important thing. I’m not sure achievement is the pinnacle of a successful life.
The discordant note, Jesus, speaks to his friends asking him about greatness, to a group asking about achievement, to his dear companions asking about getting to the top, to his disciples debating which of them is greatest. Jesus jars with their story of greatness. He strikes a note which doesn’t fit with their story of greatness…and in fact our understanding of greatness.
Jesus scoops up a nearby child and places him carefully in the middle of the group. I imagine the disciples are a little confused…little kids aren’t a symbol of hierarchy and achievement and success and greatness. “Whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Then later James and John’s mum gets in on the debate. She asks Jesus to make the two of them the greatest of the disciples. And Jesus says “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
This is on the back of a story he tells about how we don’t earn success, we don’t earn achievement. Jesus says that in his system, his kingdom, “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.”
In saying all of this he jars with our concept of achievement and success. He tells a better story. A story not of cut throat competition and trampling on the heads of those below us. A story not of back stabbing and corporate sabotage. A story not of the destructive practices of corporations and of self gain.
But a story which lifts all of humanity up. A story of beauty and depth and power and shade and wonder.