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The Last Are First

The last shall be first. Jesus wanted His disciples to get this principle into their hearts. It wasn’t an easy task.

The top dogs, the big wigs, the bosses, and the rulers, and the chiefs – these were and are the people of status and prestige. And those following Jesus, at times, thought that being with Him would lift them to greatness. They were right about this, but the greatness that God would bring them to was something out of this world.

As we read through the middle of the gospel of Mark, we are given some glimpses of just how ambitious and opportunistic and exclusive these men could be. Toward the close of Mark 9, Jesus confronted His men about a discussion they had been having on the road to Capernaum. His question silenced them “for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest” (Mark 9:34).

First place, Jesus went on tell them, would belong to the one who served all and who served best. For emphasis, He brought a child before them and embraced him. Love children and be children at heart, He would go on to say. Care for the little ones and be small in your own eyes, He told them.

John, perhaps attempting to change the subject a bit, interjected with a report:  “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us” (Mark 4:38).

Jesus was not impressed. “Don’t stop him. He who is not against us is one of us,” the Lord said. “For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward” (see Mark 9:38-41). Small things done from the heart in the purpose of God are big deals to Him.

Be Like Children

Were the disciples getting Jesus’ point? Uh, not really.

In Mark 10, mothers brought their children to Jesus only to have the disciples push them back. “But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14).

Children, the least and the last in Roman society, Jesus put first. We must be like them, the Savior said. Our hearts have to be open to wonder and aware of our need for wisdom.

Our hearts have to be open to wonder and aware of our need for wisdom. Click To Tweet

My 1-year-old granddaughter visited my wife’s office; a marvelous building that sits by Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and is windowed all the way round. When little Kate got down to walk, she went straight to one of the windows to look at the river with its boats, buildings, and birds. She just kept whispering, “Wow, wow, wow.”

The last shall be first. The little one rejoiced at a scene seemingly so ordinary to most of the adults in the room.

The words, “Our Father,” should ever be on our lips. Hungry children know who to call for food. Frightened children seek out the face of a parent for assurance and protection.

Our problem is that we get too big – too full of ourselves.   John and James wanted special seats in the Kingdom that Jesus is destined to establish. To make sure Jesus got the message, they sent their mom to make the request for chairs at His right and His left. This scene came not long after a rich young ruler approached the Master, perhaps thinking he’d be a good addition to the team.  Jesus loved the young man, but saw that his things and his money had a hold on his heart. “Go sell all that you have and give to the poor, then come follow Me,” Jesus told him (see Mark 10:17-22).

We must decrease in our eyes; He must increase. The last shall be first.  God does amazing things with small stuff, with pebbles even.

Small Stone, Big Triumph

Goliath stood ready to fight, taunting the army of Israel. David showed up with his shepherd’s staff, a bag, and a sling. He snatched five smooth stones from a river and ran toward his enemy.

One of those pebbles became a deadly weapon and an instrument of triumph. David slung it hard and fast. Goliath took a shot between the eyes, fell on his face, and lost his head.

I know, this is such a gruesome story following all the talk about children and childlikeness. But it’s a true report, and it drives home my point.

Those pebbles rested in the water for who knows how long. They were probably jagged rocks at first, but the flow of the river made them ready for the war.

Be small. Be children in the arms of God. Be a pebble that rests in the water that flows from the fountain of life. Be refreshed by the Word of God as you hear it and read it in the power of the Holy Spirit.

One day, you may find yourself flying through the air on a mission from God. You will be a stone of victory in an impossible situation. You will be used for the glory of Christ. You will be celebrated as one great in His Kingdom.

For the last shall be first.


Steve Andrulonis

Steve Andrulonis

Spent more than 25 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before entering full-time ministry in 2006. He assists the Senior Pastor of Greater Grace, helps to manage church services, coordinates the Grace Hour radio broadcast, and teaches at Maryland Bible College and Seminary and Greater Grace Christian Academy.
Steve Andrulonis

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