Rev. Cattenhead’s sermon yesterday invited us to be friends of God. My sermon reflected on Jesus’ frequent call to humility. I think the two concepts dovetail nicely.
Jesus returned to the subject of humility because the disciples were arguing over who was the greatest (Mark 9:30-37). It tells us something about humanity that people who had spent time learning from and watching Jesus continued to be influenced by worldly rankings within their band of brothers.
We have a terrible time not comparing ourselves with others. It takes a lot of spiritual maturity to become someone who doesn’t find his or her self-worth in comparison with other people and, instead, finds it by recognizing he or she was made in God’s image, fearfully and wonderfully created, a child of God.
Jesus illustrated this by pulling in a child (deemed by many in those days as an object whose worth was based only on his usefulness) among them and saying, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” He not only elevated the child to be worthy of welcome, Jesus humbly placed himself on the level with the child. In other words, how you treat the one often neglected or cast aside or considered “less than” tells me how you’d treat Jesus. Jesus’ humility forces us to reconsider our valuation of everyone, including ourselves.
In Jesus’ humility, he not only tells us that the first will be last of all and servant of all, he lives out his teachings. He touches the untouchable, washes feet, dies an inhumane death. Along the way he comes up with new language for the disciples: friends (John 15). Friends, he says, do what he commands them, but also benefit from his laying down his life for them and by knowing what he learned from the Father. Jesus’ kingdom wasn’t run with dictates from above, but with humble service below and friendship alongside. Our friendship with Jesus leads us to become better friends of others, true friends that care for and serve one another, not seek to use or outrank each another.
To be great, Jesus said, is to be last of all and servant of all. When friends do that mutually, their friendship is great indeed.