Mirror, Mirror, upon the Wall, Who shall be the Greatest of us All?

Jeremiah 45:5; Mark 10:35-37, 41-45
       Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not.
       And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we desire. And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left, in thy glory…And when the ten heard about it, they began to much displeased with James and John. But Jesus called them and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise lordship over them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): Worldly honour is a glittering thing, with which the eyes of Christ’s own disciples have many a time been dazzled.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): Yea, many times most unseasonably and unsavourily, when Christ had been forewarning them of His ignominious death, and forearming them against the scandal of the cross, they fell into those absurd disputes, who should be the greatest among them, and have the highest place of preferment, such as Mark 9:31-34, [when] our Saviour dissuaded them from this folly, and set a child in the midst of them to learn them lower thoughts.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): While the mind of Jesus was occupied with His humiliation and death, His followers were thinking of their own honour and ease!―that the other disciples were displeased showed that they were ambitious also…Naturally, the other ten apostles did not relish the attempt of the sons of Zebedee to steal a march upon them. We never hear that they resented our Lord’s preference of Peter, James, and John; but when two of these sought precedence for themselves, they could not bear it. Peter was with them in this, for we read, “When the ten heard it.”

MATTHEW HENRY: They were angry at them for affecting precedence, not because it did so ill become the disciples of Christ, but because each of them hoped to have it himself…There was pride at the bottom of it, a proud conceit of their own merit, a proud contempt of their brethren, and a proud desire of honour and preferment.

JOHN TRAPP: Self-love makes men ambitious, and teacheth them to turn the looking-glass, to see themselves bigger, and others lesser than they are; Paul, on the contrary, was least of saints, last of apostles.

D. L. MOODY (1837-1899): There are many people who start out with idea that they are great and other people are small, and they are going to bring them up on the high level with themselves. God never yet used a man of that stamp.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): There is nothing less tolerable in the servants of Christ than ambition and vanity―the evils of ambition and self-love must be plucked from our hearts by the roots―The chiefest thing the ministers of the Word of God have to do, is, not to be carried away with ambition, to get themselves credit, nor to desire things that have a goodly show, and are glorious in men’s eyes, but to content themselves to serve God, and their neighbours, and to instruct them fitly which are committed to their charge.

WILLIAM PERKINS (1558-1602): He who would be a faithful minister of the gospel must deny the pride of his heart, be emptied of ambition, and set himself wholly to seek the glory of God in his calling.

ANDREW FULLER (1754-1815): If we secretly wish to appear great among our brethren, to magnify ourselves or our party, or to figure away in the religious world, as persons of extraordinary zeal, all is naked to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do, and, depend upon it, He will have no delight in us.

MATTHEW HENRY: If, instead of aiming only at the glory of God, and our acceptance with Him, we look aside at the applause of men, and while we profess to honour God, contrive to honour ourselves, and seek our own things under colour of seeking the things of Christ, this spoils all…It is a holy ambition to strive to excel others in grace and holiness; but it is a sinful ambition to covet to exceed others in pomp and grandeur―to be good should be more our care than to look great, or to have the pre-eminence.

C. H. MACKINTOSH (1820-1896): Some one has said, “I never was truly happy until I ceased to wish to be great.” This is a wholesome saying, and one which some of us would do well to ponder.

D. L. MOODY: Seeking to perpetuate one’s name on earth is like writing on the sand by the seashore.

MATTHEW HENRY: What folly is it then to seek great things for ourselves here, where everything is little and nothing certain!

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Thomas Goodwin said that the greatest fight of his life was to conquer this “master lust.” His “master lust” was nothing physical or moral; it was the desire to obtain distinction and honour by eloquent preaching.

C. H. SPURGEON: We must for ever quit hunting after honour, office, power, and influence. If we aim at greatness at all, it must be by being great in service, becoming the minister or servant of our brethren…In this kind of rivalry we shall be allowed to excel without exciting the indignation of the brethren.

JOHN BUNYAN (1628-1688): As a minister, one is but a servant to hew wood and draw water for the house of my God. Yea, Paul, though a son, yet counted himself not a son but a servant, purely as he was a minister―a servant of God; a servant of Jesus Christ; a servant of all, and your servant for Jesus’ sake, Titus 1:1; Romans 1:1; I Corinthians 9:19; 2 Corinthians 4:5.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): Let us remember these things. Let us beware of seeking false greatness: let us aim at that greatness which alone is true.

ISAAC WATTS (1674-1748): Let it be our ambition to act on the stage of life as men who are devoted to the service of the God of heaven, to the real benefit of mankind on earth, and to their eternal interests.

MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): Ambition is the rankest poison to the church, when it possesses preachers…See to it that these three dogs do not follow you into the pulpit—ambition, covetousness, and envy.


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