last (adj): lowest in rank or standing; following all others
place (noun): relative position in a social scale
“So you want first place? Then take the last place. Be the servant of all.” Mark 9:35
How disappointed–but not surprised–Jesus must have been to overhear some of his friends talking about who among them would be the greatest. They were vying for the honor of eventually sitting beside him on his throne. Seeking the best seats for themselves.
Don’t most of us want that too? The best place?
Most kindergarteners do for sure. Oh my goodness, it is hard for them to line up. There is panicking, pushing, and sometimes tears as they try to get the coveted spot at the front of the line. Every single time.
And we adults aren’t much better…
We love priority. We want to be the first ones to board the plane, and the first ones to get off; we try to get the front-row seats, the closest parking spot, the best table.
We may or may not panic, push, or cry in these situations, but we all feel the stress of the competition. We want the convenience, the rewards, and especially the acknowledgement that comes with being first.
Jesus tries to help us with this, to turn our thinking upside down with the idea is that we should willingly take the last place instead.
I tried this with my students.
I made it a special job to be the last one in line–the “caboose.” I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when the arguing and jostling over who would get to have this new honored place at the back started. Sigh.
Maybe this isn’t exactly what Jesus wanted for us to take away from this verse either. Maybe he just doesn’t want us striving for a certain place at all. Maybe what he really wants us to understand is that he isn’t even lining us up.
He knows us perfectly. And he loves us in no kind of order that we can ever make sense of.
And he doesn’t want us to waste this incredible love, this precious life focusing only on ourselves.
Could it be that all the joy we are trying to find, all the needs we are trying to meet, all the love and attention we are craving is simply found in becoming more like Jesus?
Encouraging others to go ahead of us.
Focusing on what the people around us need a little bit more.
Unselfishly giving up our comfort for someone else.
Trusting that God is enough for whatever we need…
I think I want to step out of line and just walk with him.
Invite Him in: Let Jesus find you and fill you. You don’t have to clamor and rush to get what he is giving. He loves you in immeasurable ways, and he meets you wherever you are. You don’t have to compete for the more-than-enough love that he has for each one of us.