Week One: How to Be Great | Mark 10:35-45

Day 1: How to Be Great

Mark 10:35-37
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came over and spoke to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do us a favor.”

"What is your request?” he asked.

They replied, “When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.”

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Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at some of the interactions Jesus had with his followers as he taught them about this new way of living he was bringing about. In the midst of this conversation, Jesus remarks about his coming suffering, and James and John begin jockeying for positions of prominence. They’re thinking only of themselves—they want to be great. The problem with their question is that with Jesus, the way to be great is to serve, not be served.

While it would be easy for us to judge James and John in this encounter, stop and consider: have you ever used someone else to advance your own wants or desires? Have you been insensitive to what someone was sharing with you, wondering how it could benefit you?

Today, be mindful of your desire to be first in your conversations and interactions with others, and ask for his help as you seek to be like him.

Day 2: Drinking a Bitter Cup

Mark 10:38-40
But Jesus said to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism of suffering I must be baptized with?”

“Oh yes,” they replied, “we are able!”

Then Jesus told them, “You will indeed drink from my bitter cup and be baptized with my baptism of suffering. But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. God has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.”

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In Mark 10, the disciples have an embarrassing conversation with Jesus. They’re pumped up because they’ve got a connection to the King of kings, and they’re hoping to squeeze into a position at his right hand.

Jesus’ response is direct and loving. He points to their sinful, boastful hearts in this exchange, as if to say, “Don’t you know you need something bigger than position and power?” While they thought they needed another foot in the door, what they really needed was salvation.

The same is true for us. Our desire for status, achievement, and greatness will only lead us to an uphill battle with no finish line. In Christ, he shows us the only way out—through humility and service.

Day 3: A Different Kind of Leadership

Mark 10:41-42
When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant.

So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different.”

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The disciples’ response to Jesus shows just how much they misunderstood his mission—they were looking for a place of prominence while Jesus was telling them they needed to surrender. Among his followers, leadership would look different.

Who do you serve on a regular basis? A parent? Child? Coworker? Friend?

Write down the names of the people in your life: family members, co-workers, friends, neighbors. Of those people, which person do you struggle with the most? Which one is the most difficult for you?

Write out one way you can serve that person in a way that goes above and beyond this week, and make a plan to do it.

Day 4: Paying the Price

Mark 10:43-45
“Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

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The word for ransom here refers to the price of something for purchase. Jesus paid the price with his own life by standing in humanity’s place as a substitute, enduring the judgment our sin deserves.

What have you been saved from? How can you use that to serve others?

Thank God today for his scandalous grace, and for standing in a gap that we could never fill.

Day 5: Giving Up the Privilege

Philippians 2:5-11
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.

When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

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Meditate this morning on Jesus’ way of greatness: he did not seek privilege or honor. Instead, he gave up his privilege and humbled himself so that we could have life.

Have you been given privilege or honor in some way? Are you using that to serve others, or to elevate yourself?
Ask God to show you where you are guilty of wanting the limelight, and how you can use your privilege or opportunities to serve someone other than yourself.

*Want to dig deeper? Go back and reread Mark 10:35-45 in one sitting. What do you notice that you didn’t earlier? What does is God teaching you through this passage?

Week TWO: The first shall be ... Last? | Matthew 20:1-16

Day 1: Grace is for Everyone

Matthew 20:1-7
“For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work."

“At nine o’clock in the morning he was passing through the marketplace and saw some people standing around doing nothing. So he hired them, telling them he would pay them whatever was right at the end of the day. So they went to work in the vineyard. At noon and again at three o’clock he did the same thing."

“At five o’clock that afternoon he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, ‘Why haven’t you been working today?’"

“They replied, ‘Because no one hired us.’ The landowner told them, ‘Then go out and join the others in my vineyard.’"

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Jesus paints a picture of grace, but it’s not always what people want to see. While we certainly want grace for ourselves, we don’t often want it for everyone else. The nature of God’s grace is that it’s unruly and scandalous. God makes his grace available to everyone, even those we don’t like or think are deserving. Is anyone deserving?

Notice in this story that there is more and more room for people to join. The list of people joining the work continues to grow. Is this true of how you see grace? Is there always room for more, or do you have limitations (said or unsaid) of who’s in and who’s out?

Day 2: Grace Isn't Fair

Matthew 20:8-12
Jesus continued, “That evening he told the foreman to call the workers in and pay them, beginning with the last workers first. When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a full day’s wage. When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage. When they received their pay, they protested to the owner, ‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’"

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When the last receive their payment for the day, the first are certain they’re going to get more. However, they receive the same, previously agreed upon payment. They grumble about this to the owner—they had worked longer, and harder! Fairness says everyone should get what one deserves. But in Jesus’ kingdom, God isn’t fair (and thank God for that).

Where do you look for God to be fair when instead he gives us grace? Check your motives this week in where you’re looking for God to treat people like you want him to, and thank him for his grace.

Day 3: God's Kindness

Matthew 20:13-15 
“He answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?’"

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Jesus finishes this story with a truth that stings—don’t envy what God gives to other people. Be grateful for what he’s given to you, and celebrate when others receive good things.

The best way to fight comparison is with celebration. So if you’ve been feeling jealous of someone else or wishing you had what someone else has, celebrate him or her this week.

Who is God calling you to celebrate? What can you do to go out of your way to praise him or her?

Day 4: First Come, Last Served

Matthew 20:16
“So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.”

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In a world of “first come, first served,” this parable flipped the world upside down. In the kingdom of God, the most despised, rejected, scorned, ridiculed, and forgotten will be first and foremost.

As you go about your day, ask yourself: who are the most forgotten and rejected in your community, and is God calling you to serve them?

Day 5: Reflect

Matthew 20:1-16“For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work."

“At nine o’clock in the morning he was passing through the marketplace and saw some people standing around doing nothing. So he hired them, telling them he would pay them whatever was right at the end of the day. So they went to work in the vineyard. At noon and again at three o’clock he did the same thing."

“At five o’clock that afternoon he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, ‘Why haven’t you been working today?’"

“They replied, ‘Because no one hired us.’ The landowner told them, ‘Then go out and join the others in my vineyard.’"

“That evening he told the foreman to call the workers in and pay them, beginning with the last workers first. When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a full day’s wage. When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage. When they received their pay, they protested to the owner, ‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’"

“He answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?’"

“So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.”

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Reflect:

  • What do you notice that you didn’t earlier in the week?
  • What is God teaching you through this passage?
  • How will you respond?

Week THREE: Unexpected Guest List | Luke 14:7-24

Day 1: Where are you trying to sit?

Luke 14:7-11
When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!”

"Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

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In this parable, Jesus goes after the leaders’ pride. After he noticed everyone looking to sit in the most important place, he gives them this caution—true honor is to receive honor from others, not strive for it. In other words, it’s better for others to recognize you than for you to bring honor to yourself.

Are you seeking or striving for recognition somewhere right now? Remember these words from Jesus: those who exalt themselves are humbled, but the humble are exalted. Be patient, wait on the Lord, and serve him with a faithful and humble heart.

Day 2: Jesus Eats With Everyone

Luke 14:12-14 
Then he turned to his host. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.”

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Not only does Jesus challenge pride in this parable, but he also challenges his followers in hospitality. He asks them who they’re inviting into their home these days. Friends and people who can repay you?

Who are you inviting to your home these days? Who receives your invitations to spend time together? Are they people who can (and likely will) repay you, or those who cannot pay you or invite you back? While some of your neighbors and friends might never walk into a church, they would come to your house for dinner.

God has given us everything knowing we can never repay his goodness. Who can you invite over for dinner this month who might not be able to repay you?

Day 3: Room at the Table

Luke 14:15-24
Hearing this, a man sitting at the table with Jesus exclaimed, “What a blessing it will be to attend a banquet to eat bread in the Kingdom of God!”

Jesus replied with this story: “A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests, ‘Come, the banquet is ready.’  But they all began making excuses. One said, ‘I have just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’”

“The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was furious and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet.’”

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Jesus responds to his listeners with another parable about a banquet, with another challenge. This time, those receiving initial invites were full of excuses for declining. In one case it’s a new marriage, and two bring up economic reasons—one bought a field or oxen.

It's important to note that the party does not get postponed. The mission is urgent, and Jesus' invitation is now—there’s room for everyone. What excuses are you making?

Have you responded to Jesus’ invitation of grace? Do you know someone who needs an invite? Pray today for an opportunity to share the Good News with someone God brings your way.

Day 4: Don't Fake It

Romans 12:9-13
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

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In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul gives followers of Christ a practical outline for practicing hospitality: don’t just pretend to love people, really love them. Never be lazy. Always be ready to show hospitality. Be prepared to help whoever is in need.

When it comes to hospitality, how is God growing you? In what ways does God’s command to show hospitality stretch you beyond what you’re comfortable with? Remember this passage this week as you show hospitality: you don’t have to do this alone. God is with you every step of the way.

Day 5: Reflect

Luke 14:7-24
When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!”

“Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests. 11 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Then he turned to his host. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.”

Hearing this, a man sitting at the table with Jesus exclaimed, “What a blessing it will be to attend a banquet in the Kingdom of God!”

Jesus replied with this story: “A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests, ‘Come, the banquet is ready.’ But they all began making excuses. One said, ‘I have just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’”

“The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was furious and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet.’”

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Reflect:

  • What do you notice that you didn’t earlier in the week?
  • What is God teaching you through this passage?
  • How will you respond?

Week Four: The MOst important person in the room | John 13:1-20

Day 1: Never Stop Serving

John 13:1-5
Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.

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Jesus knew unimaginable suffering was right around the corner, and in the midst of that emotional weight, Jesus does the unthinkable: he begins to wash the disciples’ feet.

He could have done anything at this moment, and yet he never stops serving.

When you’re up against hardship, what is your response? Consider Jesus’ response today when he knows suffering is around the corner. He never stopped serving.

Day 2: Servant Minded, Self-sacrificing, Humble

John 13:6-11When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”

“No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!”

Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.”

Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”

Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.” For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

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Peter had good intentions–he didn’t feel worthy of what Jesus wanted to do. After Jesus responds, Peter swings to the opposite side of the pendulum, not fully understanding or appreciating what Jesus was doing.

In the bigger picture, the significance of the foot-washing seems to point not only to an example of humble service but something more: Jesus’ self-sacrificial death on the cross.

Reflect: how do you serve the people around you? Would they describe you as self-sacrificial? Humble? Servant-minded? Take the attitude of Jesus, and serve your people from a posture of sacrifice today.

Day 3: Wash Each Other's Feet

John 13:12-17After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them."

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This moment wasn’t mere ritual for Jesus; he was showing his disciples how to care for one another after he left. He didn’t leave them wondering how they could love each other—he left them with an example.

Who has God called you to serve this week? How can you go out of your way to serve him or her?

Day 4: Don't Give Up

John 13:18-20
“I am not saying these things to all of you; I know the ones I have chosen. But this fulfills the Scripture that says, ‘The one who eats my food has turned against me.’ I tell you this beforehand, so that when it happens you will believe that I am the Messiah. I tell you the truth, anyone who welcomes my messenger is welcoming me, and anyone who welcomes me is welcoming the Father who sent me.”

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If you’re serving someone who is difficult to love, or won’t ever repay you, remember: what you’re doing for him or her, you’re doing for Jesus.

Don’t give up in doing good. The good you’re doing now can produce fruit you might not ever be able to see.

Day 5: Reflect

John 13:1-20Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.

When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”

“No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!”

Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.”

Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”

Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.” For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.

“I am not saying these things to all of you; I know the ones I have chosen. But this fulfills the Scripture that says, ‘The one who eats my food has turned against me.’ I tell you this beforehand, so that when it happens you will believe that I am the Messiah. I tell you the truth, anyone who welcomes my messenger is welcoming me, and anyone who welcomes me is welcoming the Father who sent me.”

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Reflect:

  • What do you notice that you didn’t earlier in the week?
  • What is God teaching you through this passage?
  • How will you respond?