Monday, April 16, 2018

Being First

“Then Peter spoke up, ‘We have left everything to follow you!’

‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus replied, ‘no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.’” (Mark 10:28-31 NIV)

Last week, I flew to Denver to visit with some alumni from my campus ministries-the University of Kansas, where I served for many years, and Appalachian State, where I currently serve. It was a good trip where I was able to reconnect with people I once watched grow into adults and who continue to walk the narrow road that leads to life. But this really has nothing to do with this morning’s thoughts, except that I traveled on planes.

Have you ever noticed at airline gates how there are some people who begin standing in line almost as soon as the gate personnel arrive? For many, there is something about getting on first that is appealing. In fact, airlines often make offers that allow certain passengers the ability to have “priority boarding.” It may be based on the number of “sky miles” you have, that you possess a certain credit card, or that you are flying First or Business Class. There is just something about being first that is attractive to us.

For this trip, it just so happened that I had a credit card that allows me to have priority boarding. I have to admit that it felt quite good to stand in the line on the left and to answer the call, “Sky Priority passengers may now begin boarding.” And as the rest of the passengers stood by, my fellow priority passengers and I walked into a nearly empty plane to find our seats and get settled. We were special.

The pull to be first is a strong one, whether it is in a line for food, a concert, a class exam, or even possessing news which we can be the first to tell someone. Even if we rarely, if ever, are first, most of us still have that longing. The truth is, being first feels good. It makes us feel special in some way.

This is the reason Jesus speaks in a rather upside down manner—many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. The disciples had just reminded Him they had left everything to follow Him. They, in essence, had chosen to be last. While their families and friends retained possessions and status, they had intentionally forsaken those in order to follow Jesus. So He comforted them by saying because they had chosen to be last, they would be eventually rewarded by being first when it counted the most.

The challenge for all of us who seek to follow Jesus is to resist the temptation of being first. If we follow Him, then we are to value others above ourselves, and to serve them.  As we all know, this does not come naturally to us. This is why we will be rewarded if we do. By sacrificing now, we will be rewarded later, just as Jesus promised to His disciples.

Today, consider how you can be last rather than seeking to be first. By doing so, your sacrifice now will be rewarded later when it really counts to be first.

© Jim Musser 2018

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