Posted by: Jo | June 21, 2013

The Last Will Be First

“Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35)

image Everybody who travels at all and lives on the lower mainland knows the woes of ferry line ups. One of my daughters has confessed that a burning “ferry rage” can start to build up inside of her as soon as her car enters that long line up, which begins before one even has the chance to pay. The uncertainty of not knowing if you will make your designated ferry can make one very anxious. Once when my husband and I were returning from the island we inched along slowly until there was only one car in front of us and as we held our breath it boarded the ferry and then out of the blue we were waved to a stop. We had missed our ferry! My husband’s only consolation to me was in this statement. “The last will be first, we will definitely make the next one.”

Oh how we hate to be last. Even toddlers just learning how to speak, quickly learn to shout,” me first” I was not considered an athletic sort of child, but the horror of becoming last in that race was enough to spur me on to at least finish with the pack in the middle. Equally horrifying was waiting to be chosen for a team from a group of children who looked very confident and fit. My silent prayer was always the same (please God don’t let me be the last one left so they are forced to choose me)

Modern society has no time for those who come last in anything. All the emphasis on any endeavor is that first place. Apart from athletic exercises, this striving to be first overflows into our everyday lives. How often have we heard the aggressive voice in the bank line up, the supermarket or the cinema? “Excuse me I was here first!”

How often have we expressed that same comment ourselves in exasperation with all the accompanying body language to emphasize our displeasure?

At school graduation time there are not many prizes for those who came last in the class.

Why then would Jesus make this strange remark about the first must be last?image

Perhaps he wanted us to realize that all this striving to be first was detrimental to ourselves and to those around us. How grateful we are when someone waves us in to that line of traffic and how good we feel when we step back and allow others to go ahead of us.

What a wonderful concept to instill in our children that being first is not always the best goal to aim for in life.

The second part of Jesus’ statement is equally at odds with what the world says.

“Servant of all” does not sit well with the modern motivational speakers’ advice on how to get ahead. Yet some of the great names of the Bible from Moses to Mary were willing to call themselves servants of the Lord

“….the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and Moses his servant.” (Exodus 14:31)

“I am the Lord’s servant, “Mary answered…” (Luke 1:38)image

Even Jesus himself said he had come to “serve” and Paul describes him as “taking the very nature of a servant…” (Philippians 2:7)

When we think of “Servant of all” as being not doing menial tasks, but rather an attitude towards others, it takes on a whole different meaning.

The world would be a kinder place if we all practiced a little servant hood and learnt to quell that “Me first” reaction.


  1. Maybe we should be content to be with “the also rans.” Thanks Jo.


  2. Thanks, Jo – good words as always.


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