The rest of the periscope reflects Jesus’ teaching about the vanity of the Pharisees, those seeking to be recognized for their piety, their hypocrisy in preaching one thing and doing another, and their love of titles such as Rabbi and teacher.
In a nutshell Jesus tells his followers they must not be like that. At the end of the lengthy teaching, Jesus reminds them that “Anyone who raises himself up will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be raised up.”
So why my concentration on only the beginning of the first sentence?
This teaching is directed at his disciples, those he has chosen to continue his teachings after he is gone. While there may be one or two in the crowd who might someday carry on in that tradition, the discourse is aimed at his band of “soon to be” apostles of the faith.
Yet, inexplicably, Jesus does not teach them in private as he did on other occasions. Here, he teaches them, but in front of the crowds, the people they will minister to.
The question is why?
The answer would seem to be that Jesus is more than aware of the seduction of power and fame. He knows just how easy it will be for his disciples to become the “rock stars” of their day. And he wants the people to know how they are supposed to be, so they will be able to act as a brake to that careening off the path tendency.
Thus Jesus installs a fail safe to insure that his disciples are reminded from the start that they are servants, not masters to those they minister to.
Trust but verify, or in this case, install checks and balances.
We are all prone to find something in ourselves to laud as making us special. Indeed we are all special, but we aren’t satisfied with knowing, we want to be acknowledged as such. It may be in a small thing or a large one, we want people to say to us, “my, but you are great!” A great parent, a great quilter, a great golfer.
When we are feeling all too self satisfied with ourselves, perhaps we should remember the warning:
“Anyone who raises himself up will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be raised up.”
Our goodness, our successes, our greatness are not “our” accomplishments, they are graces given unto us by our gracious God. Thanks be to God.