The Path To Greatness


Sermon Outline By Terry Siverd

Cortland Church of Christ / September 10, 2017

What is it that makes a man or a woman great ?

I’ve been thinking about this a good bit over the last few weeks.

Mark Lombardi’s unexpected passing has triggered this thinking (in my mind and I hope in yours as well).

A few simple occurrences have caused this question to surface in my mind.

At the meal following Mark’s memorial, J gave away (to anyone interested) most or all of Mark’s books.

Next Sunday, I want to speak about what makes us rich?.

In truth these two thoughts are interconnected - - greatness and richness.

When I first met Mark Lombardi, back in the late 1980s, I approached him about studying the Bible together.

With great humility, Mark responded, “I’d love to.”

This unadorned observation by way of reflection, in hindsight has proven to be quite revealing.

Mark had been a Marine.  He had served as a deputy with the Geauga County Sheriff’s department.

But his response to the gospel of Christ showed that he hungered for something more.

} Open your Bible to Luke chapter nine |

Let’s imagine that we had been chosen as one of Jesus’ twelve apostles.

At the time of our recruitment, we have no idea how things will wind up.

At this early point in time, we know only a little about Jesus.

Perhaps we have heard a little something about His unusual birth.

Maybe we’ve heard about an odd preacher man named John (the baptizer) - - heralding the arrival of God’s kingdom.

The focus of this kingdom of God / kingdom of heaven is centered on someone very special - - (Lk.3:16f)

John declares - - One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals… 

We may have also heard that this man Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan river and that immediately after

His baptism a voice from heaven spoke saying, Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well-pleased (Lk.3:22).

Subseqently, news in the countryside is swirling about the ministry of this man Jesus (Lk.4:14ff).

The gospels of both Matthew and Luke tell how He was tempted by Satan (Mt.4 & Lk.4),

But at this juncture in our lives, this information was known only among the angels (Mt.4:11).

No other humans were present to testify about this unique confrontation and the gospels were not yet written.

Word spread about an audacious claim made by this Jesus in a synagogue in Nazareth.

One day, He publicly read from a sacred scroll (a beloved text written Isaiah) and then He closed the book,

gave it back to the attendant and then proclaimed:  Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing (Lk.4:21).

The reputation of this Teacher named Jesus, grew rapidly and many deemed HIS SPOKEN WORDS amazing (Lk.4:32).

And HIS DEEDS quickly became the talk of every city, town and village throughout Galilee (Lk.4:35, 38 & 40).

The word is that He is able to do marvelous things:  casting out demons and healing people of all kinds of illnesses.

We’ve heard how he would retreat from time to time and then resume preaching in the Judean outskirts (Lk.4:44).

One day, by the sea of Galilee, He borrowed a boat and put out into the water a short distance from the shore.

While sitting in the boat He preached to a multitude of people who had gathered close by on the shore (Lk.5:1f).

This Jesus seemed to know so much about so many things - - He even knew how to catch fish in abundance (Lk.5:6f).

He uttered cryptic words to some fisherman saying:  Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men (Lk.5:10).

This man Jesus was working wonders - - He even healed a leper and a paralytic (Lk.5:12f).

He began to ask (yea, to demand) of others that they follow Him (Lk.5:27).

Many began to follow Jesus, dogging His every step and listening to His every word.

This Jesus did things that stirred up the Jewish leaders - - His unconventional behavior raised eye-brows (Lk.6:1-11).

On day He and His followers plucked grain and ate it - - on the Sabbath Day, of all days.

And He also healed a man with a withered hand - - also on the Sabbath.

One night He went off to a mountain to pray and He spent the whole night in prayer (Lk.6:12).

The next day He chose twelve disciples to be His apostles (Lk.6:13ff).  Name the twelve apostles.

Now - - let’s fast forward to Lk.9:46f

Once again, in case you’ve forgotten, we’re asking the question, “What makes a person GREAT?”

An argument arose among them (the twelve) as to which of them might be the GREATEST / Lk.9:46

In all honesty, it doesn’t take much to imagine how this question came up.

After all, these particular twelve were chosen from among a mass of people.  They were a rather elite group.

And from among the twelve, three apostles were chosen for a special assignment.

Peter, James and John were taken by Jesus one night when He went to the mountain to pray (Lk.9:28).

(As to Jesus’ “three-man inner-circle”, cf. Mk.1:29;  9:2;  13:3 and 14:33).

While Jesus prayed, Peter, James & John slept, but were awaken just in time to witness a transfiguration (Lk.9:32).

They saw HIS GLORY and they observed Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah.

Peter wasted no time in seeing this as an opportunity to do honor all three of these men in one fell swoop.

In his eagerness to please, he offered to build three booths in honor of all three (to Moses…and to Elijah).

But suddenly, at that moment, a thick cloud enveloped them and a voice came out of the cloud saying,

This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him (Lk.9:35).

When the cloud dissipated, only Jesus remained - - Moses and Elijah were gone.

The next day Jesus healed a man’s young boy who had epilepsy (convulsing and foaming at the mouth/Lk.9:40).

Lk.9:43-44 states:  They were all amazed at the greatness of God.

But while everyone was marveling at all that He Was doing, He said to His disciples,

‘Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.’

The apostles did not understand what He meant…and they were afraid to ask.

And an argument arose among them as to which of them might be the greatest./ Lk.9:46 

Lk.9:47 notes that Jesus knew what they were thinking.

Mk.9:33 indicates that Jesus was quizzing them:  what were discussing on the way?.

And then Jesus answers the question - - the question they were hesitant to acknowledge they’d been discussing.

He does so with the help of a visual aid.  Jesus stands side by side with an anonymous child and says,

Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me;  and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me;


Receiving a child could mean that the “great one” is the one who humbles himself to be concerned even with children.

The emphatic wording of this text also gives us the key to greatness - - It’s not about us but about HIM.

In the verses that follow we can see that the apostles were slow learners.

They wanted to put a stop to the one doing good who was not “of us” (Lk.9:49-50).

Worse yet, they wanted to incinerate a Samaritan village because they were not well-received (Lk.9:52-54).

Jesus rebuked them saying - - “you do not know what kind of spirit you are.”

In due time and with much pain, suffering and mistreatment they would learn precisely what it meant to be great.

Lk.9:22 and Mk.8:31 record words of Jesus spoken a bit earlier - -

(Jesus) began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders

and the chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

Mt.16:22 notes that Peter spoke up and said, “God forbid it, Lord!  This shall never happen to You.”

To which Jesus said, “Get behind Me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block to Me;

For you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”

There is really nothing secretive or mysterious about the path to greatness.

If we want to be great we need to walk like Jesus, with humility, obedience and dependability.

A gift given to Camp 2:52 in Mark’s memory arrived in my mailbox with a note attached:

I worked with the chief on several projects in the village of Hiram. I had not known he was so involved with youth activities.  

I don’t mean to diminish Mark’s many accomplishments in saying what I’m about to say (Mark would approve).

What Mark Lombardi did we can all do.  Mark wasn’t some super saint.

He was just one disciple doing what he could do, trying to be a faithful follower of Jesus.

Our journey with Jesus begins with a humble confession - -“I would love to study about Jesus.”

And it continues in an oft-times nondescript way by following daily after Jesus with the heart of a servant.

Paul begins some of his letters stating that he is a bond-servant of Christ.  cf. Rom.1:1;  Phil.1:1;  Titus 1:1

A bond-servant was one who willingly, of his or her own volition, served another.

Concerning the means and manner by which serve, the sky is the limit.  But serve we must.

Sharon Meara, the mother of Aimee Meara (whose eulogy I spoke yesterday) serves in a Lighthouse Mission.

They provide food and clothing to the poor and needy.  More than half of those who attended Aimee’s memorial service were mission-related people.  They never knew Aimee, but they have come to Aimee’s mother -- a true servant of God.

When we do this - - when we live our life in a servant-minded way, we can rest assured

that when our life on earth is over, we will one day hear the very voice of God say to us:

“Well done, My good and faithful servant” (Mt.25:23).

  • Sermon PODCAST

  • Get the latest sermons delivered right to your app or device.

  • Subscribe with your favorite podcast player.