Who will be the greatest?
Curry or Jordan.
This past 2015-2016 NBA season, Stephen Curry, point guard for the Golden State Warriors, led his team to basketball glory with his fast and smooth ball skills and buckets on buckets of 3-pointers. By the end of the season, his stats rivaled those of Michael Jordan with Curry scoring an average of 30.1 points per a game, successfully attempting nearly 47% of 3-pointers, and 91% of free-throws. In the 1995-1996 season, Jordan scored an average of 30.4 points per a game and successfully attempted 43% of 3-pointers and 83% of free-throws. Sports commentator to sports commentator would say of Curry, “Davidson! Could such a player as this come from there?”
“Who will be the greatest? Curry or Jordan,” I asked, DJ, one of our young leaders at Urban Hope who I was meeting for one-on-one discipleship. A smirk on his face, DJ answered in a tone that said I was asking an obvious question, “Jordan! No one can be better than Michael Jordan.” Curry doesn’t have the same swagger as Jordan, DJ explained to me, as he lifted up his fresh white Jordan kicks.
In first century Palestine, anticipating the overthrow of their Roman colonizers, a band of unlikely friends – several fishermen, a tax collector, and a nationalist - were furiously arguing amongst themselves who would be the greatest in this newly forming kingdom of Jesus, the leader of this band of unlikely friends. It is recorded throughout the gospels that the disciples could not lay this question to rest – “Who would be the greatest?” In each recorded argument, the disciples are caught off guard when Jesus perceives their thoughts and overhears the commotion of their bickering. DJ and I read Luke 9:46-48 to see how this debate would be settled. Luke depicts Jesus holding an unnamed child saying, “Whoever receives this little child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me receives Him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the greatest.” In Mark, responding to the disciples bickering, Jesus responds, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” Jesus’ response disarms and reorient the priorities of the disciples from their own self-aggrandizement in imagined political overthrow to receiving the witness of Jesus and serving others in their community.
Last year Brandon and I began planning to relaunch the Young Leaders Group, a ministry lab that we hoped would cultivate the leadership potential our youth and move us closer to a youth-centered leadership structure. We were unsure who would join this community that we hoped to create. With our relaunch last September 2015, our own band began to form in the subsequent weeks. Our band of unlikely friends have diverse dreams, experiences and interests. The disciples most likely would have not been friends in everyday life. And our youth may not sit together in the school cafeteria or play on the same sports team either. However, herein lies the beauty of the disciples and our young leaders, Jesus invites us all – the poor, the rich, the lame and the unseen – into the family of God to feast with him. With my human logic, I could have not assembled these guests for this feast nor could I have assembled our young leaders. It was God who choose the disciples and God who has chosen our youth to become this band of unlikely friends.
Thanks be to God for these unlikely but chosen friendships. Amen.
-Milton Gilder, Youth Leadership Program Coordinator. Milton sparks authenticity, brilliance and passion in Urban Hope's young heroes through the ministry lab, Young Leaders Group. This is Milton's third year serving the mission of Urban Hope via behind-the-scenes administration and coordination of high school youth leadership development.