Three times the gospels record how the disciples debate about which one of them is the greatest. Each time it follows on the heels of a significant prediction of Jesus’ suffering. So while Jesus is talking about laying down his life, these guys are promoting theirs.
Jesus introduces the “theology of humility.” It is captured in phrases like “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” “The greatest among you will be the servant of all.” “Humble yourselves before the mighty hand of God and He will exalt you.” It is through this theology that Jesus sees the incredible value of people. This theology of humility is easy to understand, couched in such simple terms, but it is deceivingly difficult to practice. And without it, it will be nearly impossible to understand even the simplest theological truths like John 3:16. Most people can accept that God loves us. It is inconceivable, though, that He loves our surly neighbor.