Who’s the Greatest?-June 18, 2014
This is a familiar, but haunting story follows not long after the account of the transfiguration of Jesus. When we take it in that context it may be that some of the disciples through they were more important than the others, the text in Matthew doesn’t say. It does say that the disciples had questions, and at that moment their questions seemed to concern their own glory and not God’s. The question they wanted to know (or thought they wanted to know) the answer to was, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” I am not sure they received the answer they were looking for but it was the truth God was trying to communicate to them through their question, so then who is the greatest?
Rather than answering the question with a direct response Jesus usually offers one of three teaching methods, telling a story or parable, confronting with a returned question, and using an illustration. Often Jesus uses more than one method in each teachable moment with His disciples but rarely will He answer the question directly. In this instance Jesus calls a little child to stand among them. They might at this point be a little confused and then Jesus begins to share.
“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” To become like a child…moldable, impressionable, enjoying the benefits of the place where they live even if they do not fully understand the whys and hows. It requires trusting beyond where we are at, what we know, and what we can have control of. Trusting in the one who does know, and who is in control.
“Therefore,” is a word that basically mean pay attention to what is coming next, because it is important. “Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” The greatest are not the ones who are seeking personal glory or accolades, yet it is the ones who practice humility and are willing to humble themselves putting God’s way, God’s will, and God’s glory above their own. My friends, this is easier said than done.
Deep inside many of us would prefer to say “no thanks.” “I like where I am at in my world.” “I don’t want to give up my place, my position, or my pride to humble myself before anyone.” Those who are willing to humble themselves God will exalt in due time. Who is the greatest? The greatest is the one who humbles themselves to follow the will of God.
The framework of this passage goes back to the basics of our faith that we, love, honor, cherish, and obey God. Jesus also includes how we are to interact with one another. The ones who welcome this child are demonstrating their hospitality toward God.
There is also a warning here as well. We should be welcoming to those who are His children and coming to Him in childlike faith. We should be careful not to distract, distort, or destroy their faith. We should not do anything that would cause them to stumble or fall into sin. The penalty can be far worse than death. God protects and lives His little ones and those who love, honor, and obey Him should love His children also. Love God and Love Others.