To be great

Sunday service, Erlo Stegen, 23 Oct 2016

Matthew 18:1-4

1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,

3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Let’s look at Jesus’ response. Many people take this text out of context to believe what they want to believe instead of what the Bible teaches. It’s terrible to think that Christians could quarrel about, “who is the greatest”.
When Charles Studd was an old man he had to appoint someone to take over from him. He selected Jack Harrison, his assistant who seldom went out to preach, but usually stayed at home, polished his shoes etc.

When we look at Mark and Luke we can understand better why the disciples asked this question about greatest. One might think at first that they were just curious. In Luke 9:46 we read that an argument arose among the disciples as to who is the greatest. One cannot believe that such an argument arose among them, while they were traveling towards Capernaum with Jesus. The Lord Jesus told them three times that he was going towards Jerusalem where he will suffer and be killed. And they were wondering who would take over from Jesus. In Mark again we read that Jesus questioned them trying to get the matter from them. He asked them what they were discussing on the way. At first they were silent and embarrassed for what they were discussing. Jesus, being omniscient, knew what they were thinking. There are many things we will be ashamed about one day when Jesus brings them to light.

Who would be Jesus’ successor? Would it be Peter who was always at the forefront? But he also received the most rebukes. Or what about James or John? Or Judas the treasurer or Matthew who left so much behind to follow Jesus? Or one of the others who were older? It was such a foolish question, “who is the greatest”. It shows us a mirror of opinionated selves.

That you want to be the greatest is not always outwardly seen. It can be in the quietness of your heart, because you will be embarrassed to say out loud what you think. You might think you’re doing a better job, are more spiritual etc.
With these thoughts in your heart you’re the same as the disciples in this portion.

What causes this? Pride and conceit.

Perhaps you think you can do a better job. Yet you keep it to yourself.

As humans we try and put ourselves on top, in the foolishness of our depraved minds. The point is proved by how many times we compare ourselves to others who are weaker than us.

But see how graciously the Lord Jesus rebukes them. Jesus calls a small child to Him. The child comes without hesitation. Jesus loves the children and they love Him. And He uses this child to show what it means to be great in the kingdom of heaven. The entry into heaven doesn’t come through pride but by coming as a child. Protected as a child, disciplined as a child, forgiven as a child. This analogy was so good, because Jesus showed how far the disciples were removed from what they should be.

The greatest in the kingdom is the Lord Jesus. If you want to be great you must be like Him in His humility. Add He said to them, “truly I say to you unless you’re converted and become like little children you’ll never enter the kingdom of heaven”.

Jesus went straight to their pride and whether they would even enter heaven. How can they enter heaven while they quarrel about such things?
To be converted requires a person to become like a child. A child is not sinless. They’ve inherited a sin nature and display it very early in life. But most children possess characteristics that’s required for saving faith. A child is genuine, modest, he trusts his father to provide for him, believes what he’s told, submits to his authority. If he does something wrong he wants to be reconciled again. All these are marks of saving faith.

Those who remains proud, arrogant, boastful, bombastic, insincere; it will keep them from believing what God had said. Their arrogance will keep them from submitting to God. Unless a person is converted from these things and becomes like a child they will not enter heaven, but be separated from God in everlasting torment.

Today you can become as a child. You cannot do it by yourself. But God can do it for you. God rewards those that believe and seek diligently after Him.

In conclusion, the disciples should have been more concerned what it means to enter and be part of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus answers them succinctly, “whoever then humbles himself as this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”.

“Do nothing out of selfish conceit, but let each one regard the other as more important than himself. Do not look only after your own interests but also the interests of others” (Philippians 2:1-11).

Truly great in His sight are those who are humble servants. Are you great? If you are, then you don’t have to draw attention to yourself, or think of yourself as great. If you are truly great then you don’t even have to think about it. You simply continue being a child, humbly following in His footsteps. That is true greatness.

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