Sunday, December 10, 2023

Who is the Greatest? (Part 1)

By Clifton Angel
    I am confident that no true and faithful Christian will say of himself like the late Cassius Clay (aka, Muhammad Ali), “I am the Greatest!” However, among the same, there is real temptation, and often yielding, to thoughts, words, and actions which place one’s self above another. While we may not shout, “I am the Greatest,” we may pridefully believe our opinions, intentions, decisions, and even problems, are the greatest.
    Jesus’ apostles quarreled over the same; therefore, Jesus taught them (and us) how to do better. Jesus’ disciples asked Him, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matt 18:1). Compiling the accounts of Mark 9:33–50 and Luke 9:46–50, we find they were actually disputing with one another while traveling to this location—a house. Jesus, knowing their hearts, asked, “What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?” (Mk 9:33). They were silent. He spoke directly to His twelve apostles, “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all” (Mk 9:35). It seems this is where Matthew’s account reveals their admissive interjection, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” How astonishing that Jesus already answered the question, but they were blinded by pride! [Are we blinded by the same while reading this? Are we thinking of someone else to whom this might apply? Are we considering how it applies to us?]
    As we often need, Jesus gave them a living illustration. ...
“Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them” (Matt 18:2), “and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them,” (Mk 9:36):
Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matt 18:3–5).
Let’s not miss the irony Jesus often uses to helps us. His apostles’ quarrel was childish. His apostles’ blinding pride, which caused them to not hear the answer he likely had already given, was childish. Therefore, He placed before them a child. Jesus’ focus was not on the childishness that a child exhibits but on the child’s lowly position and humble purity. If we do not humble ourselves “as this little child,” we will be humbled for being childish and prideful (cf. Matt 23:12; Lk 14:11; 18:14).
    Jesus emphasized the blessedness of being “poor in spirit,” being willing to “mourn” rather than seeking false “comfort,” and being “meek” (Matt 5:3–5). Paul commanded the same humility, lowliness, and meekness (cf. Rom 12:1–21). When we have a problem, how often do we resort to the Scriptures to resolve it? When we have an opinion, how often do we open the Bible to compare it? When we make a decision, how often do we look to Jesus to approve it? Who is the greatest in the kingdom? Jesus.

- Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website:


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