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Matthew 18:1-4

Who's the Greatest?

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.


The eighteenth chapter of Matthew is best known for its section on church discipline, but it is more of a chapter on human relations, which includes discipline. All but the first two verses constitute a single discourse given by Jesus in answer to a disturbing question from His disciples.

Jealousy had been growing among the disciples, particularly within the inner circle. They had been privileged to see the transfiguration of Jesus and should have realized that His was not going to be a political kingdom. However, they wanted to know who was going to be the greatest in that kingdom, the church. They were trying to maneuver Jesus politically. Later (20:20) even the mother of James and John would come to lobby Jesus to get a superior position for her sons.

Jesus, of course, saw right through the charade. Setting a small child, a toddler, in the center of the circle as an example of greatness, He began by warning them that they might not even have the opportunity to enter the kingdom. He used the Greek double negative to emphasize the danger they were in.

"Except you be converted,.." a word meaning to be turned around, "...ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." These were very harsh words. The disciples' selfishness had them headed down the path to destruction. They were still focused on worldly pleasures, on political power, and on self exaltation. This was not the type of person who would enter into the kingdom and they needed to find repentance.

Greatness is not measured in the same way by God as it is by men. "Except you... become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." Very young children do not struggle to gain authority, harbor no evil thoughts toward others, are anxious to learn, and fully trust in their parents for all things. These are the qualities of those whom God wants in His kingdom.

The disciples would have to turn from their present ways and humble themselves to one another. One of the last lessons they would learn from Jesus before His crucifixion would be at the Last Supper when Jesus washed their feet. "If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye, if ye do them." (John 13:14-17)

What is your position in the church? Is it one of a humble servant, through whom Jesus can set yet another example of true greatness, or are you the politician constantly maneuvering for more authority. The politician can be found in every church pew as easily as at city hall. Look at your choir. We want to have a say in what kind of music we do, how the music budget should be spent, who gets to sing the solo (i.e. who is the greatest), and even what the seating arrangements should be. I have even heard stories about those who want to sing solos, but think they are too good to sing in the choir or to attend rehearsals. The same attitude flows through all the other departments of our churches.

Your politics might be unexpressed. Your sins might be confined to your thoughts. Jealousy, envy, and political ambition are sins whether we act on them or not. True humility is this: "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;"

Before The Throne:

Confess your sins of pride and selfishness. Ask God to humble you in order that He might do great things through you. Pray for the attitude of a foot washer, confessing that you are not greater than your Master. Ask Him to take your thoughts captive and to make you obedient to Christ.

For Further Study:

(v.1)
** the same. Mr 9:33-37; ** Who. Matt 20:20-28; Matt 23:11; Mark 9:34; Mark 10:35-45; Luke 9:46-48; Luke 22:24-27; Rom 12:10; Php 2:3; ** in. Matt 3:2; Matt 5:19-20; Matt 7:21; Mark 10:14-15;

(v.2) ** Matt 19:13-14; 1Kgs 3:7; Jer 1:7; Mark 9:36-37;

(v.3) ** Verily. Matt 5:18; Matt 6:2, 5, 16; John 1:51; John 3:3; ** Except. Matt 13:15; Ps 51:10-13; Ps 131:2; Isa 6:10; Mark 4:12; Luke 22:32; Acts 3:19; Acts 28:27; Jas 5:19-20; ** and become. Mark 10:14-15; Luke 18:16-17; 1Cor 14:20; 1Pet 2:2; ** enter. Matt 5:20; Matt 19:23; Luke 13:24; John 3:5; Acts 14:22; 2Pet 1:11;

(v.4) ** humble. Matt 23:11-12; Ps 131:1-2; Isa 57:15; Luke 14:11; 1Pet 5:5; Jas 4:10; ** greatest. Matt 18:1; Matt 20:26-27; Mark 10:43; Luke 9:48;

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