Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Greatness Defined

Luke 9:46-48:

[46] An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. [47] But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side [48] and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”

I was reading the verses above today, and was quickly stopped in my tracks.  Its human nature isn't it, to boast in ourselves and our accomplishments as a way of making ourselves look greater than others?

Here we find a very peculiar situation.  The disciples who were the closest thing Jesus had to friends were arguing with each other about who was the greatest.  These (12) men, handpicked by Jesus, were caught arguing about which of them was the greatest...and all of this transpiring while Jesus was showing them day after day what it truly meant to be great.

These verses reaffirm to me what I already know about myself.  I am rotten to my core with sin and pride.  In the very midst of Jesus performing miracles, casting out demons, being transfigured before the disciples eyes, and affirmed by God the Father in a cloud of glory (Luke 9:35) the disciples still found it necessary to discuss which of them was the greatest.

And I love how Jesus so calmly deals with this situation and many others like it.  He doesn't get angry.  He doesn't throw his hands in the air, roll his eyes, and stomp out of the room.  He does something much more effective and amazing than that...He, “knowing the reasoning of their hearts,” grabs a child and shows his disciples what it means to be truly great.  "Whoever receives this child, in my name, receives me...For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”

Jesus knew the condition of his disciple’s hearts.  He knew the sin of pride and its natural tendency to try and convince the disciples to boast in themselves and their own greatness.  These are the same tendencies we struggle with today.  A ministry leader can quickly become sidetracked as they start to think more about the success of their ministry then they do about their call to serve others.  Our natural predisposition (in the flesh) is to try and make much of ourselves in situations like these.

But these verses remind us how God defines greatness.  Jesus, by using children as an example (who were often overlooked and marginalized in ancient societies) is helping his disciples see that it's humility which produces true greatness.  This is in direct contrast to the status-seeking motivation they had (v34).  They were feeling pretty good about themselves and their situation as ‘followers of Christ’ and their hearts were becoming increasingly proud.  Jesus, seeing this, took the time to remind his disciples that they should willingly take on lowly, often unnoticed tasks and care for those who have little status in the world.

This was a paradigm shift for the disciples then, as well as for us today.  Jesus instructs us time and time again in scripture that anyone who seeks glory (or greatness) in this world, will have their reward in this world (Mat. 6:2, Mat. 6:5, Mat. 6:16) but anyone who serves others with humility, in this world, receives Jesus and in so doing also receives the Father.  Submissively caring for people of lowly status out of obedience to Christ (“in my name”) will be rewarded by an eternal and personal fellowship with both the Son and the Father, and there is nothing greater that can be obtained.

For His Glory,


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