When I read verses like this in the Bible, I tend to rest my head on one hand and think, “why would you ask Jesus such a ridiculous question?” I look at the constant battle Jesus had with the Pharisees and their nose in the air, holier than thou, front-sliding, confrontational behavior, and here, Jesus’ own disciples are infected with the same disease!
But then, isn’t this the position many of Jesus’ followers revert to? Comparing importance and performance and jostling for position at the front of the line to heaven? Rather than back-sliding, I call it “front-sliding.”
We could also change the question to “who then is greatest in…” the church, the office, the school, the government, your marriage? Amen or ouch?
"Your Jesus is ideal and wonderful,” Bara Dada, of India, is to have said to a missionary before adding “but you Christians – you are not like him" (Jones, E. Stanley. The Christ of the Indian Road, New York: The Abingdon Press,1925. (Page 114))
All around the world, Christians have missed the whole idea that we are to BE LIKE CHRIST. That’s what the word CHRISTIAN means. Are we like Christ? If not, we are a stumbling block to others.
In contrast to the Pharisees, we have Jesus, humble, servant of all, who came to serve. Jesus: who chose to wear a cross on his back, not a crown on his head.
What is equally amazing, is Jesus’ response to the question “who is the greatest?”:
Matthew 18:2-5 (NKJV) Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. ”
Notice the child in this drama and how the child came. Simple obedience.
I can imagine the child sitting on the lap of Jesus and resting the back of his head in the warm cleft between Jesus’ chest and shoulder. Simple trust.
And then the child did something we have all forgotten how to do. He listened.
And then Jesus spoke these piercing words:
Matthew 18:6-7 (NKJV) But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!
I’m listening. Are you?
While residing in South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi desired to hear his friend preach at a local church. He was refused to enter because he was not of European decent. His companion W. W. Pearson pleaded with the greeter to let Gandhi enter the church, given Gandhi’s prominent name and position. He still refused to let Gandhi in. (C.F. Andrews, Mahatma Gandhi’s Ideas pp. 177-178)
Later, Gandhi wrote 'Hate the sin and not the sinner' is a precept which, though easy enough to understand, is rarely practiced, and that is why the poison of hatred spreads in the world. (A Tussle With Power, Part IV, Chapter 9)
I’ve always wondered what would have happened if Gandhi had accepted Jesus as the Christ. I wonder what would have happened in India where the population is 1.21 billion souls – souls that are walking far from Jesus.
Woe to the man who refused to let Gandhi in.
We are all God’s creation. Red, brown, black, yellow, white, we are ALL precious in His sight. The precious blood of Jesus, is the same color as the blood of each of His children.
I pray that those whom I have offended will forgive me, and will find their way back to Jesus, through a kinder, gentler soul than I. I pray, even more, that God will forgive me.
When is the last time you paused in your busy schedule to come, with simple obedience, to hear the words of Jesus.
Have you allowed yourself to trust His words, unfiltered and unstained, straight from the red letters of His Word?
Have you come close to Him in your prayers and allowed yourself to lay yourself on His powerful chest and say “Rock of Ages, cleft for me!”
Are you listening child?
Pastor Jay Merritt