The Book of Luke, Who is the Greatest? Part I - Lesson 123
We are in Luke 9 where we have studied the events on the mountain concerning the transfiguration of our Lord.
God the Father has identified Him as his son and commanded that He be heard.
But while this glorious event was going on life continued below where the nine remaining disciples were called upon to minister
But instead of ministering there was conflict because they were not able to bring healing to a boy who was in great distress.
There had been a failure on their part to believe and to exercise that belief in bringing healing to the epileptic boy.
After a stinging rebuke by the Lord and instruction that this case required prayer and fasting, in other words power from on high, Jesus told the disciples to:
Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men. But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask him of that saying.
And Luke is careful to give us an example of their behavior that reinforces their lack of understanding.
They lacked understanding in the need to humble themselves and take up the cross and follow Christ for this example is what happens soon after this saying of Christ was told.
Luke 9:46-48, Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest. 47And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by him, 48And said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great. 49And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. 50And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.
An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest.
It is reasonable to assume that Jesus was not in their midst during this reasoning for we are told that Jesus perceived the thought of their heart.
This tells us that there is no secret of the heart withheld from Jesus Christ and He used this perception to teach his disciples so that they would have understanding.
He did not berate them, he did not scold them for their self serving motives but he took advantage of this failing of the disciples and taught them by taking a little child and having him stand next to him
Then he said to them, “Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great.” (Luke 9:46‑48).
I think we can infer from this reasoning amongst the disciples that they still have not comprehended the cross that lay ahead for their Master nor any cross that they would bear.
They looked for promotion, they looked for a crown.
This reasoning was done in a competitive spirit, and not a humble spirit, a spirit that was fully willing to be last in the order of things.
The only competition of a humble spirit is to see to it that the needs of others are met before one’s own needs are met.
So Luke communicates this spirit of the disciples by telling us that the disciples disputed among themselves concerning who was the greatest.
But Jesus knew their motives and raised the issue with them.
Matthew tells us that when the disciples came to Jesus, they did not ask Him directly about their own position or greatness, but that they cloaked their ambition in generalities:
But Jesus is always able to peek under any cloak that you man wear.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” most likely expecting and hoping that the answer given by the Lord would be one of them.
But Jesus called a little child and had him stand among them.
Matthew 18:3‑5, 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. 4Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
That word “receive” means to welcome.
Whosoever welcomes this little child welcomes me.
The disciples’ debate about their own greatness may well have been begun because of the disaster the nine disciples experienced with the epileptic boy.
Just think about the contrast that now was evident among the disciples.
There were the three who had witnessed the glorious event on the mount of transfiguration and there were the nine who had been rebuked by the Master for their failure to exorcise the boy of the demon.
This was a perfect setup for the ugly head of pride to show itself.
Perhaps the three took advantage of their exalted position that they felt they had been given because Jesus chose them to go up the mountain while he did not chose the other nine.
The situation that was now present made it easy for the three to look down their spiritual noses at the nine.
But the lesson which Jesus taught His disciples is a very interesting one.
He took a child and said that anyone who ministered to that child in His name was actually ministering to Him.
Mothers, Fathers, teachers, take encouragement from this when line upon line, precept upon precept in the lives of your children becomes wearying.
I think I know why Jesus found it necessary to use this lesson.
If you are concerned about your status in ministry, you measure the significance of your ministry by the significance of your audience.
To minister to a “significant person or persons” is, in effect, to be a significant person.
Whoever ministers to the President becomes a significant person.
He is pointed to as the President’s preacher and therefore he becomes significant.
To minister to the insignificant — say, a child — is to have an insignificant ministry, and thus is equated to being insignificant.
Have you ever heard anyone point to a teacher and say with pride – There goes a kindergarten teacher, how significant, but in God’s eyes she is significant for when she welcomes the child she welcomes Christ, she welcomes God.
I remember an experience I had in the days of our bus ministry.
My route was in Pace and Florida town and I would go out regularly each Saturday to try to find children to come to Sunday School on my bus.
Sometimes the day was hot and I’d get thirsty.
I remember coming to an old ramshackle house (in those days most of the houses in Florida town were ramshackle) and a little old lady answered the door.
I remember it well that I asked her for a cup of water in order to refresh myself on that hot day.
She was so kind to bring me a cup of cold water and I believe when she ministered to God’s servant who was trying to do God’s will she ministered to the Lord himself.
It was such a simple deed, totally unnoticed by the world, unrecorded except in heaven, but it was done as to the Lord.
And not only I will remember her for it, more importantly God will remember her for it.
And God will remember any service done to a child because service to a child is service to Christ.