According to Jesus, the greatest is not the one being served.
It's the one doing the serving!


Then Jesus came to Capernaum. When He was in the house
He asked them, "What was it you disputed among yourselves
on the road?" But they kept silent, for they had disputed who
would be the greatest.

Jesus sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, "If anyone
desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all."
Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them,
and said, [{Matthew 18:3-4} "Unless you are converted and
become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom
of heaven. Whoever humbles himself as this little child is the
greatest in the kingdom of heaven."]

When He had taken him in His arms, Jesus said to them,
"Whoever receives one of these little children in My name
receives Me, and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but
Him who sent me. [{Luke 9:48} For he who is least among you all
will be great."]

Now John answered, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out
demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not
follow us." But Jesus said, "Do not forbid him, for no one who
works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me.
He who is not against us is on our side.

"Whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, he will
by no means lose his reward. But whoever causes one of these
little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for
him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were
thrown into the sea."
                                                   Mark 9:33-42 NKJV, condensed

                             The Question of Greatness

There are many self-help books that will tell you if you want to be first,
here's what you must do. Jesus answered that question, too, and his 
reply was so simple and concise you can get started right away.

It's not surprising that on their next road trip Jesus' disciples got into a
heated debate of personal interest to all of them. The topic, "Who is
the greatest among us?" Jesus and his inner circle--Peter, James and
John--had just been to the mountaintop. While they were gone, the
other nine experienced a humiliating defeat when they could not heal
an epileptic youngster. Some of the Twelve were obviously feeling
more successful than the others.

Jesus waited till they got to Capernaum and were inside a house. Then
he asked them a probing question, "What were you guys arguing about
on the way here?" The question caused shame. They knew Jesus
would not approve the things they had said to each other. There was
no safe or adequate response to his question so they gave Jesus the
silent treatment. Regrets always come too late.

To our way of thinking, the concept of greatness assumes a pecking
order and highlights the inequalities among people. The great are proud;
everyone else is humbled. Being the greatest implies others are inferior
in charm, ability, power and influence. That's how it is on earth; but
what do we expect in heaven?

Without a lengthy reprimand, Jesus very simply told his disciples the
way to be first in God's kingdom is to come in last! And the way to be
great is to humble yourself by becoming the servant of all! Then he
presented them with an object lesson they would never forget. He
called a little child into their midst and said, "Unless you change and
become like a child you won't even enter the kingdom of heaven, much
less have a position in it! Yet whoever humbles him or herself like this
child, will be the greatest."

Little children know well the admonition to stay out of the way; and if
someone wants something, get it for them and be quick about it.
Those silly disciples, discussing who was God's favorite; they were
worse than children! Jesus sat them all down together and told them
if they aspired to be the best, they must learn from the least. Look at
this child. He's the lowest person on the totem pole. However when
you welcome this child in my name and out of love for God, you
welcome Me. When you attend to this child, you give attention to Me.
Not only that, you welcome our Father in heaven!

In God's sight, everybody could be the greatest! We can all be winners!--
if we become like a child. Be the server not the one being served. If you
want to be first, show up late because you were so busy helping others
along the way!

Greatness is not about one's place in the pecking order. It's not what 
another person can do for me; but what could I do for them? Greatness
is serving, even a little child. "How may I help you?"--It's the automatic
greeting at the service desk. It's also a slogan on God's measuring stick,
and the motto Jesus wants to write on our hearts.

People who ask this questions put themselves in the background so
they can focus on the person before them. They forfeit any thought of
personal gain because "this little child" represents no profit. Nothing,
except the fulfillment of Jesus' definition of greatness.

Then John, refusing to step down from a power position, complained
about a man he saw who was driving out demons in Jesus' name.
The majority of the disciples had just failed in that arena, so this subject
really gulled. Who is this man! He's not one of us. He didn't give up
everything to follow Jesus. He's probably not doing it right. How come
God enables him to drive out demons, and doesn't always listen to us
when we try to do miracles!

But Jesus gave the unknown miracle worker the benefit of the doubt
and said, "Don't stop him. If he's not against us, he must be for us."
In other words, if the person can do some good in Jesus' name, bless
him or her. More power to them. Don't be concerned with who gets
the credit. Let God's work be done by whomever is willing to cooperate
with God in doing it! By all means, stay out of the way and if they need
anything, be quick to help them. Ouch; another humility lesson.


Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.


Icebreaker:  We hear on the news about people who wait for days in order
                        to be first--for sales, concerts, parades, etc. Is there anything
                        for which you would wait in line for days?


Describe the typical characteristics of someone who is first in line?
            And the stereotype of someone who is last in line?
            Why would Jesus say the last shall be first in God's kingdom?


The disciples knew Jesus would disapprove of their conversation.
Yet they did it anyway, secretly, so Jesus wouldn't hear them.
            What are some things people do behind Jesus' back so to speak,
                        that they wouldn't do if Jesus were physically with them?
            Are you guilty of any of these things?
            Why do we think we can get away with it and God will never know?


"Who among us will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"
Re-write that question several different ways before trying to answer it.
            What was wrong with the disciples being concerned about who
                        would be greatest in God's kingdom?
            Why was it a foolish, inappropriate question?


What do you like about Jesus' definition of greatness?
            What don't you like about it?


Why would Jesus use a child to illustrate the least members of society?
            Unless you become like a child--What did Jesus mean by that phrase?
            What characteristics of childhood does Jesus want us to emulate?
            How does a small child personify humility?
Jesus had strong words for anyone who would lead a child astray, and
recommended drowning. What punishment do you think that deserves?


Why would we be more likely to attain greatness in God's kingdom if
we didn't pursue greatness as a goal?
            In what ways do you serve the least members of society for Jesus' sake?


"He who is not against us is on our side."
            What guidance does this provide for alliances among believers today?
            Do you need to check out a person's theology before working with them?
            To what extent do you agree, or disagree, with this statement?


If the phrase, "How may I help you?" were written on your heart,
how would it change your attitude toward life?

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