Summary: The disciples asked the question, Jesus gives the answer!


• Who is the greatest? That debate rages on in the sports world. Is Tiger Woods the greatest golfer ever? Was Babe Ruth the greatest baseball player to ever play? Was Johnny Unitas the greatest quarterback to ever play the game? Who was the greatest of the presidents?

• Who has the greatest soft drink? Our society wants to know who is the greatest.

• How many people remember who came in second place? Who came in second during the past 5 World Series’? Who came in second in the batting title race? Who came in second place for the league rushing title?

• During Jesus day, the Jewish religion had the same problem. The religious leaders wanted to be seen as being the greatest in the kingdom of God. Preferential treatment for the religious leaders was the norm for the day. The disciples had been raised in a system that emphasized being the greatest.

• At one time the disciples had been hoping that Jesus would establish an earthly kingdom that would feature each of the twelve as leaders of this new kingdom.

• Jesus spent a lot of time trying to dispel that notion. The crowds were smaller and more hostile, but then something happened that is mentioned in Matthew 17. The transfiguration. Jesus appearance changed for a short time and Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus. Peter wanted to make three tabernacles to commemorate the occasion.

• This event may have renewed the disciples hope for an earthly kingdom.

• Jesus and the disciples were heading to Capernaum when according to Luke’s account in Luke 9:46-ff, an argument broke out between the disciples.

• The dispute was about who was the greatest. I ca see Peter boldly saying it was him since Jesus gave him the keys to the kingdom. I can see James and John jumping in as saying it was one of them since they were there to see the transfiguration.

• In Matthew 20:21 James and John wanted to be seated on the right and left hand of Jesus. This was a symbol of rank in the Jewish system.

• Jesus knew what was going on when finally the disciples asked Jesus the question. “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?”

• Is the question a bad question? It is a logical question given the system these men were brought up in.

• Today we are going to see what Jesus does with the question, “Who is the greatest.”



• I am not so sure the question was a bad question because Jesus does not rebuke the disciples for asking the question.

• The problem with the question was what was behind it.

• As I said in the introduction, the disciples were part of a religious system that turned into one of setting the leaders’ way above the rest of the people. God did not intend for the religious leaders to have a pecking order.

• The disciples had a wrong focus when they asked this question. They were looking at greatness from a worldly view.

• What makes you great in the world’s eyes? Achievement? Doing something great for other people to see and marvel at? Accumulating possessions? Being at CEO at he right company?

• The world sees greatness because of your personal achievements. They see you as great if you are part of a winning team. Basketball star Patrick Ewing just retired and many debate whether he was one of the greatest big men to play in the NBA. Many will say no because his teams never won the big game, the championship.

• The disciples wanted to be considered the greatest so that other people would see them sitting on high with Jesus and marvel at just how great they were. I would imagine that they were tired of see the religious leaders being touted as being great. They wanted their turn at glory also!

• There whole idea of being the greatest was off focus. They had a worldly perspective of greatness.

• Today Christians struggle with the same thing. We want to be great in the world’s eyes. We so want the approval of the world we get off focus of what is important.

• Even after spending close to three years with Jesus, they still struggled.

• Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?


• Jesus knew what was in the heart of the disciples when they asked Him the question. He knew what they were arguing about.

• When the question was asked, Jesus did not tell them how dumb the question was or how selfish they were in asking the question.

• Let us read verses 2-4

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