Summary: Jesus explains who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Who’s The Greatest?
It must have been a great privilege and awesome experience to have walked with the Lord Jesus Christ during the three and a half years He carried out His public ministry 2000 years ago. Imagine if you can hearing Jesus preach and teach with such great command of the Scriptures. Imagine the boldness and the urgency and the passion with which He must have spoken. How wonderful it must have been to have seen him raise the dead, heal the sick, give sight to the blind, make the lame to walk, calm the raging storm or multiply the fishes and loaves. Can you imagine the awe that must have overcome the disciples as they witnessed the Lord walking on the water, or for the few that witnessed Him during the transfiguration? We can only wonder at the amazing things those men saw and heard that were never recorded, knowing full well that the things that are recorded were beyond imagination – and yet they all occurred.
It is no wonder that as the disciples and the multitudes at large followed Jesus and listened to His teachings about the kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of God, that they fully expected Him to establish that kingdom in their presence. It is also little wonder that when they witnessed the great power He had and believed Him to be the revolutionary they thought He was that they wanted to put Him on the throne. They were desperate for someone to free them from the yoke of bondage they were under with the Romans, so they thought that this man Jesus was the one who was going to deliver the goods.
Jesus was going to deliver, but not in the way they expected. His was a spiritual kingdom that was not of this world and there would be deliverance from the yoke of bondage, but not from the Romans. Jesus had been trying to tell His closest friends these things as He advanced toward the cross, but they just weren’t getting the point. In their minds Jesus was the King who was about to set up His kingdom right here on earth, and even better – they were His right hand men who were going to be the princes in this kingdom! In fact, Jesus had just told them that He was giving to them the keys to the kingdom of heaven and that they would have His authority to conduct kingdom business! They were going to be running the show! They just knew that Jesus was grooming them to run His kingdom when He threw off the shackles of governmental and religious oppression. He had been slowly turning over to them the responsibility of teaching and preaching and they were even performing the same miracles as Jesus! Listen to them, “Man, look at us! Look at what I can do and what I get to do!”
The disciples must have been greatly enamored with their own greatness and importance as time went on, because we see in these last chapters of this book of Matthew Jesus’ closest friends arguing and bickering over who was going to be the greatest in His kingdom. Who was the most important? Who would sit closest to Jesus? Who was going to be sitting at the head table? Jesus keeps trying to tell them He’s about to die and all they can do is jockey for position in some physical kingdom that isn’t even going to exist during their lifetime! Their thirst and quest to be the greatest blinded them to the things Jesus had been trying to tell them for months, which is what brings us to the discussion we find in Matthew 18:1-6.
“At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, 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. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive on such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”
What an interesting conversation! These were fully grown men who were rough and weathered and hand picked by Jesus the King to help Him set up His physical kingdom on earth, and they want to know who is going to be the greatest in that kingdom. Before saying anything, Jesus calls this little kid out off the street and sits him on His lap in the middle of these grown men and says, “If you don’t make yourselves like this little boy, I’m not turning my kingdom over to you. You’re going to have to get your thinking straight if you even want to be a part of my kingdom business.”