216. Greatest in the kingdom.
'At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: " ... Whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."' ( Matthew 18:1-4) Elsewhere, we read 'an argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest.' ( Luke 9:46) 'When he was in the house, he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the road?" But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.' ( Mark 9:33-34) 'Jesus knowing their thoughts, took a child and had him stand beside him.' ( Luke 9:47) 'Jesus called the twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all" (Mark 9:33-35) "for he who is the least among you all - he is the greatest." ( Luke 9:48) Wanting to illustrate what it would look like to be the greatest, Jesus called a little child, whom we consider to be the least or insignificant among us, to exemplify ( be a typical example of) true humbleness. Their ability to believe sincerely, to rejoice heartily and to forget momentarily any hurt, are worth emulating. Our willingness to believe the truth, to rejoice in the Lord and to forgive others from our hearts will decide our greatness and not our talents and achievements. Without these virtues, the "greatest" among us will be called the "least" in the kingdom of God but with these virtues, the "least" among us will be called the "greatest" in the kingdom of God. Many who think of themselves as being the "movers and shakers" ( a powerful person who initiates events and influences people) in the Church will be ashamed on that day when they realise that they were not indeed the greatest in the kingdom but the ones they looked down upon ! 'Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?' (James 1:5) The greatest in the kingdom are not the ones who give out of their wealth, large sums of money towards charity but those who are humble enough to accept the word of truth. "Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven but however practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:19)
Inspite of all that Jesus said, the disciples still did not understand the principles of the kingdom and jockeyed in vain for positions in the kingdom, only to be rebuked by Jesus. Even as he had the last supper with his disciples, 'a dispute broke out among them as to which of them was considered the greatest. Jesus said to them, "... the greatest among you should be like the youngest and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves." (Luke 22:24-25) If God could humble himself to serve men, why couldn't men serve others ? "The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." ( Matthew 23:11-12) How true these words were about Jesus! He was the greatest among them yet he dressed like a servant and washed their feet. (John 13:4-6) He humbled himself to the point of a humiliating death on the cross. Therefore God exalted him far above everything! ( Philippians 2:8-9) Finally, the disciples understood, after the resurrection of Jesus, that the path to greatness is in humbling themselves. Let's 'humble ourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand that he may lift us up in due time.' ( 1 Peter 5:6) Amen.