"Who is the Greatest"- Matthew 18:1-9
“Who Is The Greatest?”
Core Practice: Humility – I choose to esteem others above myself.
Philippians 2:3, 4 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
We can never be humble like Jesus by trying to be humble like him. However, what we can't do by trying hard we can do by training wisely. But does training wisely mean? One author explains, "It means to arrange your life around certain exercises and experiences that will enable you to do eventually what you are not yet able to do even by trying hard. Training is essential for almost any significant endeavor in life–running a marathon, becoming a surgeon, learning how to play the piano. The need for preparation or training does not stop when it comes to learning the art of forgiveness, joy, or courage [add humility to the list]. It applies to a vibrant spiritual life just as it does to other activities. Learning to think, feel, and act like Jesus is at least as demanding as learning to run a marathon or play the piano" (John Ortberg, Laurie Pederson, and Judson Poling, Pursuing Spiritual Transformation, 16).
So what can we do to develop humility? Put differently, what disciplines does the Spirit use to develop humility in us? Prayer is one thing– another thing is confession. Throughout the Old Testament one who confesses his sin is said to have humbled himself before the LORD. A third thing is service. Regrettably, too often our focus is on being served ourselves rather than on serving others. As consumers we go to restaurants with the best service, and we tip the servers who serve us well. One author writes, "Many Americans spend their lives working themselves into a place where they can be served more than serve. Unfortunately, the danger of being served all the time is that it feeds pride and starves humility. The discipline of service, however, does the exact opposite. It's hard to be full of yourself when you're washing someone else's feet!
Scripture: Matthew 18:1-9 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.
The Message of this Passage: “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ This question comes after Jesus has already told his disciples twice about the suffering and death that awaits him in Jerusalem (Matthew 16:21-23; 17:22-23), and after he has told them that following him entails denying themselves and taking up the cross (16:24-25). It seems that Jesus’ message has not truly penetrated the minds and hearts of the disciples, for they are preoccupied with questions of their status in this kingdom. In response, Jesus offers a profound critique of their very question. He calls a child, places the child among them, and tells them that unless they change and become as little children, they will never even enter the kingdom. As long as they are concerned about their own status, they have missed the point completely. A child in the ancient world was without status or rights, completely dependent on the good will of others to care for him or her. Notice that Jesus does not tell the disciples that they should have faith like a little child -- as if they could conjure up this kind of faith on their own -- but that they need to become like little children. Jesus further specifies what this means in the following verse: “Whoever humbles themselves like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4). It is giving up claims to power and status and knowing one’s total dependence on God that counts as greatness in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus takes it one step further in saying, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me”. Jesus humbles himself in identifying with a little child, one without power or status. Jesus says that our response to such persons is, in effect, our response to him. Jesus then continues talking about “little ones” in the figurative sense -- those without power or status in the community of faith. With shocking imagery, he states the utter seriousness of causing the downfall of any of these “little ones who believe in me.” Indeed, he warns that “it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea”
Jesus makes a dramatic point. Not only is it necessary to become a “little one” to enter the kingdom of heaven, but there is a dire warning for any who would lead “little ones” astray.
Answering Interpretive Questions: Read Matthew 18:1-9
Today’s Scripture Focus: Matthew 18:1-5: Mark 9:33-37; Luke 9:46-48
In verse 1, what question do the disciples ask Jesus?
Read this same account in Mark and Luke. What was happening that led to the disciples asking this question? Where was the disciples’ focus? Where should it have been?
Luke records a beautiful truth regarding Jesus Christ. What is that truth as we see it in Luke 9:47.
In verse 2 & 3, we see Jesus call a child to come to Himself, set the child “in the midst” of the disciples, and then use the child as a powerful example. How does Jesus use this child as an example to answer the disciples question? How does this point to the nature of Jesus?
Look up the word convert in a dictionary and write the definition.
What was Jesus saying to His disciples by using the word “convert” in His response? Note: NIV uses the word “change.” What did the disciples need to do with their thinking?
According to verse 4, how is greatness in God’s Kingdom measured?
Why is humility essential for God’s children? What is the opposite of humility? How does this stunt a believers growth?
Look closely at verse 5. How are you to receive other people, especially children? Who then are we ultimately receiving? Summarize what this means.
Why did Jesus say a person’s treatment of children was significant? (18:5)
What comment did Jesus make that suggests the inevitability of sin in this world? (18:7)
What radical figures of speech did Christ use to show the severity of sin? How? (18:8-9)
What are the consequences of sin? (18:8-9)
2 Chronicles 7:14 “If My people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
Psalm 149:4 says, “For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation.”