Speaker: Jerry Cisar
As one commentator puts it, “The appetite for prominence was a problem for the earliest followers and for Matthew’s church. The modern church is by no means immune to the disease.”
The disciples’ question in Matthew 18:1, if it were not so sad, would be comical. “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” In other words, “Who is the big cheese?” Unfortunately, the shelves of Christian bookstores are lined with books offering answers to this question about how can we be great.
It’s worth noting that the disciples weren’t asking, “Who ranks highest in earthly kingdoms?” but “… in the kingdom of heaven.” They are looking for spiritual greatness, position, and authority, yet Jesus turns their question on its head. Hasn’t Jesus already answered their question? Who is the greatest? Blessed are the crushed in spirit, those who mourn, the lowly, those who are longing for an elusive justice, the merciful, the pure in heart (who are also willing to get their hands dirty), the shalom-makers, those who are persecuted in their quest for bringing justice (Matt. 5:3-10).
Their question misses the point that Jesus, the Messiah-king, is going to be rejected, suffer, and die. Pursuing greatness is the wrong pursuit. Jesus forsook greatness!The problem is that they are still striving for the top rung of the ladder and not the bottom. To pursue the bottom rung, however, we must act in faith, be willing to risk failure, and overflow with forgiveness.