Who is the Greatest?

Luke 9:46-50
Zec 8:1-8 / Psa 102

Whoever is least among you, is the one who is the greatest.
(Luke 9:48)

The worldly lust for fame and power
Forfeits a place in God’s kingdom;
The humble servant God will shower
With His blessings and his wisdom.

An argument started among the disciples as to which of them was the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and placed him by His side. Then He said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the One who sent me. Whoever is least among you, is the one who is the greatest.” Then John said, “Master, we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” Jesus replied, “Do not stop him, for whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:46-50)

Reflection

The apostles had seen how Jesus had used His power for service when He fed the thousands from 5 loaves and 2 fish (9:17). His closest apostles had even witnessed His transfiguration and heard the Father’s command for them to “listen to Him” (9:35). Finally, after casting off an evil spirit when His apostles could not do so (42), Jesus again admonished them to “Pay attention to what I’m telling you” (9:44). And all this time, as if deaf to His words, the main preoccupation of the apostles was to argue among themselves about who was the greatest.

Jesus had to take a little child as the model of how one could achieve true greatness in the eyes of God. A child has no ambition, no lust for power or position, and is completely uninterested in worldly gain or fame. The apostles’ struggling for prestige and status was exactly what was distracting them, diminishing their worth as Jesus’ followers and leaders. Only by being like a child, devoid of status, humble and totally dependent on the power of God can one be attentive to his elder or teacher and be given God’s divine privilege to be the greatest in His kingdom. As status is the world’s standard for greatness, Jesus teaches us that the way to it is in humble service, just as He came to serve and not to be served.

Neither is greatness achieved by being a better servant or leader at the exclusion of others who do not belong to our group. John, the beloved apostle, thought that Jesus would be pleased when he reported that they stopped a man casting out demons who was not their member. Jesus had to remind him that serving the kingdom of God is a universal endeavor. “Whoever is not against you is for you.” Again, John was not listening. He was so concerned about their special status as Jesus’ apostles that he failed to appreciate the service being performed by the “outsider”. And even if we are topnotch in our service or ministry, that doesn’t guarantee our salvation or “rank” in the kingdom of God. As St. Paul wrote, it is by grace alone that we have been saved, “through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; not from works, so no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to perform.” (Eph 2:8-10)

We may belong to different communities, or even different churches, but as long as we call ourselves Christians, then we are serving the same One God, and we are all His children. Like children we must learn how to listen to the prodding of the Holy Spirit; we must pay close attention to God’s Word, His precious lessons in the Gospel.

Thank You, Jesus, for teaching us precious lessons on how to live right, like life’s journey would be so much easier if we only take more time to listen; and like little children who put all their trust in their father, we must learn to depend fully on our heavenly Father. Amen.

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