Our LORD Jesus Christ modeled humility perfectly. In every way, He demonstrated to us how we need to abandon our pride and focus completely on obedience to the Father’s will. Moreover, no one has preached how to be humble and obedient better than Jesus, who took every opportunity to command it from His disciples and His followers.
Despite His perfect example, the flesh nature of Jesus’ disciples raised its ugly head periodically. On one such occasion, the disciples had been engaging in an ugly contest as they walked through Capernaum. Out of earshot of Jesus (or so they thought), they were arguing (Mark 9:33). Later, when they were in the house, Jesus questioned them regarding their spat. The disciples were ashamed, but not humbled sufficiently to withhold their question: “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” (Matthew 18:1). They had all argued why their own name should top the list.
Jesus was already aware of their sins of pride and covetousness, but now it had become an ugly contest for rank and status in the Father’s Kingdom. What made it particularly unseemly was their underlying intention. When the asked “who”, they did not mean “who” according to their character traits – the moral, the righteous, the blameless, and others. If this had been the intent, Jesus would have deemed the question tolerable and given Him the chance to help them understand the graces and duties in which they should excel for God. Instead, they were asking “who” by name – which one of them specifically would be the greatest. They had already presumed one of them would be chosen – chosen over Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Noah, and myriad other great servants of God, including the prophets. To Jesus, this was an ugly contest.
At this point in their Christian education, the disciples had heard and preached much of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Messiah, but their question illuminated their separation distance from having a clear notion of it. Their question reeked of dreams of a temporal kingdom that offered external pomp and power. Not long before this incident, Christ had spoken of His coming sufferings and the glory to follow in the Kingdom. Apparently the disciples were jockeying for position and trying to determine their places in it.
Jesus had spoken often of His sufferings, but only once of His glory. Nevertheless, the disciples fastened quickly on the glory and overlooked the sufferings, a uniquely human trait. Most people love to hear and speak of privileges and glory, but are quick to pass by the thoughts of work, trouble, and suffering associated with it. The disciples focused so intently on the crown they forgot about the yoke and the Cross.
Having never visited Heaven, they also assumed all who have a place in the Kingdom are great. It is only a small leap of logic to conclude there must be different degrees of greatness. Whereas all saints are honorable, some of these “stars” outshine the others and receive greater glory. They reckoned further how they must be among some of the brightest stars, as they were chosen by Jesus Himself. After all, to whom should Jesus be more pleased to honor than those who had left everything on Earth and were now His companions in patience and tribulation?
Having deluded themselves into inappropriate conclusions, we can speculate on their arguments for being first. Each had his own case to plead. Peter was always the chief speaker and had already had the keys given to him (Matthew 16:19). He expected to be Jesus’ lord-chancellor. Judas had been given charge of the money bag and presumed he would become lord-treasurer, which he hoped would elevate him to be greatest by way of being in charge of the treasure. Simon and Jude were closely related to Jesus, and they must have hoped to take charge of the great offices of state, as princes of the Blood. John was the beloved disciple, the favorite of the Prince, and therefore, hoped to be the greatest. Andrew was called first; why should he not be preferred? The others no doubt had their own reasons.
It is not normal to glorify yourself. We humans are very apt to amuse and humor ourselves with foolish fantasies of things never to be. We are not Holy and we are not God. It is normal to glorify Him, the only One who deserves it. Our access to Heaven comes only by grace through faith in Christ, not by anything we have done here on Earth. None of us is the greatest nor will be the Greatest in Heaven. Only God is the Greatest. To Him be the glory!
“I’m Normal.” – I AM
It’s God talking to you.
A servant of Jesus Christ
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