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TEXT VERSES: 1-4
TOPIC: WHO IS THE GREATEST IN THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN?
Beloved in our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the most important in the Lord’s Church and needs the most care? Is it the youth, the families in our church or our elderly? Maybe we should focus more on the lost and direct all our time, money and energy on missions. We had quite a few discussions over these topics in the Past and these discussions should never stop.
The disciples had these discussions as well. Who is the most important? They are really diplomatic and asked: “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
They could not agree. Peter, James and John are all convinced that they are the greatest. Peter is the Rock, the first elder to whom the keys of heaven was entrusted, James was Jesus’ own blood brother and John was the disciple Jesus loved and whom He entrusted the care of His mother, Mary, at His crucifixion. But maybe it is Judas the treasurer, without finances no Church can survive.
This is competition, but they are missing the point and so did many churches and Church Councils over the times.
This is a common flaw and human nature. It starts with the children! My dad is stronger than your dad. I can do this better than you. I am first in my class! I have a bigger car than you!
Every human being wants to be first! He wants to be the greatest.
But can we ask these questions as well with matters in the Kingdom of God? The Kingdom is where God has all authority and it started already on earth when Jesus was born. The Kingdom of God includes our thoughts, our acts, our reasoning and our service. It also includes our marriages, our families, our covenant children and baptismal promises, our politics and our country.
Can we also ask if we have the best church building, best church, and the best pastor? Can we ask and say whom pray better as other, who does more and who does not? Who gives the most, who is the most faithful, and who loves the most in our church?
Jesus called a child, 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.”
Jesus said it all with one word: conversion or repentance: “Unless you turn and become like children. “
Jesus called this little child and put the child in their midst. The greatest in the Kingdom of heaven is this child. Why? What is so special about this child? This child did not put Himself forward; He did not put himself as the centre of all attention, but He was amazed that Jesus called Him.
He who is amazed that that Jesus called him or her because they are humble of their sin; they are the greatest.
Remember the parable Jesus told about the Pharisee and Tax Collector in Luke 18?
This Pharisee stood close to the Holy of the Holiest so that everyone could see him. With uplifted hands he started to pray. He had nothing to hide. His life is spotless and he prayed with confidence. But listen to him: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”
Did he ask God for grace? No, he did not seem to need it! His whole prayer was about self-righteousness. First he said what he is not. He is not like all the other sinners around him. He is not like the robbers, evildoers, and adulterers or even like the Tax collector.
A Tax Collector was one of the most hated people in the Israelite community. They were seen as filthy or disinherited sons of Abraham deserters of the Jewish people, one who collected tax for the hated Roman government tax and enriched them by taken more than needed from the poor people.
This Tax collector stood at a distance! Unworthy! He does not have the confidence to lift his hands; he would not even look up to heaven, but he beats his breast and says, God have mercy on me a sinner.
So is the man who is broken about his sin. Unworthy, in need of forgiveness, in need of a Redeemer! He only asked for forgiveness. He only asked for grace! Jesus said that this man went home justified by God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
He who humbled himself like the child that Jesus called in Matthew 18 is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.
Let us ask another question to make our question clearer of what our mission or task in the church should be: Why did Jesus come? This question is important and this should direct our thoughts on who or what should be the most important in the Church’s mission.
Our text gives us a key in verse 1: “At that time….” What time was that? This was the time before everything changed, the time before Jesus greatest sacrifice on the cross and the time where He were almost delivered to be crucified.
The disciples should have been busy to ask questions about God’s Kingdom but instead they are asking questions about their importance.
This also showed why Jesus needed to come. Jesus came to erect His kingdom and the great resistance against this was sin and pride.
Before God created the earth, He created angels we read in Job 38:7. One of the angels was named Lucifer. Lucifer means light-bearer, shining one, or morning star. The Bible tells us Lucifer was a powerful angel. The Bible describes him this way: “You were the model of perfection. You were full of wisdom. You were perfect in beauty.” – Ezekiel 28:11b
Lucifer had wonderful qualities, but he did not even compare to the greatness of his Creator. God gave Lucifer a special job, and it would seem, even a place of honour. Because Lucifer was perfect and blameless, he could spend time in God’s presence. But, this beautiful angel had the ability to think, feel, and choose what to do. Listen to what the prophet Ezekiel say about him in Ezekiel 28:17a: “Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendour.”
Satan was so beautiful, so wise, and so powerful as an angel that he began to desire God’s position and authority. He chafed at having to serve God and grew angry and rebellious. He did not want to serve, he wanted to be served; he, as a creature, wanted to be worshipped. How starkly contrasted to our Saviour Jesus Christ, who came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
What was Adam and Eve’s sin? We read in Gen. 3:1-7 and 3:12-13 that Satan questioned God’s word, and then he openly lied to Eve, contradicting what God had said. Then he used the tantalizing bait that humanity could be more like God by having their eyes opened, knowing things they currently didn’t know.
The real heart of the situation is the statement that Eve thought the tree was good for food and desirable to make one wise. Eve had sinned wilfully decided to sin by deliberately eating from the fruit. Eve had been deceived, and so consequently Adam. They wanted to be like God, and committed High Treason.
The sin of pride that led to Satan’s fall had now infected the hearts and minds of Adam and Eve, and the result was the same: shame, loss of wisdom, ruin and death.
Sin, made the establishment of the kingdom of God impossible and therefore Jesus suffered and He did that as a humble servant. In Is. 53 verse 4 we read: “Surely he has borne our grief’s and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.”
Our greatest suffering is sin and through sin, pride and disobedience, self-righteousness, self-importance, disease and death entered into the world.
Christ the only righteous; was willing to suffer. He was prepared to take our sorrows on Him too, all our suffering and our sorrows; He carried His entire life on earth, but especially at the end.
He, God understands suffering. He heard our cries and was willing to act as the One to be humiliated. He King of Kings was born in a stable, was rejected by his own people as Messiah. He wept with the death of his friend Lazarus, because he understands our suffering and knew all these things are because of sin, our sin, our own suffering, in all He was willing to be one with us. Our suffering became His suffering. Our needs became His needs and our sins He took upon Himself.
The word “suffered” is hard to understand. We will understand this word only if we really realize what Christ has done for us.
Everyone suffers and everyone knows suffering, rich, and poor, sick and healthy. No one can include the suffering of the world in a word or concept. But the suffering of which we read and experience is a little tiny part of the suffering itself that the world was plunged through man’s sin. And all this suffering Christ was willing in his humanity to wear. It is God’s wrath in totality against all sin and all the iniquities of our people.
He truly righteous man did in the power of His divinity carries the burden of the wrath of God in his humanity and gained for us the righteousness of God and eternal life.
He is the most important and should be our focus. A church should be Christ-centred and then they will never ask whom the most important is, or where our time and resources should be spent. No, then we will serve as Jesus served, willing to die for our faith, willing to suffer, willing to be humiliated for God’s honour!
Such a church will do everything to see that Christ’s name is proclaimed everywhere in God’s Kingdom. This is to the lost, the elderly the youth, our families, our marriages, the displaced, the lonely and to unity in Jesus’ church.
Sometimes we loose focus and we compete because of Pride. Then we need to repent and become like that child again. Then we need to be grateful like the Tax Collector that Jesus called me and saved me!
The Holy Spirit is renewing us every day to become more like Jesus, and live a life out of gratitude and that is everywhere where we go, in school, work, at home or if we are at holidays.
We need to show our gratitude for what Jesus did. Why? The Holy Spirit is living in our hearts; renewing us to be part of Jesus in a true faith.
The apostle Paul understood something of this, when he burst into tears in Rom. 7:19.When he was beaten in jail then he had sung hymns. But when he had realized that he was nothing in himself and had nothing, he screamed out: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”
When we fall through weakness in sin, when we want to hate, or take right in our hands we should not despair in God’s mercy.
We should always repent of our tendency to hate, and to retaliate and to be the most important. In 1 Peter 5:5-7 we read: “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because He cares for you.”
Sometimes we struggle to know what we need to do.
Jesus Christ is the goal. We must keep our eyes focused on him. We should be able to see His smile when we will finish the race. He is waiting for us with outstretched arms at the goal. Everything started with Him. He finished the first race. He is the perfect example. He completed the race with endurance.
We have His example, but also His grace and His Spirit.
When we are discouraged, we can know Christ will understand. If He can, we can, with His grace, which the Holy Spirit gives. He gives the strength, He gives the courage, and He gives the endurance, He gives faith. He can and will help us. If we feel we cannot anymore, then He repeatedly assured us that we do can and will finish the race of life.
There is only one who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven and for our sake He became the least!
He should be our focus and He should be the most. If He is the most we will have a balanced view on our calling and mission as well. Then we will serve as Jesus served on all aspects in God’s Kingdom.
We can only be amazed like the child in Capernaum that He called me and wanted to be the least for me. Therefore He should be the most and we less!