Luke 9:46-50 (also Matthew 18 and Mark 9)
- Pride is the original sin of men and angels
Who Is the Greatest?
46 Then a dispute [discussion] arose among them as to which of them would be greatest. 47 And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a little child and set him by Him,
[Matthew 18 says they asked Jesus who was the greatest, Mark 9 says Jesus asked them because he knew they had been arguing about it. Weave these 3 accounts together and it probably went something like this. On the road to Capernaum the disciples were reasoning or debating among themselves who (meaning which of them) would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus either hears or just knows what is going on and wants to use it as a teaching opportunity, so he asked them "what were you talking about on the road back there?". Well they are a little embarrassed by his question, because they were apparently reluctant to ask Jesus about it in the first place, probably for fear of looking petty or prideful. Finally they relent and say Master who will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus saw a child in the house with them there in Capernaum, and uses the child as an object lesson.]
48 and said to them, "Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great."
[Children had no standing in Jewish society. If a child asked you question you would tell him to go ask his own father. We had something like this growing up, when we had holiday meals or family reunions there was an adult table and there was a kids table. And when you got to be a teenager you could not wait to get away from the little kids and be invited to the adult table. When you got to the adult table it meant you had standing, you had arrived and were invited into the adults conversation. Jesus pointed to this child and said you want to be great, them receive this child the way you would receive me. For the one who esteems himself they lowest will be the greatest.
James 4:6…God resists the proud, but gives grace unto the humble. (Proverbs 3:34)
Jesus said the ones who make of themselves the servant of children who have no social standing, they will be greatest in heaven. So those who serve with humility, the ones who are unable to reciprocate or repay you, that person is highly esteemed in heaven.]
Jesus Forbids Sectarianism
49 Now John answered and said, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us."
50 But Jesus said to him, "Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side."
[When people serve the Lord with a pure heart they really don't need anyone's permission. The Church has spent too much time historically speaking, arguing with other denominations and fellowships, about things that had nothing to do with sound doctrine. And much of this flows from the creation of false hierarchies were you have folks Lording over serving Pastors instead of serving themselves.
As the apostles preached and established churches they would try to appoint a Bishop or pastor to continue the work before they moved on, and they would communicate with the Bishop of each church to keep them on track and help them with any problems that arose. As Christianity grew and the apostles died, the Bishops with the most standing among their peers were those who had been directly appointed by the Apostles. But for a while the Bishops were considered a fellowship of equals. It was only after Constantine, Emperor of Rome, made Christianity the official state religion, that the Bishops of the main political centers, began to assert control of the other Bishops and even added a rank beneath bishop, that of presbyter, and those were the true pastors. Later when Constantinople fell to the Turkish Ottoman Empire, then the Bishop of Rome claimed to head the entire or "catholic" church. This power grab, led to the separation of the Catholic and Orthodox churches, and eventually to the protestant reformation, because those who studied the Bible were powerless to influence workings of their local church. Clearly Jesus fear that some of his servants would exert Lordship over one another was well founded.]
The Disciples Argue About Greatness
24 Now there was also a dispute [contention] among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest.
[The dispute is actual strife, not just an academic discussion. Because this is right after the Lord's supper, some believe they were arguing about the seating order during the Lord's supper. If the Lord's had chosen apostles could fall to such petty prideful moments, how must more careful do we need to be, to protect ourselves from attitudes and opinions that lead to strife.]
25 And He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called 'benefactors.' 26 But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves.
[This was polar opposite of the way Jewish society worked. When you had a dinner party, the guest would arrive and the host would seat the guest according to their social standing. The most honored guest would be seated at the place of honor next to the host, then the next and the next until the table was filled. And the servants would serve them in the same order, and they very last ones to eat were the servants themselves.]
27 For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.
[I am often amazed at the patience Jesus showed in teaching his disciples. Even when flirting with pride, his rebuke is gentle and instructive.
John 13 records that about this same time, after supper, Jesus laid aside his clothes, wrapped himself in a towel and washed his disciples feet as an object lesson in humility. Then he said this:
13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
Some churches still practice foot washing, just to remind themselves against self importance. ]
28 "But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials. 29 And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, 30 that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel."
[They were looking for earthly recognition (a better seat at the table) but Jesus promised them a place at his heavenly table, and a throne among the patriarchs. Our reward is not of this world, but to those who serve humble and willingly, the heavenly reward is sure.]