Matthew 18:1 – I AM THE GREATEST

Posted: March 19, 2016 in Matthew 18
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Matthew 18:1 – I AM THE GREATEST

“About this time, after they arrive at Capernaum, the disciples come to Jesus and ask, ‘Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?’” (Matthew 18:1 and Mark 9:33-35)

Strange, because about this time in Rome they are deciding who is the greatest in a circle crudely marked in a very earthly kingdom.

Some wrap hard leather thongs around their fists and determine to swing with wild abandon until none are left. One smaller man, Archeus adds metal studs to the thongs. As they are led into the Amphitheatre, he is determined to weave and duck the frantic throws and wait to deliver his cutting body blows, scratching and elbowing his way to the finish.

The spectators roar their approval as they enter. Who will be the greatest in this fight to the death, the greatest slave, the greatest trained performer, the most valuable commodity of the day, the one left standing? The marked circle on the floor of the arena will soon be spattered with blood, a brutal ring of death.

There are no rules, other than to stay in the ring. No referee, no rounds, no throwing in the towel. Just a punishing and chaotic series of punching, headbutting, eye-gouging, chokes, and brutally hard throws. If a man goes down or is unconscious for a moment, he will not be shown mercy. There will be no fighters left alive but one, the greatest of all.

After the observances, the fight begins. Archeus does his best to block an opponent’s blows. He desperately wants to run from the ring but the armed gladiators are waiting for such a foolish move. I must be more strategic, slipping, bobbing, countering and angling, finding my targets on the body, weakening my opponents by degrees.

Few are in any way sophisticated with their approach. Their only objective; assaulting their assailants to do serious and permanent bodily harm. Whoever will be greatest will be damaged, but still standing.

Time is embodied in the frenzied Melee of bodies until now only three remain standing. Briefly, they are aware of each other before the two larger men fight. As they struggle with each other, Archeus takes his opportunity to weaken each man with forceful blows to their backs, trying to trip them up, pushing, biting and butting, hitting them with his elbows, and ramming them with his shoulder, striking wildly at times, but he avoids them trying to knee him, kick him or knock him down.

One man succumbs to a massive blow to his head and sinks to the ground. Surprised that he is still alive, Archeus turns to face his final challenge, Gallus, a giant of a man, and he feels the burden of his survival beginning to shift, heavy with fear and sweat. Gallus begins to circle around Archeus, catching his breath. The man he knocked to the ground is regaining consciousness, staggering to his feet and moving unnoticed behind Archeus. Charging towards Archeus, Gallus is screaming as he comes with the anticipation of victory.

Deftly sinking down between his legs, Archeus avoids his blow and hoists the man’s legs with all his strength. The momentum spears Gallus in a high arc towards the ground, but before he does, he crashes heavily into the barely revived man, head to head, with such a violent crunch that it leaves both men unconscious.

There is no prize but a garland, just promoters badgering his owner, and bets on the outcome being finalised. Spectators lose a lot of money gambling over who will be the best fighter of all. None expected it would be Archeus, and he doesn’t recall the acclaim.

Neither does Archeus remember being carried back and laid on a table. A young servant boy is saying “You are the greatest!” as he pours ointment on his wounds, bandages his bleeding hands and washes his face.

“I am not the greatest” he contradicts in an agonising whisper and is greeted with a momentary silence.

“What do you mean you’re not the greatest? You have “Style”. You jabbed your way around the outside, you slugged away at their defences until they were too tired to go on. You are the greatest fighter I have ever seen.”

“I am not the greatest….”

His comment is ignored. “You used strategy and control and method and skill. You were so fast out there.”

“I was only fighting to stay alive.”

“And you did! You got up close and kicked them. You had power and ability out there and waited for the advantage. You were quick and you avoided Dagri’s headlocks. You looked for their mistakes and used it against them.

I couldn’t believe it when you blocked Ansgar and got him off guard and landed that scorching blow to him with your elbow. He didn’t know what happened. Perfect timing. You predicted their punches with the precision of a true gladiator. You are the greatest!”

“You don’t understand…”

“What’s to understand? I saw you out there. You wore them down. They thought you were too small to worry about so they thought they could ignore you. You won without even getting hit. You outmaneuvered them all.”

“I did get hit. I think I have a few broken ribs and ….”

“Did you see Gallus? He had a powerful punch but you weren’t intimidated by his size at all.”

“I was intimidated. I was desperate. I couldn’t get away.”

“But you are fast. I wish I was like you. You are the greatest!”

“I’m not the greatest!” Archeus shouted, “Don’t you see. Brutality doesn’t determine greatness. Being great is not fighting each other to the death. It is letting someone live life to the full. Being the greatest is not some dictatorial tyrant ruling over us. You want to be like me. I want to be like you, boy. If only we could all be like you. The only way to be truly great is to serve others. You are the greatest of all.”

Miles away in Capernaum, Jesus sits down, calls the twelve disciples over to Him, and brings a child into their midst “Whoever wants to be greatest must take the least place and be the servant of everyone else” (Mark 9:35 NLT).

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