Matthew 18:1-2 – I AM THE GREATEST – part 2

Posted: March 23, 2016 in Matthew 18
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Matthew 18:1-2 – I AM THE GREATEST – part 2

“Perhaps it will be Peter? He has the greatest leadership skills of us all. He was on the mountain.”

“No, I don’t think so. Peter is too unpredictable. One minute Jesus is pleased with him for seeing things from heaven’s perspective and gives him the keys to the authority of heaven (Matthew 16:18) and then the next He rebukes him for seeing things from a human point of view and says ‘Get away from Me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to Me’ (Matthew 16:23). He’s not the greatest leader. He’s too unstable. Better James or John. They were on the mountain too.”  

“Why ask?” My voice startles them in the shadows of the morning. They didn’t see me here, reading.

“What do you mean?” Who is this guy?

“Why would you ask this question about who is greatest and why argue over it? What prompts you to be talking about being great? Is it your pride or is it your interest in what will happen when Jesus dies or leaves? Are you wondering who will lead you?”

“Who are you?”

“I am just a curious onlooker. But tell me, is your argument about being the greatest prompted by who is spiritual enough to perform miracles or by who would best lead you in overthrowing the Roman government?”

“What are you talking about? Why are you so interested?” Is this guy a Roman spy?

“I’m sitting here reading about your conversation and I’ve got to tell you, it seems a little out there, guys. Random. What’s going on with this ‘Who is the greatest?’ thing? It’s obviously important to you. It’s just that you come across as being so competitive? You seem to raise this topic time and time again” (Matthew 18:3-4; 20:20-28; 23:8-11; Mark. 9:34-37; Luke 9:46-48; 22:24-27).

“You’ve read about us? Where?”

“I’m reading about you now and I need to know if there are degrees of greatness in God’s kingdom? Are you speaking about greatness in the kingdom of God, like having great authority here and now or do you want it in heaven? You seem to assume that there are degrees of greatness (Matthew 18:1). It seems Jesus does too but He looks at it differently.”

“How do you know what Jesus thinks?”

“I’ve been reading ahead, but what I would really like to know is, are you preparing for a takeover of the Roman empire? Do you expect the Messiah to lead you in a revolt? Are you are looking for positions of authority in the new government? Is that the sort of greatness you are after?”

Stunned silence. He must be a Roman spy.

“Do you know what I mean, like who is going to be the commander of His army, who will have the authority to order all the rest around? I’m just saying this because you need to know that it doesn’t work out like that. The Bible maps it out differently.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Well, Romans 12:10 (NLT) says ‘Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honouring each other.’ You don’t exactly appear to be honouring each other by arguing over who will be greatest. A lot of people have judged you over this, and I can’t help defend you if I can’t figure you out. I need to know.”

“I’m sorry but what makes you think that our conversation is any of your business.”

“Of course it’s my business. You see, I know that you will turn the world upside down with your influence. What I read about you today helps to change my life. The Lord is continuing to change me as I am open to what He is saying through you. You really are great, but is it your influence that is the greatness you have in mind or do you just come to understand that later?”

“I’m sorry, but we don’t understand anything you are saying.”

“No, it’s me that doesn’t understand you. It’s this argument you were having just now. Are you genuinely inquiring, and putting forth your preferences about who should succeed Jesus, and getting ready to vote, like a democracy? Are you looking to the frontrunners in a presidential race like Peter, James and John or are you all planning to run for office as well?”

“Democracy? Voting? Frontrunners? Presidential race?”

“You do get it that Jesus is going to die, right? You seem reluctant to talk about it, but are you arguing about who will lead you when this happens? (Matthew 17:22). So tell me, is that what this argument is all about or what?”

Bewilderment. Is he going to murder Jesus?

“Come on guys. Don’t go all quiet on me. I know that Jesus told you that He is going to die. I read it in Mark 9:31-32 (NLT). Jesus told you that ‘The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of His enemies. He will be killed, but three days later He will rise from the dead.’ You remember. You didn’t understand what He was saying, and were afraid to ask Him what He meant.”

“How do you know these things?”

“I’ve been reading about you up until now and also a little ahead. By the way, later, James and John, you are going to request that you have the two highest places in the kingdom, using your Mum as a go-between (Matthew 20:20) and the rest of you will get a little annoyed.”

They look at James and John who look embarrassed. James thinks It sounds like a good idea.

“Come on guys. I just want to know. Be fair. I don’t have a lot of time. I’ve got to go to work, soon. Are you concerned about approval; being acknowledged and admired? Or is it about position, status, prominence, authority and power? Or perhaps it’s wealth?”

“You can’t just presume to read our minds and judge us.”

“I’ve got to tell you, a lot of people think that you are just being selfish and ambitious, proud and competitive and even jealous of each other. In my time, we had this guy called Mohammed Ali. He was a boxer. He used to say, ‘I am the greatest’ and some people pulled him up for bragging and his lack of humility. He would say, ‘It’s not bragging when you can back it up. It’s hard to be humble when you’re this great.”

“Mohammed Ali? I’m sorry, sir, we’ve got to go. The Master is calling us.”

“So He is. Can I catch up with you later?” They do not reply.

Jesus sits down (Mark 9:35 NLT), calls the twelve disciples over to Him, and just as I get ready to close the pages, He invites me as well (and you).

“Before you face the traffic on the way to work,” He says, “I want you to consider something. You have been asking all the wrong questions this morning.”

“But Lord, there is so much speculation about this passage. I just want to get to the facts about what your disciples are thinking when they argue about greatness.”

“None of that is important. Their thoughts are not yours to know. What you need to know is that I have destined you for greatness.”

My heart misses a beat. “Me, Lord. You have got to be kidding?”

“There’s something I want you to think about today, and we will talk more about it when next we meet.”

“Yes, Lord?”

“It is this.” He looks around the whole group. “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.” 

As I head towards the door, I know that the traffic will be building up and I need to get going or I’ll be late to work.

“Yes Lord, I will think about this. Thanks. I love You. See you soon.” Giving Him a wave, I look back one last time. He is calling a child into their midst, and then I am immersed into the day.

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