Faithlife Sermons

Who Is The Greatest?

Matthew 18  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Who’s out there watching this video who is really good at something? Like really good, not just okay. raise your hand if you think you’re really good at something. Great, now… how many times has the fact that you are good at it and you know it gotten you into social conflict with other people?
I used to be a youth pastor and one thing I learned about adolescent teenagers is that every one of them has something that someone or themselves has told them they are good at and now they believe that they are the best.
Boys are really vocal about it when they see someone who looks to be close to as good as they are. If a boy sees someone encroaching on their bestness territory they issue a challenge for all to see and turn the whole thing into a very visible competition whether they know it or not.
Girls… well, they do the same thing only it’s all done underhandedly and behind each others back to completely demoralize the other girl who is trespassing in their territory of being the best.
Jesus’ disciples were exactly the same. They too were hot headed teenagers who thought they were the best and if they weren’t, they wanted to be.
Matthew 18:1–5 ESV
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,

Who is the greatest?

Before we can really get into this we have to remember who the disciples were. They were not much older than teenagers, and only Peter would have been over the age of 20 years old. In Ancient Jewish times the temple tax was only paid by adult men aged 20 to 50 years old. In Matthew 17:24-27 there is a debate that takes place between the tax collectors and Jesus about who should pay the temple tax. In the concluding sentences Jesus sends Peter to catch a fish, within it he would find a shekel. He tells peter to “take that and give it to them for me and for yourself. Jesus doesn’t pay for the rest of the disciples which means that only Peter would have been 20 or older. which is pretty incredible to think about… but, think about that in relation to how the disciples ask Jesus questions.
v.1 of ch 18 says that they came to Jesus asking, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” They were asking Jesus not who was the greatest in heaven so much as who was the greatest amongst themselves. Imagine a group of teenagers arguing amongst each other about who is better than the other for various different reasons and then coming up to Jesus, still arguing amongst each other one of them asks the question, “who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
This dispute was very much focused around an attitude of arrogance and selfishness. An “it’s all about me” attitude. “I’m the best and I want you to prove to all of these people who think I’m not the best that I am.”
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone where you start talking about things and then for whatever reason, it starts to feel like a competition? One of the biggest ones I find that I both hear and end up partaking in, much to my disappointment in myself… is an argument over who is more busy or tired.
You know, the conversation where someone walks into the office and says man I’m so tired, I only got 4 hrs of sleep last night… and then someone counters with something like, “try only 3, then see how tired you are.” Or maybe it’s “man I worked a 12 hour day the last 2 days in a row and I’m just trashed because of it. Then the response from someone else or maybe yourself is, “Have you ever worked 12 hour nights back to back? now that’s a rough shift, I was doing that not too long ago and it sucked.” It’s not even about who’s better! It’s about who is more tiered or busy which is ridiculous
I’m not sure why it is that this tenancy arises in us, but I know this… It is not a christ-like attitude and that makes you wonder where it comes from. Could it be that your heart is not in the right place? Could it be that maybe we aren’t focused on what is really important? Perhaps it comes from a lack of proper time with God and your week has been filled with God time that consists of reading the daily verse in the bible app and saying a quick prayer, all of which taking 3 minutes to do and then you get on with your day.
Don’t get me wrong, this is still better than no time in the bible and no prayer. But, the health of our hearts and the prevailing attitude that we exhibit as Christians tend to be a direct reflection of how much and what quality our time with God is.
2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to take every thought captive and to make it obedient to Christ. If we don’t do this, how likely is it that Satan will be able to get into our heads and cultivate an attitude of arrogance in our hearts? Something we won’t notice until we hurt someone with it...
I want to challenge you today with this question, write this down
Is there a place in my life where I have lost sight of Christ and am arrogant?
During your time with God in the next few days really think about this question and ask God to help you see the areas in your life that are like this that need attention.
So, Jesus takes their question, the question that says “I am so totally focused on being the best and I would like you to confirm that I am better than my friends,” and says,
Matthew 18:2–4 ESV
2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Become Like Children

Jesus knows that the disciples are focused on themselves and have lost focus on what the kingdom of heaven is really about. So, he doesn’t directly answer their question. He says that in order to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, one must humble them self like a child.
Jesus seems to always use children as an example of how to have faith, or be humble as in this passage. Why is that?
Think about it, children are pure of heart. They are not yet corrupted by the world, they are selfless and loving and they have undying faith in those who look after them no matter the circumstance.
Adults… well, we have money and things and jobs and ambitions and all sorts of other things that creep into our minds and steel our focus. So children are perfect examples to use when question of character comes to mind
But in this example, Jesus is not so much talking about the actual character of a child, He’s essentially telling the disciples that the hierarchy in heaven is reversed and opposite to the hierarchical system of man. A child was essentially a person of no importance in the Jewish society. A child was subject to the authority of it’s elders and not taken seriously except as a responsibility or one to be looked after. By saying that they must humble themselves like a child, he is saying that they must become the least, someone of no importance or significance. At least, they must change their view of themselves to fit that description.
Imagine this concept as a hot headed adolescent boy. Might be a little bit hard to grasp, let alone accomplish that in themselves. Even as an adult this is something that is quite difficult to do.
Take all your status, all your self worth and make it nothing because other’s are more important than you. In heaven, to be counted as the least, is to be counted as the greatest.
I want to get one thing straight. This is not about lowering your perceived self worth. This is about loving others and deeming them greater than yourself.
Everything about the way Jesus lived and the way he taught others to live was about love.
Love,
it’s all about Love.
How well do you love? How well do you cultivate an attitude and life centered around love? not just love for those who it is easy for you to love but for everyone in your life that it is either easy for you to love or very difficult.
The Gospel is love, If we love as Jesus did, that will speak so much louder to those that need to hear the gospel than any words from our mouths about Jesus.
Being like a child, the least of these, is about loving others more than you love ourselves. Placing others about ourselves,
What does it take to love others in your life in every circumstance, in such a way that thought of your own self doesn’t even cross your mind?
Our human nature is flawed, loving other’s more than ourselves is something that at our core we are made to do but because we live in sin and we are imperfect, it goes against our nature to live with humility and love for others above ourselves all the time in every circumstance.
In essence, we can’t do it. It’s actually impossible for us to do this and to do it well. That’s where God comes in, we can’t… but only without Him. with Him it is still a battle against pride and our own self love but we can win as long as we allow God to help us.
In Philip Yancey’s book “what’s so amazing about grace,” he says that “imperfection is the pre-requisite for grace. Light only get’s in through the cracks.” This meaning that the only way that we can accept the help that God offers us, that we need to humble ourselves like a child is by recognizing that we can’t without Him and that we are in fact, imperfect.
It is a strange thing to realize that in order to be that which God asks us to be, we need to realize that we aren’t even close to being that and we will never be.
So what is the point of all this? What should I leave with you to dwell on and think about?
I want you to understand and take this away today.
As human beings we are flawed and sinful, no matter which way you look at it that fact doesn’t change, never will. Because of that, we have a tendency to love ourselves too much, to place too much on how good we are and what we can accomplish.
But as Christians, we are called to be better. To love others and humble ourselves as less so that others can be lifted up as more.
The only way to be humble, to defeat pride is to have a relationship with God that recognizes we are unable to anything that He asks of us unless we accept His help and even seek it out.
How will you do that this week? How will you maximize your time during the COVID19 pandemic shut down in prioritization of the main thing? That being God? How can you be more humble this week?
Ask God to show you what areas of your life need some more humility and how you might grow in those areas. He will show you, we just have to be willing to do what needs to be done to fix those things and make them better.
If you missed everything I said, remember this. You are loved despite your flaws, despite your failings as a person, despite how many times you might try to fix something in your life and just can’t manage it. God loves you un-conditionally and just wants to help you succeed and wants you to share His love with others.
It’s that simple. It’s all about love.
You are a Kingdom people, you are the hands and feet of Christ, go bless others and be blessed this week.
Have a good Sunday afternoon
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