Who Is the Greatest?
(Mark 9.33-37; Luke 9.46-48)
1 About this time the disciples came to Jesus and asked him who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 2Jesus called for a child to come over and stand near him. 3 Then he said:
I promise you this. If you don't change and become like a child, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven. 4But if you are as humble as this child, you are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5And when you welcome one of these children because of me, you welcome me.
Fill in the blank: “I want to be more _______.” What was in your blank? Patient? Joyful? Self-disciplined? Caring? Chances are you didn’t write “needy.”In our culture, being needy is an unattractive quality. We value strength, independence, the ability to stand on our own two feet. “Needy” brings to mind clingy ex-girlfriends or people on the receiving end of Christmas baskets.
Yet neediness is just the quality Jesus is seeking for the kingdom of heaven. When the disciples ask Jesus who will be greatest, he responds, “If you don’t change and become like a child, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.”
By definition, children are needy. They need help to survive, and they know it. Kids don’t pretend they’re fine on their own. Small children are never expected to earn their keep. They’re takers far more often than they are givers. Asking for help is a way of life for them. Whenever they’re afraid or upset, they run to a beloved mom or dad or grandparent for comfort and protection.
Of course, Jesus wasn’t encouraging the disciples to be childish or weak. What he was encouraging was the right mindset. A well brought up child knows his or her place in the world: valued and cherished, but not the biggest or the strongest, not the one who knows best, not the one who should be in charge.
This is the mindset we need as Jesus’ followers. Compared to him, we’re small. We have very little to offer. The best thing we can do is humbly trust him to meet all our needs, and commit to obeying him because he knows best. When we have this attitude, worrying about who is the greatest will be the farthest thing from our minds. We’ll know who’s greatest already: King Jesus.
Gracious Father, you are a giver of good gifts. Help me to be humble enough to open my hands and receive your gifts rather than try to earn them. When I admit I’m small, that’s when I get to see you being great. Amen.