Who Is the Greatest?

MEMORY SELECTION: “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.” —Mark 9:35

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Luke 22:24-27; Mark 9:33-37

THE first of this week’s selected scriptural readings is taken from the context of our Lord’s institution of his last supper. On that occasion a discussion arose as to which one of the disciples would be the greatest in the kingdom. Jesus’ perfect mental powers enabled him to detect the nature of the questioning and the necessity for giving a lesson in humility as a warning to those who had been given positions of such prominence in the Early Church.

The account reads (Luke 22:24), “And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.” Disputes of this nature had erupted among Jesus’ disciples on other occasions, perhaps as an indication of their anxiety in connection with the establishment of our Lord’s kingdom and their respective places in it. Then Jesus said (vs. 25,26): “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.” As a lesson for his disciples in connection with the need for humility, Jesus further said (vs. 27): “For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.” Our Lord was the ultimate example of humility, and the lesson had been forcefully brought to their attention.

The second passage of selected scriptural readings (Mark 9:33-37) tells of a similar situation. We read: “And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest.” On this occasion Jesus’ lesson related the innocence and devoted faithfulness of a little child to those characteristics most desirable in the child of God. As a warning against pride and ambition, Jesus “took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but Him that sent me.”

There is an important lesson in both of these scriptural accounts that is worthy of the most careful consideration and prayer of every consecrated child of God. The days in which we live are evil, and there are temptations toward pride and ambition, even among the Lord’s people, such as never before. Much of this has come about through the availability of expanding information along all lines of thought, as well as increased opportunities of gaining an education. Also we are living in an affluent society that is becoming further removed from the simple ways of yesteryear.

The question of greatness had no doubt come about among the Lord’s disciples as a result of Jesus’ selection of Peter, James, and John (Mark 9:2) as the preferred three who were given special revelations in connection with the transfiguration. Jesus detected the disciples’ tendency toward the desire for prominence and sought to draw it to their attention with the hope of correcting that undesirable disposition.

The spirit of rivalry is the very opposite of the spirit of Christ-likeness. As our Lord was meek and humble so must we be also if we are to have a share in his kingdom arrangements. The question should not arise as to who will be greatest in that kingdom. Rather, if we have the proper spirit of Christ we will be happy to have even a share in it—in any capacity.

The qualities of meekness and humility adorn the child of God and many are the lessons pertaining to the development of our characters along those lines. As these adornments are most pleasing to God let us heed the further admonition (Mark 10:43-45) that “whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Dawn Bible Students Association
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