Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, “What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?” But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.” (Mark 9:33-37)
Who Is The Greatest In The Church?
The pride of man has always been a stumbling block leading to an arrogance of self-will and assumption of greatness. Among the apostles of Christ the plague of prideful desire was fueling a desire to find a place of prominence in a mistaken idea of a coming kingdom. Listening more to their carnal desires instead of the truth of the teachings of Jesus, the twelve disputed among themselves who would play a prominent role when the Lord established His kingdom. Jesus never suggested an earthly kingdom. This came from a heart of pride in His apostles. The Lord had told the twelve He was going to be betrayed into the hands of men and killed. After His death He said He would be raised. What they got out of the whole discussion was an argument about greatness. The truth was they did not understand what Jesus was saying when He spoke about His death and resurrection and were afraid to ask Him.
Jesus knew they argued about greatness among themselves. He brings the twelve together and explains to them the measure of greatness is not who is first in prideful superiority but who is willing to be last and to be a servant to others. That is counter-intuitive to the ideas of man to think that first place is last place. Everyone wants to be first. That is the place of glory. Finding oneself in last place is demeaning and lowly. Worse than being last is to consider oneself a servant to others as a slave is the lowest form of man. Servants do not have a lot to be prideful about. How could one be great when he is last and a servant to others?
To fortify the lesson, Jesus brings a little boy and sets him in the midst of twelve grown men who had been disputing about which one of them was the greatest and drives home the point. Jesus takes the young boy in His arms and shows the character of greatness. Children are not born with pride; they learn that from adults. Little children do not argue about greatness because their hearts are humble. Children of God possess a character of humility that does not seek first place but expresses a spirit of servitude. The kingdom of heaven is filled with the heart of children who let God be first place. It is important to know the church is the kingdom of God and pride has no place in the church. Men argue about who is the greatest when they squabble and fuss about who is in charge and whose word must be obeyed. Church divisions are brought about by prideful men who seek their own will rather than the word of God. What is lost in the disputes of men in business meetings and elderships is the church belongs to Jesus Christ – not men. He is the head of the church – not men. The Lord died on the cross – not men.
Who is greatest in the local church? Jesus Christ is the head of the church universal and local. Men and women should always remember the work of the church is about the work of the Lord. An exalted spirit of self-worth destroys the harmony of God’s pattern of the church when men seek to be great in the church because they believe they are the greatest. It would be a good thing to bring small children into the business meetings and elders meetings to remind everyone who is the greatest. The local church should look to the spirit of their children to learn how to love one another. Receiving one of those little children in the name of Christ receives the Lord Himself. When we receive the spirit of Jesus Christ like a little child, we receive the blessing of the heavenly Father.