The Least is the Greatest

In the first few verses of Luke 9, Jesus commissions the twelve apostles to go out and preach the Kingdom of God. He gives them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases. Luke 9:6 tells us that they went from village to village preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere. When they returned from their journey, they reported back to Jesus all that they had done.

As we go on in the chapter, we continue to read of the amazing things the apostles witnessed and were involved in—this time, as they traveled with Jesus. Don’t let the wonderment of the situations that the disciples found themselves in with Jesus slip past you. Let these facts permeate your heart and mind:

  • Jesus takes them into His confidence, and He tells them what He will face in the coming days, including His death and Resurrection.
  • The disciples are allowed to witness and even to participate in the miraculous feeding of the five thousand with just five loaves of bread and two fish. They themselves gathered 12 baskets of leftovers!
  • Peter, James, and John witnessed the Transfiguration of Jesus and got to hear the very voice of God the Father as He testifies that Jesus is His chosen Son and that they should listen to Him.

After all of this, Luke 9:46 finds the disciples in an argument over what? Which of them was the greatest?!? There they were with Jesus. He had given them power and authority to cast out demons, preach the gospel, and heal the sick. They had participated in the miraculous and now they were arguing over which of them was the greatest? Unbelievable!

But we can sort of understand. Maybe the wonderful and miraculous things of Jesus that we have been involved with have “gone to our head.” Maybe we, like the disciples, begin to feel that we do a lot for Jesus, that He uses us mightily, and that we deserve some recognition. It is easy to get caught up in the wonder and thrill of it all. Being chosen and sent out! The disciples had seen and been involved in miraculous things! They were on a high. And Jesus, their wise, loving Teacher and Savior used a child to guide them (and us) to reality, to humility.

So, Jesus had a little child stand beside Him. Mark tells us that Jesus took the child in His arms, “Then He said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes this little child in My name welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me welcomes the One who sent Me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest’” (Luke 9:48).

What a lesson in humility! Not the one who has accomplished the most or the one who has given the most or even the one who has served the most—these are not the greatest. But rather, those whose hearts are humble, who recognize, like Jesus, that even a small child is more important than their accomplishments. A complete, and need be, permanent 180-degree turn from thinking of themselves to welcoming, receiving this small child in Jesus’ name.  

The world ranks people in importance because of who they are and what they do . . . actors, athletes, elected officials, etc. Important people do important things. But Jesus says that welcoming this child in His name, while it may seem insignificant to you, is the most important to Him. It takes a change in our hearts and in our thinking. The one who is humble, who the world may see as the least, in the eyes of God, that one is the greatest.

Ruth Smith

Ruth has served in the C&MA alongside her husband, Terry, for over 41 years. Together they have ministered via churches, district offices, and the National Office. They have 2 married sons and 5 beautiful grandchildren. Her greatest delight is ministering as Jesus leads her and loving on her family.

Four Responses to “The Least is the Greatest”

  1. Thank you, Ladies, for your responses. When I first chose this assigned text (Luke 9:46), I have to admit I thought it would take me a much different way. However in the weeks of study the Lord brought out this gentle reminder of what He deems most important. He is so good!

  2. Thank you for that reminder of serving with humility, Ruth. I too can start to feel like “Where’s the recognition or thanks for all I’m doing?” This was a good word for me today.

  3. Ruth, thanks for this word of truth. I have often struggled with the thoughts behind what you said: “we, like the disciples, begin to feel that we do a lot for Jesus…and that we deserve some recognition.” I often want credit for my ideas or some little action I perform. I get so annoyed with myself when that happens b/c I truly want to be selfless and serve with humility. I know I need to extend myself some grace, but I also want to continue to be transformed. I’ve never been one to sit by quietly, but I think God is challenging me to be calm and be of a gentle spirit. You’ve given me a lot to think about, thanks again! …Linda

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