Who is Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?

by John Kennedy on March 13, 2023

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
                                                                                                                   —Matthew 18:1

Our words reveal our hearts, and this question posed by the disciples to Jesus is no exception to the rule. A parallel passage in Luke 9:46 tells us that an argument had started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest.

Let’s be honest: We are no different from the disciples. We want to know the hierarchy of importance or power in any group with which we are connected. Our human nature looks to see whom we could associate with to elevate ourselves—and whom we should keep at a distance to avoid being perceived as less than we consider ourselves to be.

This is a reflection of our worldliness, not at all in line with the Kingdom.

The real question behind the question in the minds of the disciples seems to have been something like “Could I be the greatest?” Peter, James, or John may have been thinking that surely one of the three of them fit into the spot because of their recent experience of the Transfiguration. Others may have been reasoning “Well, it is certainly not so and so because …”

The question itself seems rather self-seeking, but Jesus does not take the bait. As we shall see, He reinterprets the question along the lines of the Kingdom. What does “great” look like in God’s eyes? That is the question behind what type of person is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Questions for reflection and discussion: How do we compare ourselves to other believers in terms of greatness in the Kingdom of Heaven? Why is our human tendency to rank one another in importance so detestable to God? Is there someone you would consider truly great in the kingdom of heaven? Why do you think so?

Church Bible Reading Plan: Exodus 24; John 3

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