46 And an argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. 47 But when Jesus perceived the thought of their hearts, he took a child and put him by his side, 48 and said to them, "Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me; for he who is least among you all is the one who is great." 49 John answered, "Master, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he does not follow with us." 50 But Jesus said to him, "Do not forbid him; for he that is not against you is for you."
Meditation: Are you surprised to see the disciples of
Jesus arguing about who is the greatest among them? Don't we do
the same thing? The appetite for glory and greatness seems to be
inbred in us. Who doesn't cherish the ambition to be "somebody"
whom others admire rather than a "nobody"? Even the psalms
speak about the glory God has destined for us. "You have made
them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and
honor" (Psalm 8:5). Jesus made a dramatic gesture by placing
a child next to himself to show his disciples who really is the
greatest in the kingdom of God.
What can a little child possibly teach us about greatness? Children in the ancient world had no rights, position, or privileges of their own. They were socially at the "bottom of the rung" and at the service of their parents, much like the household staff and domestic servants. What is the significance of Jesus' gesture? Jesus elevated a little child in the presence of his disciples by placing the child in a privileged position of honor at his right side. It is customary, even today, to seat the guest of honor at the right side of the host. Who is the greatest in God's kingdom? The one who is humble and lowly of heart - who instead of asserting their rights willingly empty themselves of pride and self-seeking glory by taking the lowly position of a servant or child.
Jesus, himself, is our model. He came not to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:28). Paul the Apostles states that Jesus "emptied himself and took the form of a servant" (Philippians 2:7). Jesus lowered himself (he whose place is at the right hand of God the Father) and took on our lowly nature that he might raise us up and clothe us in his divine nature. "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6). If we want to be filled with God's life and power, then we need to empty ourselves of everything which stands in the way - pride, envy, self-seeking glory, vanity, and possessiveness. God wants empty vessels so he can fill them with his own glory, power, and love (2 Corinthians 4:7). Are you ready to humble yourself and to serve as Jesus did?
16 For the LORD will build up Zion, he will appear in his glory;
17 he will regard the prayer of the destitute, and will not despise their supplication.
18 Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet unborn may praise the LORD:
19 that he looked down from his holy height, from heaven the LORD looked at the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die;
21 that men may declare in Zion the name of the LORD, and in Jerusalem his praise
Daily Quote from the Early Church Fathers: Jesus, the Physician of souls, amputates vainglory, by Cyril of Alexandria (376-444 AD)
"The passion and lust of pride attacked
some of the holy apostles. The mere argument about who of them was
the greatest is the mark of an ambitious person, eager to stand at
the head of the rest. Christ, who did not sleep, knows how to
deliver. He saw this thought in the disciple's mind, springing up,
in the words of Scripture (Hebrews 12:15), like some bitter plant.
He saw the weeds, the work of the wicked sower. Before it grew up
tall, struck its root down deep, grew strong, and took possession
of the heart, he tears up the evil by the very root...
"In what way does the Physician of souls amputate pride’s passion? How does he deliver the beloved disciple from being the prey of the enemy and from a thing hateful to God and man? "He took a child," it says, "and set it by him." He made the event a means of benefiting both the holy apostles themselves and us their successors. This illness, as a rule, preys upon all those who are in any respect superior to other people".(excerpt from COMMENTARY ON LUKE, HOMILY 54.2)