“Who Is the Greatest?” (Luke 9:46-48)

“Who Is the Greatest?” (Luke 9:46-48)

Who Is the Greatest? (Luke 9:46-48)

We have come to the final accounts of Jesus’s Galilean ministry. Chapter nine has focused on the question: Who is Jesus? The answer is that “He’s the glorious and majestic Messiah.” Peter could say this, but then prove his ignorance about what this actually meant with regard to Christ’s ministry.

The irony of this passage is that it follows after the display of the majesty of Christ in his authority (casting out a demon) and humility . Shortly after Jesus foretold of his sacrificial death the disciples argue about their own greatness. They prove they didn’t grasp what Jesus had taught them.

So, in our passage this morning, Jesus patiently provides them with yet another example.

Read Luke 9:46-48.

Greatness in the kingdom of God begins with humility and grows in humility.

I. A Prideful Argument (46)

According to Mark, the disciples were reluctant to explain to Jesus what they were arguing about. Jesus had to drag their pathetic disagreement into the light. Matt. 18:1-5 clarifies that it was specifically regarding their own personal greatness in heaven. They were arguing over who had more claim to greatness.

While their Master speaks of his death, they argue about status. The argument seems ludicrous on the surface, and yet we have to admit that we see a bit of ourselves in all of it.

Hughes, “Why are things so upside-down? Consider the difference between dogs and cats. They master pets a dog, and the dog wags its tail and thinks, “He must be God.” The master pets his cat, and the cat purrs, shuts its eyes, and thinks to itself, “I must be God.” After God has graciously reached down to us, there is a perverse human tendency to think like the cat!”

We all like to think of ourselves as the dog, but we’re surrounded by a bunch of cats.

Calvin, “And if the apostles so soon forgot a discourse which they had lately heard, what will become of us if, dismissing for a long period meditation on the cross, we give ourselves up to indifference and sloth, or to idle speculations?”

Having spent years walking alongside and sitting under the servant leadership of Jesus, these disciples still had a long way to go. Don’t we all? Pride is a deeply rooted sin that plagues us all.

We have no right to claim our own importance. Let us pray for a spirit of humility. Thus, we ought to look to the humble example of a child.

II. A Humble Example (47)

Isn’t greatness determined by the company one keeps? A child was considered the least important in the eyes of society. It was considered a waste of time to associate with children. Yet Jesus is willing to give this child the best place, at his side. Jesus showed honor to the one society paid the least attention to.

According to Matthew, Jesus explicitly told them they need to become humble like this child. A child possesses a simple faith. We ought to be like the unassuming child. They are the epitome of dependence.

Do you notice how often children are around Jesus? They were drawn to his loving compassion. And it’s not hard to see why considering his outspoken care and appreciation for them (10:21; 17:2; 18:16).

We cannot enter the Kingdom of God unless we become like a child (Mk 10:13-15). Children are far from perfect in their humility, but they are genuinely ignorant of honorary distinctions. A toddler will treat the president the same as any other adult. This is what Jesus is pointing us to.

How we relate to those of low status reveals something of our own humility or pride. Will we interact with those who have nothing to offer? When we throw a banquet, do we show hospitality to the poor and despised?

With the child in place, Jesus gives them…

III. A Wise Answer (48)

Jesus was everything to them and this child was nothing to them. But according to Jesus, when they receive the child they receive him. The exalted will be humbled and the humbled will be exalted (Lk 18:14).

There is no room for rivalry among them. Rather than fighting about who deserves honor, our goal ought to be to outdo one another in showing honor (Rom. 12:10).

When you are willing to associate with those who have no status, you prove a humility that is great in God’s eyes. We are all one in Christ (Gal 3:26-28).

Many years ago John Newton, the converted slave trader who became a preacher and a Christian poet, lay upon his deathbed. A young clergyman came to see him and expressed deep regret at the prospect of losing so eminent a laborer in the Lord’s vineyard.

The venerable servant of God replied, “True, I’m going on before you, but you’ll soon come after me. When you arrive, our friendship will no doubt cause you to inquire for me. But I can tell you already where you’ll most likely find me—I’ll be sitting at the feet of the thief whom Jesus saved in His dying moments on the cross!”

Although a distinguished man, Newton felt with Paul that he could only class himself among the chief of sinners who have been saved through marvelous grace.

The humility we had to possess when we entered the kingdom of God is the same humility that is required for us to grow.


Greatness in the kingdom of God begins with humility and grows in humility.

The ultimate example in humility is the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus (Mk 10:45; Jn 13:4-5; Php 2:5-10). He who was “meek and lowly of heart” has set an example for us. Greatness is measured by service (Lk 22:27). That is why our Chief Shepherd was the servant of all.