Please read Luke 9:43-48 - Who is the greater one?
Ask the Holy Spirit for help in understanding God's Word.
Yesterday, we considered how Jesus healed a demon-possessed child; for some reason I didn't see the crowd's response. I read it, but it didn't register. I don't know why; it's just what happened. It reminded me of something I did on Monday; here I digress from the passage. I read an article on the BBC News website titled 'US Top court strikes down law limiting abortion.' The picture with the article was of a line of people with a large pro-life banner and, in the foreground, there were two young people, a young man and a young woman holding placards. One said 'Atheist, feminist pro-life,' the other said, 'Atheist against Abortion.' However, because of how they were dressed and their position relative to the pro-life supporters, I bizarrely read those two placards as, 'Atheist, feminist against life,' and 'Atheist pro-abortion'. I know my reading of the first makes no sense, but that is irrelevant because I was completely wrong in my reading of both placards. It was only when I looked at the picture for the third time that I realized what the two placards actually said. My point? Always take care when you read. Be careful how you read what you read. Take care to set aside whatever preconceived ideas you may have, and read what is in front of you. I say that especially so about your reading of God's Word. Take care to read the words before you and not what you think they should be. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you do that. Study the Word of light and truth with attentive seriousness. Keep casual reading for novels and news articles. When reading those things, misreads, while not desirable, do not have an eternal impact (although everything we put into our minds does influence us), whereas misreading the Word of God can have serious consequences.
V43. Astonished at the majesty of God.
What is interesting about the response to Jesus' healing of the demon-possessed boy is that the people were “astonished at the majesty of God”. In witnessing the act of Jesus, done without hesitation and seemingly effortlessly, the people saw something that was awe-inspiring. The scale of it was magnified by the disciples’ previously failed attempts. The only conclusion possible – this was a display of the power of God. It's not that they suddenly understood the deity of Jesus, as Peter had announced under the revelation of the Holy Spirit in Luke 9:20. It was that they saw Jesus as an instrument in the hand of God.
The power of Jesus will not go unseen when he chooses to work. We need to crave the manifestation of his power in our lives and the lives of others.
Jesus doesn't dwell on the marvelling of the crowds. He is not taken by it; it doesn't impress him. And he is not going to allow it to deflect the attention of the disciples from the reality of what is going to happen. He immediately directs them again to the fact that he is doing to die. He does so forcefully. The statement, "Let these words sink into your ears:" is bound to get and keep their attention. He looks them in the eye and says, 'I want you to hear this.' They know by the look in his eyes, and the intonation of his voice that he means it. All of God's Word has purpose and meaning. Significant for a reason, but it is important when we come to these moments when Jesus was saying to his disciples, or others – 'you need to get this', that we stop and get what he is saying because he is speaking to us as well.
In verse 22, Jesus had spoken of how he would be killed; now, he adds another element. He tells the disciples that he is going "to be delivered into the hands of men." What is he saying? He's letting them know that he will be handed over by someone to be killed. Of course, we know that this deliverer will be Judas Iscariot, one of those standing and listening to Jesus, but he is not going to be identified at this point. Matthew says that the disciples were "greatly distressed" at hearing this, Matthew 17:23. Luke focuses on the fact that despite Jesus' clarity, the disciples fail to understand what he is talking about. Not because they wanted to, but because the meaning of the words is concealed from them. So, why did Jesus tell them to make sure they heard what he had to say if he knew they weren't going to understand it. Is that not a bit insensitive? Telling someone to pay close attention to what you're going to say to them if you know that their capacity to understand it is going to be restricted? Yes, it ordinarily would be, but Jesus had a specific reason for doing so. He knows that when he is put to death, they will remember conversations like this, and they will realize that he was fully aware of what was going to happen. What a privilege we have this side of the Cross, to be able to understand these things and live in the light of them.
V46. Who is the greater one?
We now come to the third of the four issues Luke brings out in this section. It is as though he is compiling a little catalogue of the disciples’ thinking. It doesn't make for good reading on their part. Again, we get the barest information from Luke. Matthew, Matthew 18:1, and Mark, Mark 9:33,34 are more forthcoming. The discussion as to which of them is the 'greater one' has been taking place as the disciples have been walking along the road. Evidently, they have no idea that Jesus is aware of what is going on. It is only when they get to Jesus' home in Capernaum that he broaches the matter, with the question, "What were you discussing on the way?" Mark 9:33. A question that, not surprisingly, does not get a response. None of them want to say what they have been talking about.
V47. Jesus speaks to who the greater ones are.
Jesus knows what they have been discussing, and not just the subject, but also the reasoning, the thinking in their hearts. What we really think about something is important, because we have to make choices in our lives. In making those choices, we can either act based on what we think, or we act on what we say we think. What we think and what we say we think are not always the same, for several reasons. The key is to always act based on what we really think because doing otherwise will only create issues further down the road.
Jesus knows what these men are reasoning and thinking, and he is unwilling to let the matter rest, for their good. It may be that Jesus is also conscious, and I obviously say this without making any attribution of blame and resulting sense of guilt, that he may have initiated this discussion by his decision to take Peter, James and John away with him on two occasions. Whatever lay behind it, the issue of who is 'greater' rests on the disciples’ understanding of what constitutes being 'greater'. For them to be greater is measured in terms of ability, role, influence, closeness to Jesus. Note, the discussion is not about who will top the disciples’ tree of greatness; it's more general than that. It is about how they will compare with one another in the eyes of Jesus.
Jesus takes the initiative and addresses the issue. Mark, Mark 9:35, tells us that he sits down. You get the sense that it's like a formal sitting down; he's going to teach them. Jesus asks a child to come and stand among them. The child must have known Jesus because there is no sense that he or she is at all hesitant in their compliance with Jesus' request. Jesus is going to teach the disciples what it means to be the greater one in the Kingdom of God. He will show them that being greater is not about ability, role, influence, but about humility, service, and submission.
V48. The receiving of the child says what?
"Whoever receives this child in my name receives me." What do these words mean? They are critical to understanding the point Jesus is making. Who is the child, in terms of the child's value or worth to the cause of the Kingdom? What can their contribution be? Would the disciples look to the child and view him or her as integral to their Kingdom work? No, the child is just a child. But Jesus is saying, are you willing to receive, accept this child based on my revelation to you? He's not ordering them to receive the child; he says whoever is ready to receive this child in my name, that is, by way of my words of revelation, then they are the greater one in the Kingdom.
But there is more; the one who humbly receives the words of Jesus and acts upon them with heart submission is also receiving and submitting to the Father. This is critical to our lives. In Matthew 7:21-23, at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes it clear that on the Day of Judgement, the separating issue will be the doing of the Father's will through faith in Jesus. We are saved by faith to live in obedience to what God has commanded, not what we think is important for our lives. So, who will be the greater ones in the Kingdom of God? It will be those who hear, receive, accept, engage with and do the Words of Jesus out of humility, with a submissive, servant-heart.
A Psalm to Sing.
Psalm 145B. Link to the words. Link to it being sung. Sing with joy in your heart to God.
It is a privilege to lay into our hearts and minds the light and truth of God's Word.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time,"
Truth for the Mind and Heart.
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 69 - What is forbidden in the sixth commandment?
Answer – The sixth commandment forbids us to take our own life or to take unjustly the life of our neighbour, or anything tending to these ends.
This is taken from https://matt2819.com/wsc where you will find proof texts.
Thank God that you and I can, by his grace, live our lives in humble submission to his revealed will. Ask God to give you a hunger to actually know what God's will is, as he has revealed it in his Word. Ask God the Holy Spirit to help you understand what God shows you, and then to engage with it wholeheartedly.
Take care in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley
Minister, Ottawa RPC