Sabbath, June 8, 2019
Lesson 23 – The Greatest in the Kingdom
“‘… The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.’ Mark 10:45. Among His disciples Christ was in every sense a caretaker, a burden bearer. He shared their poverty, He practiced self-denial on their account, He went before them to smooth the more difficult places, and soon He would consummate His work on earth by laying down His life. The principle on which Christ acted is to actuate the members of the church which is His body. The plan and ground of salvation is love. In the kingdom of Christ those are greatest who follow the example He has given, and act as shepherds of His flock.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 550.
Ambition and dispute
1. What discussion concerning the kingdom arose among the disciples as they were walking along the way? What did this reveal about them?
Luke 9:46 Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest.
Mark 9:33, 34 And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? 34But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest.
Matthew 18:1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
“When Christ and the disciples were alone in the house,… Jesus called the others to Him, and asked, ‘What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?’ Mark 9:33. The presence of Jesus, and His question, put the matter in an entirely different light from that in which it had appeared to them while they were contending by the way. Shame and self-condemnation kept them silent.
Jesus had told them that He was to die for their sake, and their selfish ambition was in painful contrast to His unselfish love.
“When Jesus told them that He was to be put to death and to rise again, He was trying to draw them into conversation in regard to the great test of their faith…. But although He had spoken so plainly of what awaited Him, His mention of the fact that He was soon to go to Jerusalem again kindled their hope that the kingdom was about to be set up. This had led to questioning as to who should fill the highest offices…. At last one ventured to ask Jesus, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 434, 435.
2. How did the Lord address their concerns? What example did He use to replace their ambition and desire for position with sincerity and humility?
Mark 9:35 And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.
Luke 9:47, 48 And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by him, 48And said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great.
“If we would but learn the wonderful lessons which Jesus sought to teach His disciples from a little child, how many things that now seem insurmountable difficulties would wholly disappear! When the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?… Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
“‘Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’ Matthew 18:1-4.” –The Adventist Home, pp. 279, 280.
The right way
3. What great changes did He say need to take place in the life of one who desires to be prepared to enter the heavenly kingdom?
Matthew 18:2, 3 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, 3And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
“The path to heaven is no smoother now than in the days of our Saviour. All our sins must be put away. Every darling indulgence that hinders our religious life must be cut off. The right eye or the right hand must be sacrificed if it cause us to offend. Are we willing to renounce our own wisdom and to receive the kingdom of heaven as a little child? Are we willing to part with self-righteousness? Are we willing to give up our chosen worldly associates? Are we willing to sacrifice the approbation of men? The prize of eternal life is of infinite value. Will we put forth efforts
and make sacrifices proportionate to the worth of the object to be attained?” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 222.
4. Explaining His teaching, what is it about children that Jesus said will make a person greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
Matthew 18:4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Mark 10:14, 15 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. 15Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.
“I saw that the strength of the children of God is in their humility. When they are little in their own eyes, Jesus will be to them their strength and their righteousness, and God will prosper their labors.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 307.
“To be great in God’s kingdom is to be a little child in humility, in simplicity of faith, and in the purity of love. All pride must perish, all jealousy be overcome, all ambition for supremacy be given up, and the meekness and trust of the child be encouraged. All such will find Christ their rock of defense, their strong tower. In Him they may trust implicitly, and He will never fail them.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 130.
Loving attention and esteem, not rebuke and offense
5. What incident showed that the disciples had little interest in and attention for children? What similar risk can we run because of ambition or insensitivity?
Matthew 19:13, 14; 18:6, 7 Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. 14But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven…. 18:6But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. 7Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!
“Let the minister not forget to encourage the precious lambs of the flock. Christ, the majesty of heaven, said, ‘Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.’ Jesus does not send the children to the rabbis; He does not send them to the Pharisees; for He knows that these men would teach them to reject their best friend. The mothers that brought their children to Jesus, did well. Remember the text, ‘Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.’ Mark 10:14. Let mothers now lead their children to Christ. Let ministers of the gospel take the little children in their arms, and bless them in the name of Jesus. Let words of tenderest love be spoken to the little ones; for Jesus took the lambs of the flock in His arms, and blessed them.” –(Review and Herald, March 24, 1896) Evangelism, pp. 349, 350.
6. If we are truly interested in the kingdom of heaven, what will we focus on instead of being ambitious or aspiring to a position?
Matthew 18:8, 9 Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. 9And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.
“Any habit or practice that would lead into sin, and bring dishonor upon Christ, would better be put away, whatever the sacrifice. That which dishonors God cannot benefit the soul. The blessing of heaven cannot attend any man in violating the eternal principles of right. And one sin cherished is sufficient to work the degradation of the character, and to mislead others. If the foot or the hand would be cut off, or even the eye would be plucked out, to save the body from death, how much more earnest should we be to put away sin, that brings death to the soul!” –The Desire of Ages, p. 439.
7. What thought will help us to maintain respect for one another? What esteem should we have for those considered as the least?
Matthew 18:10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.
Philippians 2:3, 4 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
“If our lives are filled with holy fragrance, if we honor God by having good thoughts toward others, and doing good deeds to bless others, it matters not whether we live in a cottage or a palace. Circumstances have but little to do with the experiences of the soul. It is the spirit cherished which gives coloring to all our actions. A man at peace with God and his fellow men cannot be made miserable. Envy will not be in his heart; evil surmising will find no room there; hatred cannot exist. The heart in harmony with God is lifted above the annoyances and trials of this life. But a heart where the peace of Christ is not, is unhappy, full of discontent; the person sees defects in everything, and he would bring discord into the most heavenly music…. Those whose hearts are filled with love of self will store away evil thoughts of their brethren and will talk against God’s instrumentalities. Passions kept warm and fierce by Satan’s promptings are a bitter fountain, ever sending
forth bitter streams to poison the life of others…. Let each one who claims to follow Christ esteem himself less and others more.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 488.
For additional study
“In the providence of God we are associated with those who are inexperienced, with many who need pity and compassion. They need succor, for they are weak. Young men need help. In the strength of Him whose lovingkindness is exercised toward the helpless, the ignorant, and those counted as the least of His little ones, we must labor for their future welfare, for the shaping of Christian character.
The very ones who need help the most will at times try our patience sorely. ‘Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones,’ Christ says, ‘for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven.’ Matthew 18:10. And to those who minister to these souls, the Saviour declares: ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.’ Matthew 25:40.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 348.