SMALL IS GREAT
"They started arguing over which of them would be the most famous. When Jesus realised how much this mattered to them, He brought a child to His side. 'Whoever accepts this child as if the child were me, accepts me,' He said, 'and whoever accepts me, accepts the One who sent me. You become great by accepting, not asserting. Your spirit, not your size, makes the difference,''' Luke 9:46-48 (The Message).
This issue of who would be the greatest was on-going with the disciples. Being a disciple and follower of Jesus didn't cure them of their power struggle. What was it that drove them to want the highest position in the kingdom He kept talking about? What did they understand by the "kingdom of God" anyway?
From the beginning of His public ministry, Jesus' teaching was aimed at loosing both His disciples and the people who came to listen to Him, from their old ideas about the kingdom of God. They still equated the kingdom with their national boundaries and their national pride. David was their greatest king.
He was a warrior and a champion. Under his rule, the boundaries of their territory were extended to the greatest Israel had ever been. They were a free people. Their enemies had all been defeated and they were safe and at peace under their own king. Roman occupation with its oppression and cruelty aroused a fresh expectation of the Messiah who would deliver them from their enemies and re-establish a golden age of peace and safety. In this kingdom, their king would need a council, and they were surely to be it, but who would be top dog in that council? Each of them wanted the glory that went with the position. James and John even involved their mother in their ambition to be at the top. Perhaps her influence would count for something!
Imagine how shocking and revolutionary His solution was to their squabbling. But, like the issue of His crucifixion, everything He told them about greatness fell on deaf ears. It clashed with their ambition and they dismissed it without another thought. To be really great, Jesus told them, was to stoop down and recognise the value and potential of the smallest and least, a little child, but they would not see it that way.
Children had their place in society but it was at the bottom of the pecking order. They had no authority and wielded no influence. They were there, in the family, waiting to take their place when they became useful as partners in the family business, for example. Until that time, they were irrelevant.
What's the real issue here? To acknowledge a child is to put oneself on his level, to recognise his worth and to see his potential. That means climbing down off one's high horse and being willing to look beyond the end of one's own nose. Jesus was insisting that His disciples foster the same attitude towards a child as He wanted them to have towards the outcasts of society.
It's not about who performs the best for other people to see and congratulate, but it's about who can see the potential for greatness in others and do what we can to nurture them towards fulfilment. When we can come down to the level of a child, we are putting things in their correct perspective.
It's more about cutting ourselves down to size than it is about cutting others down to size. It's about taking authority over our own hearts rather than having authority over other people. Jesus said, 'If you want to rule, rule over yourself first. When you can do that, you are qualified to have authority over others because your humble attitude will enable you to act with grace and mercy towards them.'
Helpless people, especially children, need protection, not exploitation. Whatever position we occupy in society, it is up to us to take care of those who have no voice or power to protect themselves. How will irresponsible people, both mothers who make the decision to get rid of their offspring and those who perpetrate the evil deed, answer for the wholesale slaughter of unborn babies in the light of Jesus' attitude towards little ones?
How do you measure yourself in the light of Jesus' standard?
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