Back in his boxing heyday, Muhammad Ali used to tout himself as “The Greatest.” I have been around pastors who say the same thing about their own ministries, albeit more subtly, of course.
As Jesus neared the week of passion that would culminate in His death on the cross, he shared with His inner band of 12 that, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise” (Mark 9:31, ESV).
How do His faithful respond? By arguing along the way over who will be the greatest. Imagine that. Jesus has just delivered the most personal news and the most dramatic news that will affect all of humanity, and the disciples are so self-enamored that they have a cockfight over who will have more honor in the Kingdom.
I love Jesus’ answer to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (9:35).
The text goes on to say that Jesus picked up a little kid and held him in His arms and then turned to His disciples and made the application: “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me” (9:37).
I find it interesting that Jesus connects the “servant of all” instruction with the “receives one such child” comment. Perhaps one of the greatest ways to be more like Jesus is by simply being willing to lay down self-desire at the feet of a child who has been battered, neglected and wounded. Who knows? Maybe if we do, the scars we see may resemble ones made on a Roman cross.
I wonder if there is a greater fellowship to be had with Jesus when we take Jesus’ words at face value and actually assume He meant them literally. Maybe there really is a “receiving of Jesus” that happens when we receive a child in His name. Just thoughts to consider.