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Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

September 6, 2020 Speaker: Murray Keith Series: Pentecost

Passage: Matthew 18:1–18:20

†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Matthew 18:1-20
Date: September 6th, 2020; Pentecost 14; Series A
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
  • The disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
  • What a strange question. 
  • In our Gospel reading from last Sunday, Jesus began to teach his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.
  • He taught them that one needs to lose their life in order to save it and that if anyone would come after Him, they must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Him. 
  • He was preparing them for the suffering that was ahead and He was teaching them something very profound about the kingdom of heaven.
  • So, in this context, it’s strange that the disciples were worried about their pecking order, about who is the greatest. 
  • It seems they were still focused on the things of this world and not on the things of God.
  • How do you measure greatness? 
  • We often think of greatness in terms of accomplishment. 
  • Great men and women accomplish great things, they make a great impact. 
  • In business the great ones are the titans of industry, the ones who build huge companies and make billions of dollars.
  • In politics, the great ones are those with great power, the ones who change the course of history, those who make history.
  • In sports we think of those who are at the top of their game, those who dominate, and find a way to win.
  • In fact, a good example of this is how Wayne Gretzky has become known as the “Great One” for all that he accomplished on the ice.
  • In the kingdoms of this world, we think of greatness in terms of power and influence, the survival of the fittest, those who make it to the top.
  • But what about the kingdom of heaven?  What does greatness look like there?
  • To answer the disciple’s question, Jesus called over a little child and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (18:2-4). 
  • Jesus did not choose one of his disciples to be an example of the greatest, but a child.
  • Here Jesus teaches us that the one who is humble and dependent on God like a little child is the greatest in the Kingdom. 
  • One who repents of pride, one who acknowledges their abject need for God’s grace, one who looks to Christ for salvation—that’s true greatness in God’s kingdom.
  • Jesus teaches paradoxical truth, things that seem absurd and self-contradictory according to how we understand the world. 
  • The greatest is the least. The last is first and the first is last. The greatest isn’t the one who is served, but is the servant.
  • This turned everything upside down for the disciples and it turns everything upside down for us too.
  • Greatness in the kingdom of heaven is not about achievement, about religious works and accomplishments, it’s not about anything we do.
  • To be great in the kingdom of heaven is humble yourself, to repent of your sin, to bring your failures and brokenness to the One who forgives and heals and saves.
  • Jesus not only taught this truth about greatness—He lived it.
  • He entered this sinful world to become the least, to suffer and die on a cross to save the lost.
 
  • St. Paul describes this example of Christ’s humility so well in his letter to the Philippians.
  • He said, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:1-11).
  • Jesus Christ is the Lord who suffered, died on the cross, and rose from the dead.
  • He takes from us all of our sin and in exchange gives us his righteousness.
  • His righteousness is greater than our sin.  
  • His life is stronger than our death and nothing can separate us from His love.  
  • The disciples asked Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
  • It was a strange question given the circumstances.
  • But thankfully Jesus answered it.
  • “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
  • Ultimately the answer is - you are.  
  • You, baptized believer, are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
  • Not because of your own strength and doing – but because God has humbled you and has given you the gift of a child-like faith that receives His love, forgiveness, and gift of eternal life. Thanks be to God! Amen.   
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

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