Greatness in the Kingdom

Day 8

Jesus taught a wisdom not of this world and a wisdom that is often contradictory to the conventional wisdom of this world. In Matthew 19 you see people constantly having trouble understanding or accepting the transcendent wisdom of Jesus.

The Pharisees didn’t understand the nature of marriage. Today we live in a society that is increasingly confused about what is marriage. In Matthew 19:3-5, Jesus makes it quite clear.

The disciples didn’t understand the nature of celibacy. Jesus taught there are those called to celibacy for the Kingdom’s sake.

The disciples didn’t understand the relationship between children and the Kingdom. Jesus taught that the Kingdom must be encountered as a child. G.K. Chesterton wrote,

“The exaltation of childhood is something we really do understand; but it was by no means a thing that was then in that sense understood. The pagan world, as such, would not have understood any such thing as a serious suggestion that a child is higher or holier than a man.” (The Everlasting Man, p. 199)

I’m thinking of this line:

Everybody’s wearing a disguise
To hide what they’ve got left behind their eyes
But me, I can’t cover what I am
Wherever the children are, I follow them

The rich young ruler didn’t understand how to obtain eternal life. Do you understand how to obtain eternal life? Jesus’ answer is simple: “Come, follow Me.”

The disciples didn’t understand how people could be saved. Jesus explained it is impossible for men to save themselves, but with God all things are possible.

Peter didn’t understand the nature of reward in the Kingdom. No sacrifice for the Kingdom will ever be left unrewarded.

And we all have trouble understanding the nature of greatness in the Kingdom. Many who are regarded as first now will come in last and many who are overlooked now will come in first. When the Kingdom comes in fullness, things will change!

The line it is drawn and the curse it is cast
The slow one now will later be fast
As the present now will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’

Chapter 20 opens with one of Jesus’ most enigmatic parables. There are still plenty of things from the wisdom of Jesus we find hard to understand. Let me just make this one comment: Those hired first negotiated for a day’s wage (a denarius). Those hired later went to work with only the promise of “whatever is right I will give you.” Those who trust in the grace of God will not be disappointed.

Matthew 20:17-20 marks a change in the story. From this point on Jesus is heading resolutely to Jerusalem and to the cross. Jesus will not return to Galilee until after His suffering, death and resurrection.

But the disciples didn’t really understand this either.

James and John didn’t understand the reality of the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the cup of suffering. They would later.

And Jesus had to again teach His disciples concerning the nature of greatness in the Kingdom.

Chapter 20 concludes with Jesus healing two blind men in Jericho before He heads up to Jerusalem.

Notice that Jesus healed two blind men in Jericho and remember that Jesus healed two demonized men in the country of the Gadarenes. I’ll have something to say about this when we get to Mark’s account of these events.

Jesus, help us to humble ourselves, serve one another and become like children that we might discover true greatness in Your Kingdom. Amen