It was in the early 1970s and I was interrupting one of my Mum's favourite TV programmes… the 'Parkinson Show'. Well I was only a kid and all this Parky guy did was talk, I mean, how boring! And then I saw him. It was Cassius Clay, also known as Muhammad Ali, surely the greatest heavyweight championship boxer ever. My Mum was shouting for us to get to bed and I was replying with something like "Ah, c'mon Mum it's Saturday night and it's CLASSius Clay!"… (as we called him).
As a kid in those days, if you were a footballer, you wanted to be Geordie Best or Denis Law or Pele or maybe even Charlie George, but if it was a boxer, it was always Cassius Clay (Ali). Going back to 'Parky' that Saturday night, not only could Ali fight but boy could he talk! He was telling Parky that he was the greatest, and he seemed pretty sure about it too!
The question of 'Who is the greatest?' was an important topic back then to us kids. Mostly it was about footballers or who had the greatest Dad. So what brought this distant memory back then? It had to be because of one verse I read in the Bible recently.
Talking about the 12 disciples, Luke records this for us…
An argument started among them as to which of them might be the greatest (Luke 9:46)
Jesus' disciples were asking between themselves "Who is the greatest?"… and they were in the very presence of God's Son!
But it is Jesus' answer that I want us to look at briefly this month.
But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, and said to them, "Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great." (Luke 9:47-48)
If I can say this reverently, when I read this many years ago I thought it sounded like a politician's reply. It was a reply but did it really answer the question? Of course, I was wrong. Although deep, it is a very honest and full answer. Please let me explain as I see it now…
Jesus took a young kid and stood him beside Him to make a number of points. Young kids have an innocence sadly lacking in most adults (disciples included!). Young kids have no real notion of superiority, they don't scheme and they have no particular ambition for high honour. This child would also have had no worldly cares or worries.
I think what Jesus was saying, was that His disciples shouldn't be thinking about personal greatness. Jesus came as a humble Servant and He wants His children to be similar. I like what Matthew Henry says about this passage... "They that expect to be great in this world commonly aim high, and nothing will serve them short of being greatest; this exposes them to a great deal of temptation and trouble, which they are safe from that are content to be little, to be least, to be less than the least."
Becoming a follower of Jesus shouldn't lead to position and power! Like the child standing beside Jesus, let us aim to be humble, quiet and gentle.
One thing young children don't have is pride. And yet, as adults, we have it in abundance. I think that Jesus was also pointing out humility that day too. God hates pride and two such prides jump to mind:
God hates pride. But God loves simple, humble faith… like that found in a child.
…and (Jesus) said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Matt 18:3
"Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matt 18:4
Going back to that Parkinson Show, unfortunately Muhammad Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease late in his career. He was a great boxer and showman and is now in his 70th year. Although a practising Muslim for most of his adult life, I would like to think that he may yet humbly accept God's free gift of salvation, secured by One much greater than him…
And when I think that God his Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die - I scarce can take it in,
That on the cross my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin:
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
So who is the greatest then? There really is no contest!
All glory to Jesus, begotten of God,
The great I AM is He;
Creator, Sustainer - but wonder of all,
The Lamb of Calvary!
Until next month then (DV)…
Are you SURE that you have your place booked in Heaven? Read this if you're not!