In Seeking to Be Great You’ve Become Arrogant, Critical & Judgmental

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses forty- four through sixty-two of the ninth chapter. I WILL FOLLOW! FOLLOW ME! I WILL FOLLOW YOU, BUT FIRST! WHO IS THE GREATEST? WHO IS WITH US? CALLING DOWN FIRE? When you come to this particular portion of scripture you will find a series of events which took place within the lives of the disciples which were misguided and out of touch with the character and nature of Jesus the Christ. As you take the time to read the words which are found and contained within this passage of scripture you will find it opening and beginning with yet another statement from Jesus Christ concerning the suffering and death He would face within the city of Jerusalem at the hands of the religious system and community. What is actually quite interesting is that earlier on in this chapter you will find the account of Jesus taking Peter, James and John to the top of a mountain where He prayed before and unto His Father. It was there upon the mountain where the disciples saw, witnesses and beheld Jesus transfigured before them as His countenance was altered in their presence and before their eyes. What’s more, is that there atop the mountain Jesus appeared transfigured in a measure of the glory which He has with the Father before time began, and even appeared talking with Moses and Elijah. There stop the mountain Jesus was transfigured before the eyes of the disciples, and appeared with Moses and Elijah—those who represented the Law and the prophets—and appeared speaking with them concerning His decease in Jerusalem. This is actually quite interesting when you think about it, for two of the disciples who were present atop the mountain during this experience were James and John who you will fine are two of the main characters in the passage which is before us today. We dare not miss the presence of these two brothers and two sons of Zebedee, for their presence atop the mountain is actually intriguing when you consider it in light of that which we find in the passage at the conclusion of the ninth chapter.

After Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John atop the mountain and appeared in His glory speaking with Moses and Elijah, we find only a few short verses later Jesus declaring unto His disciples once more the suffering He would face and experience within the city of Jerusalem. Immediately after Jesus drive the spirit of the unclean devil out of the boy who’s father came falling before Jesus the Christ, we find Jesus once more speaking unto His disciples and declaring unto them His suffering and death which would take place within the city of Jerusalem. Earlier on in the gospel of Luke you will find Jesus asking His disciples who men said that He the Son of man was before driving it home and asking them who they said that He the Son of man was. After Simon’s bold declaration that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, we find Jesus issuing His first teaching that He would suffer at the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders, and would ultimately be out to death before being raised from death to life on the third day. The teaching we find in the passage before ya today is actually quite unique and astonishing, for within it we find once more Jesus declaring unto His disciples that He would both suffer and die at the hands of the religious system and community during that day. Here within this passage we find it opening with a statement and declaration of Jesus unto His disciples concerning His suffering and death—a saying which confused and perplexed the disciples. If you read the words which Luke wrote in this passage of scruffier you will find him describing how the disciples were confused concerning this saying of Christ, and how they were afraid to ask Him concerning what He meant. Consider the fact that Jesus had just declared unto His disciples that He was going to suffer and die, and yet His disciples could not understand these words. What’s more, is that the disciples were fearful and afraid to ask Jesus what He meant when He spoke these words. In all reality, I happen to find this incredibly unique and intriguing, for this wasn’t the first time Jesus had spoken unto and taught His disciples concerning His suffering and death. In all reality, this would most likely have been the second time Jesus spoke unto His disciples concerning His suffering and death—something that undoubtedly confused and perplexed them.

What I find to be so incredibly challenging when reading this passage of Scripture is how Jesus taught His disciples concerning His suffering and death, and yet they could not understand and comprehend that which Jesus was speaking unto them. Here Jesus was speaking unto and teaching the disciples concerning His suffering and death, and yet the disciples could not understand the words which Jesus spoke unto them. The question I can’t help but ask myself when reading the words which are found within this passage of scripture is why, and even how the disciples could not understand that which Jesus was speaking unto them. Was it that they couldn’t understand what He was saying period, or they couldn’t understand why and how Jesus could experience and face suffering—let alone death. As you read the words which are found and contained within this passage of Scripture you will find it beginning and opening with all those who were present at this particular moment being amazed at the mighty power of God after Jesus had caused the spirit of the unclean devil to come out of the boy who’s father fell down at the feet and begged Him to heal and deliver his son. This passage of Scripture opens up with all those who were present on this particular occasion being amazed at the mighty power of God, but also wondered every one at all the things which Jesus had done up until that moment. Here on this particular occasion—not only was there a sense of amazement, but there was also a sense of wonder within the hearts and minds of those who were present when Jesus drover out the spirit of the unclean devil from the life of this young boy who was regularly and routinely tormented and oppressed by this spirit. After the spirit came out of this young boy there was a sense of amazement which was present within the hearts and minds of those who were present on this particular day, as they beheld the power, the might and the authority of the living God among men and within their lives. On this particular occasion there was a sense of amazement at the power of God, but with that amazement with and at the mighty power of God, there was also a sense of wonder at the things which Jesus did—perhaps because they couldn’t wrap their hearts and minds around the great works which Jesus performed and completed within and upon the earth. While it was true that there was a sense of amazement within the hearts of those who were present on this particular occasion, there was also a tremendous sense of wonder in and at the works which Jesus did, for men and women could not understand and comprehend the great works which Jesus did, for Jesus was doing things which up until that time had not been done or performed among men within the earth. Outside and aside from Jesus the only other time within the history of the children of Israel when such great miracles were being completed and performed among men was during the days of Elijah when the Lord wonderfully and powerfully used him to preach righteousness and turn the hearts of men back to Him. What’s more, is that the miracles which were performed during the days of Elijah were increased two-fold during the days of the one who succeeded him, for during the days of Elisha we find him performing twice as many miracles before and among the children of Israel as did Elijah during the days of his appointment and assignment.

As I read the words which are found within this particular passage of Scripture, I can’t help but be drawn to the tremendous reality that those who were present on this occasion were both amazed at the mighty power of God, but also wondered at all the things which Jesus did. Undoubtedly they were trying to wrap their heads around and understand the works which Jesus the Christ had done and was doing among men, for such works had not been done or performed among men up to that point. Most of those who were present during those days had heard of the prophet Elijah and the great works he did among the children of Israel during the days of his appointment, and most would have heard of the great works and ministry of Elisha and the great ministry and works he himself performed among men within the southern kingdom of Israel during the days of a divided kingdom. It’s worth noting that from the time of Elijah and Elisha, there had not been such great works which were performed before and among men—that was until the days of Jesus the Christ. It was true the days of Elijah and Elisha were filled with great signs, great wonders, and great works, however, during the days of Jesus we find a great explosion and manifestation of the power of God among men such as had not been experienced or manifested among men. It would be during the days of Jesus the Christ that the mighty works and power of God would be put on full display among the children of Israel, as well as those in Samaria, and those in Tyre and Sidon. It would be during the days of Jesus the Christ when a great manifestation of the mighty power of God would be witnessed and experienced within and upon the earth, for it would be during the days of Jesus the Christ when the lame would rise up again, the blind would see, the deaf would hear, the mute would speak, the dead were raised, lepers would be cleansed, and the all those who needed healing and deliverance would find what they were looking and searching for in the person of Jesus the Christ. In fact, when Jesus sent the two disciples of John back to him while he was still alive and in the prison, He sent them back with a testimony of the great and mighty works which were performed and completed among men. Consider if you will the words which are found written and recorded in the seventh chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke, for not only do we find in this passage of Scripture the disciples witnessing and beholding the tremendous might and power of God through and in the person of Jesus Christ, but we also find them receiving instruction from Jesus to take what they had seen, what they had heard, and what they had witnessed and bring it back to John. Beginning with the nineteenth verse of the seventh chapter we find the following words:

“And John calling unto him two of his disciples ent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? Or look we for another? When the men were come unto Him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou He that should come? Or look we for another? And in that same hour He cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind He gave sight. Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me” (Luke 7:19-23).

Within this passage of Scripture we find the disciples of John not only returning unto him with a wonderful witness of the mighty works and power of God, but we also find them returning unto him with a mighty testimony directly from the mouth and lips of Jesus the Christ. What I so love about the words which Luke writes and records in this passage of Scripture is that Luke writes and records how in that same hour—the same hour of their questioning—Jesus healed many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits, and unto many of those who were blind gave He them their sight. IN THE HOUR OF QUESTIONING, BEHOLD, POWER! IN THE HOUR OF QUESTIONING, BEHOLD, HEALING! IN THE HOUR OF QUESTIONING, BEHOLD THE WORKS OF CHRIST! IN THE HOUR OF CONFUSION, BEHOLD, POWER! IN THE HOUR OF DOUBT, BEHOLD, POWER! IN THE HOUR OF OFFENSE, BEHOLD POWER! The words which Jesus the Christ spoke unto the disciples of John are actually a tremendous statement of the mighty works and power of God which was manifested among the hearts and lives of men within the earth, for during those days the mighty power of God was present and available to heal the sick, to drive out spirits of unclean devils, and to raise the dead. It would be during those days that the mighty power of God would be present and manifested among the hearts of men in order that they might behold and witness the awesome and wonderful works of Jesus the Christ. It would be during the days of Christ that the works and power of God would be on display before the eyes of men, and such as had never been seen or witnessed before. It was true that during the days of Elijah and Elisha men beheld the mighty power of God displayed through the signs, the wonders and the miracles which they performed before them, however, even the days of Elijah and Elisha could not compare to the times and days of the Son of man when Jesus would heal the sick, would cause the blind to see, would cause the deaf to hear, would cause the mute to speak, would cause the dead to be raised, would cause the lepers to be cleansed, and would cause the spirits of unclean devils to be cast and driven out. What we find within this passage of Scripture is a tremendous and wonderful picture of those who were present during the days of Jesus being amazement at the mighty power of God, as well as wondering at the works which Jesus performed before and among them, for such works had not been completed before them since the days and time of Elijah and Elisha. How absolutely incredible is this particular passage of Scripture, for it brings us face to face with the amazement and wonder that surrounds the works which Jesus the Christ performs before and among men, as Jesus manifests the mighty power of God before the eyes of men as He fulfills the purpose, the mission and assignment of the Father for Him during those days.

Upon reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture I can’t help but find that in the same place of amazement and wonder at the works and mighty power of God, Jesus said and declared unto His disciples that the Son of man would be delivered into the hands of men. In the place of wonder and amazement we find Jesus emphatically declaring unto and teaching His disciples once more that He would be delivered into the hands of men—words which ultimately spoke of His suffering and death. Once more, Luke writes and declares in this particular moment the disciples understood not the saying which Jesus spoke, for it was hid from them, and they perceived it not. What’s more, is the disciples feared to ask Jesus concerning the words which He spoke unto them. It’s necessary that we understand that which is found and contained within this passage of Scripture, for what begins with amazement at the mighty power of God, and would continue with Jesus teaching His disciples that He would be delivered into the hands of men would ultimately transition into a place where the disciples themselves would get into a debate as to which of them should be the greatest. Pause for a moment and consider the tremendous weight, significance and magnitude of what is found written and recorded in this particular place, for after just hearing Jesus declare unto them that He would be handed over to men and would be delivered into their hands, the disciples allowed themselves to get into a debate as to which among them would be the greatest. Pause for a moment and consider the fact that such a discussion even took place among the disciples—particularly considering the words which they had heard Jesus speak and declare unto them concerning the necessity of humility and servitude among others. Consider if you will how incredibly ironic it is that after just hearing Jesus declare and speak unto them that He would be delivered into the hands of sinners, they would actually allow themselves to get caught up in a debate and reasoning as to which among them would be the greatest. Here was Jesus the Christ speaking unto them concerning His being delivered into the hands of men, and to suffer and be crucified, and yet the only thing the disciples could think about was which among them would be the greatest. What’s more, is that it is actually incredibly challenging that the disciples who walked with and followed Jesus could and would allow themselves to get caught up in the trap of seeking to ascend and climb an imaginary ladder within the kingdom of heaven, and to somehow ascend and rise to the top. I have to admit that I am completely and utterly amazed at the fact that the disciples who walked with and followed Jesus could allow themselves to get caught up in a debate concerning and regarding who among them was the greatest. I love how the apostle Matthew presents one such occurrence among disciples concerning who was the greatest—perhaps even the very occurrence which the beloved physician Luke wrote of in this passage. Consider if you will that which is found written in the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew beginning with the first verse:

“At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humbler himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom o heaven. And who shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offenses! For it must needs be that offense come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh! Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands of two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire” (Matthew 18:1-9).

This same reality is found written and recorded within the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded by John Mark, for in the ninth chapter you will find Mark presenting a different and unique accounting of this same event. If you begin reading with and from the thirty-third verse of the ninth chapter of this New Testament gospel you will find the following words written and recorded by John Mark:

“And He came to Capernaum: and being in the house He asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. And He sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any many desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. And He took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when He had taken him in his arms, He said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but Him that sent me” (Mark 9:33-37).

That which is found within the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, that which is found in the ninth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Mark, and that which is now found in the ninth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke are all accounts of the same event which took place within the hearts and lives of the disciples, for these three gospel authors felt compelled by the Holy Spirit of the living God to present this particular encounter in their writings concerning the life and Jesus the Christ. What’s actually quite unique about this is the fact that of these three authors, the apostle Matthew was actually one of those who reasoned and disputed with others concerning who among the disciples was and should be the greatest. It would be the apostle Matthew who would not write of this occurrence from a place of hearing it from others, but from a place of actually being there when it took place and occurred. What I find to be so absolutely intriguing about what is found in each of these three accounts of the same event which took place within the lives of the disciples is that this wasn’t the first and last time the disciples would allow themselves to get caught up in a dispute as to who among them would be the greatest. You would think that this would have happened once within the lives of the disciples—particularly and especially considering Jesus sought to correct their thinking by placing a child before them in their midst—however, the gospel accounts record how this simply was not the case. There would be another occurrence within the lives of the disciples when they would reason among themselves as to which one among them would be the greatest. If you continue reading the gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ you will find that at the Last Supper the disciples allowed themselves once more to get caught up in the debate and debacle that is disputing who and which among them is and should be the greatest. If you begin reading with and from the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke you will find the following words which were recorded by the beloved physician:

“And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. And He said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? But I am among you as he that serveth. Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:24-30).

Now, I would like to say that I am somehow above allowing myself to get caught up in this same type of debate and dispute which the disciples themselves got into—not only once, but twice—however, I am compelled to consider the fact that these were men who walked with and followed Jesus the Christ. I am drawn to the fact that if the disciples—those who walked with and those who followed Jesus—could allow themselves to get caught up in a debate concerning which among them was the greatest, so also could we who are walking with and following Christ in this generation. If the disciples who physically walked with Jesus, talked with Jesus face to face, ate with Jesus, and beheld the great works which Jesus the Christ performed among men within and upon the earth could allow themselves to get caught up in a debate as to which one among them was the greatest, then what makes us think that we ourselves can’t be drawn into the same debate and strife. It’s interesting and worth noting that when writing concerning the Last Supper when Jesus partook of the Passover meal with the disciples, Luke described that which took place among the disciples a strife concerning which one among them would be the greatest. It is actually quite interesting to consider that in the face of suffering and death the disciples could allow themselves to get caught up and drawn into a strife and debate as to which among them should be accounted the greatest. Consider the fact that the disciples were even concerned with which one among them should be the greatest, and how they each sought to ascend and climb some type of kingdom ladder in order that they might come out on top of those before and around them. In all reality, I would dare say that this same reasoning and this same dispute and strife which was found among the disciples—not once, but twice—is the same type of mindset which is still found within the hearts of the followers of Jesus today. There has been a lot which has been said and written concerning corporate America, however, I would dare say that there is such a thing as “Corporate Christianity,” for there are men and women who continue to strive among men in order that they might attain and achieve some level, some degree and some measure of greatness among men within and upon the earth. There are those among us today within this generation who live their lives and spend their days continually and daily striving through works in order that they might somehow climb to the top of the “kingdom ladder” in order that they might somehow be accounted as great—not only great before and among the eyes of men, but also great in the sight of the living God. There are men and women who are deceived into thinking and believing that there is even some type of “kingdom ladder” which needs to be climbed and ascended in order that they might be accounted as great—not only in the sight of the living God, but also before and in the eyes of men.

What I find to be so incredibly unique and challenging within this passage of Scripture is that not only did the disciples allow themselves to get caught up in a debate and strife as to which one among them should and would be accounted as the greatest, but we also find and read of two distinct mindsets which were found within the hearts and minds of James and John whom Jesus declared as “the sons of thunder.” As you read this passage of Scripture you will find that directly on the heels of being part of a dispute as to which among them would be the greatest, John the brother of James and son of Zebedee spoke unto Jesus how they saw one casting out devils in His name, and how they forbade him from doing so because he followed not with them. It’s worth noting Jesus’ response to John’s words, for I would dare say that John expected to find some type of approval and pleasure within the heart of Jesus for their “awareness” of the ministry and name of Jesus within and upon the earth, and for their diligence to guard and safeguard the ministry which they themselves engaged in upon the earth. There is not a doubt in my mind that John brought this instance up before Jesus the Christ, for he fully expected Jesus to approve of their concern over the ministry which was being performed upon the earth among men. Surely Jesus would have approved of and would have been pleased with their willingness to guard the ministry, and to rebuke those who cast out devils in the name of Jesus because they followed not with them. Surely Jesus would appreciate their rebuke of those who perhaps they felt should not engage in such ministry because they followed not with them. The truth of the matter is thatJesus was neither impressed with, nor did He approve of their forbidding this one from casting out devils in His name, for Jesus declared that whoever was not against them was for them. Oh, I can’t help but wonder how many times we in this generation rebuke those around us when we witness and behold them engaging in ministry for and on behalf of Christ because they do not walk with and follow us, or because they are not associated with us. I can’t help but think about how many times we have sought to quench the ministry of others simply because they are not associated with us, and somehow do not fit into the box which we have created and formed in our churches, in our ministries, in our denominations, and in our circles. How many times have we been deceived into thinking that our “zeal” for the ministry, and for the works of Christ is actually justified and pleases Jesus, when in all reality the only thing we are doing is attempting to assert our own perception of greatness over and above others? I am convinced that the only reason John brought this up, and the only reason the disciples sought to forbid this one from casting out devils was because they allowed themselves to get caught up in the debate as to who was in fact the greatest. It was their desire to be great, and perhaps to be the only name in town that they sought to forbid those around them who were casting out devils in the name of Jesus because they followed not with them. How absolutely interesting and incredible it is to think about and consider how not only did the disciples allow themselves to get caught up in a debate concerning which among them was the greatest, but they attempted to assert that greatness over and above others who were engaging themselves in ministry for the kingdom of God within and upon the earth.

As you continue reading this passage of Scripture, you will find this debate and dispute among them concerning which was the greatest being manifested in yet another way which was neither pleasing, nor desired by Jesus the Christ. Immediately after Luke writes how they disputed and argued as to which one among them was the greatest, we find John declaring unto Jesus how they forbade one from casting out devils in His name because they followed not with them. After this, we find Jesus setting His face to go toward Jerusalem, and sending messengers before His face into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for Him. What we find concerning this particular endeavor is that this village of the Samaritans did not receive Jesus because His face was as though He would go to Jerusalem. This infuriated and angered James and John—these sons of thunder—for when they saw this, they asked the Lord whether or not they should command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them as Elijah did. In other words, not only did John speak of forbidding another from casting out devils in the name of Jesus because they followed not with them, but now we find John and his brother James wanting to call down fire to consume those who did not and would not receive Jesus among them. Please don’t miss and please don’t lose the significance of that which is found within this passage of Scripture, for what we find here is a misguided attempt to assert our greatness over others—not only those who do not walk with and follow with us, but also those who perhaps do not receive Jesus the Christ among them in their midst. Immediately after we read of the dispute among the disciples as to which among them would be the greatest we find John at the center of two lesson and rebukes of Jesus Christ—the first being a rebuke against seeking to stifle the ministry of those who did not follow them, and the second being a rebuke concerning the spirit and mindset he allowed himself to get caught up in when he asked about calling down fire from heaven to consume others. Isn’t it absolutely intriguing and interesting to think that in our own pursuit of greatness—not only can we allow ourselves to get into a mindset where we are better than others, and as a result, seek to condemn, quench and stifle the ministry of others because they walk not with and follow not us? Isn’t it absolutely amazing that in our pursuit and endeavor to be great in the kingdom of heaven we allow ourselves to get caught up in the mindset of vengeance and vindication toward and against those who do not receive Christ, or even those who do not receive us? How absolutely tragic and dangerous it is to allow ourselves to get caught up in a debate concerning greatness, for such a debate has the potential to bring us into a place where we seek to quench the ministry of others, and even condemn, judge, criticize and destroy those who do not receive Jesus the Christ. It’s interesting and worth noting that within this passage of Scripture—not only do we find one who did not follow with them, but we also find an entire village that did not receive Jesus the Christ. Oh how absolutely necessary it is within our hearts and lives that we understand the tremendous danger in pursuing greatness within the kingdom of heaven, for such a pursuit is a deadly trap and temptation that can lure us into a place of judgment, a place of criticism, and a place of seeking to destroy those before and around us whom we have absolutely no right to criticize, judge and condemn. Oh that we would read the words which are found within this passage of Scripture and that we would evaluate the condition of our hearts and seek to understand whether or not we are such tho are seeking to pursue our own degree and measure of greatness, and are in danger of falling into the trap of entering into a place of judgment, criticism, condemnation and rebuke of others in order to assert our greatness, or our own perception and belief of ourselves.

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