Finding Jesus In the In Place of In Between

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ as written and recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters twenty-one and twenty-two of this New Testament book. “But they cried the more!” BUT THEY CRIED THE MORE! “And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed Him. And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David. And the multitude rebuked them, because they should hold their peace: but they cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David. And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you? They say unto Him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened. So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him” (Matthew 20:29-34). WHEN THEY HEARD THAT JESUS PASSED BY! CRIED OUT! THE MULTITUDE REBUKED THEM! THEY SHOULD HOLD THEIR PEACE! [YOU SHOULD HOLD YOUR PEACE] WHEN OTHERS TRY TO SILENCE YOUR CRY! WHEN OTHERS TRY AND REBUKE YOUR CRY! ARE YOU WILLING TO CRY OUT ALL THE MORE WHEN OTHERS TRY TO SILENCE YOUR CRY? ARE YOU WILLING TO CRY OUT ALL THE MORE WHEN OTHERS TRY TO REBUKE YOUR CRY? WILL YOU ALLOW YOUR VOICE TO BE SILENCED AND YOUR NEED TO GO UNMET, OR WILL YOU IGNORE THE REBUKES AND THE CALL TO BE SILENT THAT YOU MIGHT LAY HOLD OF THE ATTENTION OF JESUS! [THEY CRIED OUT, THEY CRIED OUT ALL THE MORE]. Before we delve into the words which are found in chapters twenty-one and twenty-two, I feel it is necessary to consider the words which are found in the final verses of the twentieth chapter of this gospel narrative. It is in the final verses of this narrative we find Jesus and His disciples departing from the city of Jericho and a great multitude following Him. As Jesus and this great multitude were departing from the city of Jericho there were two blind men who would be sitting by the way side. Pause for a moment and consider the fact that Scripture describes these two men as being in the very same place as the initial seed of the sower was sown. It would be by the way side the sower would initially sow his seed, and it would be the seed being sown by the way side which Jesus would speak and reference as being those who heard the word of the kingdom and yet did not understand it. What’s more, is that Jesus would go on to describe and declare how the enemy would come and snatch away the seed of the word of the kingdom which was sown into the hearts of those who heard the word and yet did not understand it.

            I sit here this morning thinking about and considering the words which are found in this passage, and I can’t help but be absolutely and completely astonished and amazed with what is found within it, for here we have Jesus departing from the ancient city of Jericho—a city where one of the greatest victories ever recorded in the history of the children of Israel took place. It would be the city of Jericho the children of Israel would first encounter the enemy and adversary upon entering into the land of Canaan, and it would be the city of Jericho that would be tightly shut up so that none went in and none went out. Ultimately the LORD would instruct Joshua and the children of Israel to march around the city in silence one time each day for six days before marching around the city in silence seven times on the seventh day. It would be after the seventh time around the city Joshua and the children of Israel were to shout with all their might outside and against the walls of the city, and it would be in direct response to their shout the LORD would cause the walls of the city to collapse and fall before their eyes. The children of Israel would march straight up into the midst of the city after the walls collapsed, and they would take and capture this first city which would be on the western edge of the Jordan River. What’s more, is that concerning this city Joshua would declare that it was never to be built, nor was it to rise again. That man who attempted to rebuild the city would lay its foundation at the cost of his firstborn son, and would set its gates at the cost of his second son. Eventually there would indeed be one such man who would attempt to rebuild the city, and would bring to pass the words which Joshua had spoken all those years ago.

            What makes the city of Jericho so interesting is that not only was it used in the parable of the good Samaritan which is recorded in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke, but it would also be referenced and mentioned in this passage of Scripture. It is incredibly interesting to think and consider the fact that Jesus would actually enter into and come unto the city of Jericho—this ancient city which had a strong narrative of victory for the people of God when they entered into the land of Canaan and began conquering the land. As the twentieth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by Matthew draws to a close we find Jesus and a great multitude departing from the city of Jericho, and as they were departing from the city there would be two blind men who would be sitting by the way side. Although these blind men could not see Jesus, and although these blind men could not see the great multitude which was walking with and following Jesus they would hear with their ears the noise and commotion of a great multitude coming their way. Moreover, they would hear with their ears that the source and cause of the noise and commotion was because Jesus the Son of David was passing by. After hearing with their ears that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by these two blind men would cry out—and not only cry out in the hearing of Jesus, but cry out in the hearing of the multitude. When these blind men heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by they would immediately cry out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David. BLIND BUT NOT DEAF! BLIND BUT NOT SILENT! What I so absolutely love about these verses is that although these men were blind and could not see, they were not deaf and nor were they silent. These men were without their sight, but they were not without their voice, and it would be their voice that would not only get the attention of the multitude and crowd which followed Jesus, but eventually and ultimately Jesus Himself. When these blind men initially heard Jesus of Nazareth was passing by they would cry out before and unto Him that they might get His attention, for they desired that they might receive their sight and see. Scripture is unclear as to whether or not these men had been blind from birth as was the case with the man whom we read about in the ninth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John. The only thing we know about these men was that they were blind, they were together, and they were sitting by the side of the road.

            BLIND, TOGETHER, SITTING BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD! It’s quite interesting and intriguing to think about and consider the words which are found in this passage of Scripture, for these two men were both blind, and they were both sitting together by the side of the road. I have to admit that I absolutely love that these men were sitting together by the side of the road, as I would love to know their story. I would love to know how these two men and how long they knew each other. I would love to know what brought these men together and how long they had been sitting by that side of the road—waiting, hoping, praying, and maybe even expecting something to change in their circumstance. I wonder how long these men sat by the side of the road without Jesus ever passing by, and how many times they would cry out and beg for alms from those who would pass by. How many times did others pass these two men by—perhaps even passing them by as the priest and Levite did in the parable of the good Samaritan. If you read the words which Jesus spoke in the parable of the good Samaritan you will find that there was a man traveling between Jericho and Jerusalem and who would fall into the hands of those who would not only rob him, but also beat him and leave him half dead by the side of the road—or as Scripture would refer to it as “the way side.” By chance there would be both a priest and a Levite who would come upon this man who lie there by the side of the road half naked, bruised, blooded, beaten and left for dead, and one would completely pass by on the other side of the road, while the other would stop briefly to look upon this man before also walking by the side of the road. After both the priest and the Levite passed by this man who was lying half dead on the side of the road a Samaritan would come upon him—one who would not only bandage his wounds, but would also transport him on his own mule or donkey to a place where he would be cared for until he fully recovered.

            I can’t help but wonder how often these two blind men were passed by, ignored, despised, and even rejected by those who traveled and journeyed along that road. There is a part of me that can’t help but wonder how often these men had cried out for help as they sat their by the side of the road—only to find their cries falling on deaf ears, and their need and plight being completely and utterly ignored. There is not a doubt in my mind that these two blind men had spent a considerable amount of time on the side of the road which would bring men from Jerusalem to Jericho, and vice versa. Here you have these two blind men who were sitting in between two places of victory and triumph in the history of the people of God, as they lived in between the place of broken down walls, and the place of conquered cities. These two men sat by the side of the road in between two powerful examples of victory in the midst of the land of Israel—one which was experienced during the days of David, and the other which was experienced during the days of Joshua. One city would represent conquering land, while the other would represent establishing the land. These two men sat by the side of the road which was between a city conquered during the days of David, and a city conquered during the days of Joshua, and yet they had undoubtedly spent a considerable amount of time being ignored, despised and rejected. It’s something worth noting and pointing out that these two blind men almost appeared to be stuck in this place between two victories, and yet they could not seem to find any type of relief, healing, wholeness or breakthrough. Pause for a moment and think about that truth for a moment—the truth that these two men were sitting in between two powerful examples of breakthrough and victory for the people of God, and yet they could not experience breakthrough and victory within their own lives. These two men sat by the side of the road between two powerful testimonies of victory, and they had perhaps spent a considerable amount of time wondering if they would ever have a testimony of their own. Stop and think about the fact that here we have two men who were blind—and who were not only blind, but were blind in the place between two victories. BLIND IN THE PLACE BETWEEN TWO VICTORIES! BLIND IN THE PLACE BETWEEN TWO TESTIMONIES!

            The more I think about and consider the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I can’t help but think about and consider the fact that these two men were both blind, and they were blind in the place between two victories and two breakthroughs. These men were blind, and sat by the side of the road that would lead men from one powerful place of testimony to another powerful place of testimony. This thought is actually something that is quite astounding and remarkable, for it would be in that place of “in between,” and it would be in that place between two testimonies these blind men would experience and encounter Jesus Christ. FINDING JESUS IN THE “IN BETWEEN!” FINDING JESUS IN THE PLACE BETWEEN TWO TESTIMONIES! FINDING JESUS IN THE PLACE BETWEEN TWO VICTORIES! Scripture is unclear how long these two men sat by the side of the road between Jericho and Jerusalem, and yet we know that on this particular day there would be a commotion and crowd that would be heard on the road between Jericho and Jerusalem. WHEN A COMMOTION IS HEARD OUTSIDE JERICHO AGAIN! WHEN JESUS CAUSES A COMMOTION TO BE HEARD OUTSIDE JERICHO! Scripture makes it abundantly clear that these two blind men sat by the side of the road between Jerusalem and Jericho and that on this particular day they would hear a noise and a commotion—perhaps the sound of a noise and commotion that was different than what they had heard before. Perhaps that which these men had heard on this particular day sounded entirely and altogether different from what they had heard before, and they realized and recognized that it wouldn’t be an ordinary day. On this particular day these men would hear a commotion and noise on this road between Jericho and Jerusalem, and they would hear and know that the source and cause of the noise was that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.

            WHEN A LEVITE PASSES BY! WHEN A PRIEST PASSES BY! WHEN JESUS PASSES BY! It’s something worth noting and pointing out when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture that in the parable of the good Samaritan this man who was traveling between Jericho and Jerusalem would be beaten, robbed, and left for dead. As this man would lie on the side of the road half dead and robbed of possibly everything he had both a priest and a Levite would pass by him, and neither one would give him the time of day, nor would they be bothered with and by him. It is important that we recognize and consider this, for here we have this man who lie half dead by the side of the road, and religion would pass by him—not once, but twice. This man who lie there half naked and bleeding would be passed by by religion—not once, but twice. Stop and think about that fact that religion would come upon this man on two separate occasions, and on both occasions this man would be completely and utterly ignored by it. Both a priest and a Levite would come upon this man along the way, and neither one would stop to actually help him in his current state. Both men would see this  man, would see his desperate state, would see him lying there naked, bleeding, bruised, and half dead, and both would choose to completely and utterly ignore him without stopping at all. There is not a doubt in my mind that just as the good Samaritan stopped to bandage this man and bring him to that place which would take care of him, so also would Jesus like the good Samaritan stop by these men—even when the crowd which walked with and followed Him would try to silence their voices. As you read this particular narrative you will find that the crowd and multitude that was traveling and journeying with Jesus would not only rebuke these two blind men, but would also attempt to silence their cry for mercy. Here we have Jesus of Nazareth and a great crowd and multitude passing by these two men on the side of the road, and when these men began to cry out in the hearing of Jesus there would be those walking with and following Him that would attempt to silence their voices. Scripture is entirely and altogether unclear as to why those within the crowd attempted to silence the voices of these blind men, but suffice it to say they perhaps felt these two blind men weren’t worth the attention or compassion of Jesus. Here we have these two blind men who were sitting together by the side of the road between Jericho and Jerusalem—and not only Jesus, but a great crowd and multitude was passing by—and when they heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth they raised and lifted up their voices as they cried out in the hearing of all those which were present.

            If there is one thing I so absolutely love when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture it’s that when these men heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth who was passing by they immediately began crying out before and unto Him, saying, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David.” The crowd and multitude which was with Jesus would attempt to silence their cry and silence their voices by rebuking them, however, these two blind men would not allow their voices, nor their cries to go unheard. These blind men would not allow their cries, nor their voices to be ignored, for they would cry out all the more—perhaps even louder than before—in order to get the attention of Jesus. As you read the words found in this passage of Scripture you almost get the sense that this crowd which walked with and followed Jesus would not only have been content to ignore the cries of these blind men, but they would also have been content in allowing Jesus to pass them by. Please don’t miss the awesome importance and truth behind those words, for while there is absolutely no indication that Jesus Himself would have been willing to pass these men by—the crowd and multitude which was with Jesus would have been content to do so. It is something incredibly tragic when priests and Levites pass by on the other side of the road when there are those in need in that place, and it is something incredibly tragic when the crowd and multitude which walks with Jesus—not only attempts to silence the cries of the hurting, the cries of the broken, the cries of the blind, but is perhaps also content in allowing Jesus to pass them by. There is not a doubt in my mind that many within the crowd and multitude which walked with Jesus would have been content to allow the needs of these men to go unmet and unfulfilled as they continued walking with Jesus. We aren’t sure how many within the multitude rebuked these two blind men—nor even if it seemed to be a general consensus—but we do know that Scripture reveals that the multitude rebuked them that they might hold their peace. There were those who walked with Jesus who would not only rebuke these two blind men, but would also seek to cause their voices to be silenced. It wasn’t enough that Jesus would have potentially passed by, but there were those within this multitude who would have attempted to silence the cries of these two blind men.

            The words which we find in this passage of Scripture are truly captivating when and as you take the time to look at it, for when these blind men who sat in between the places of testimony and breakthrough cried out to Jesus, the multitude which was with Jesus would not only rebuke them, but would also desire that they hold their peace. There is something to be said about those who are sitting in the place between two testimonies, and sitting in the place between two breakthroughs and victories, and who attempt to cry out in the hearing of Jesus as they cried out for mercy, and there are those who attempt to silence their voices and their cries. The multitude which was with Jesus not only rebuked these two blind men, but rebuked them that their voices and their cries might be silenced. As if it wasn’t bad enough to be in the place between testimonies, and in the place between two breakthroughs and blind, there were those who walked with and followed Jesus who rebuked them that they might silence their voices. The question I can’t help but ask myself when reading these words is how many of us within the body of Christ, and how many of us who walk with and follow Jesus—not only rebuke those who would attempt to cry out for mercy in the hearing and presence of Jesus, but would also try to silence their voices. How many of us within the body of Christ and within the body of Christ would not only try and rebuke those who were in need in the place between two breakthroughs, but would also try and silence the voices of those who were in desperate need? These two men heard that it was Jesus who was passing by, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by they would cry out in the hearing of Jesus and the multitude that was with him that He might have mercy on them. What I so absolutely love and appreciate when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture is that despite the fact that the crowd and multitude rebuked them and tried silencing their voices, they refused to be silenced. These blind men refused to allow their voices to be silenced by others—and not only by others, but by those who walked with and followed Jesus. It’s worth noting that it wouldn’t be scribes and Pharisees who would rebuke these two blind men, but it would be those who walked with and followed Jesus that rebuked them and tried silencing their cry and their voices. It would be those who walked with Jesus who would be the ones that would try and silence the cries of the blind by the side of the road. These men cried out for mercy from the Lord Jesus Christ and the Son of David, and even when those who walked with and followed Jesus sought to rebuke them and silence their voices they cried out all the more asking Jesus the Son of David to have mercy on them.

            BUT THEY CRIED THE MORE! We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found in this passage of Scripture, for what we find within it is two men who were blind who refused to allow their voices and their cries to be silenced—even by those who walked with and followed Jesus. These blind men had perhaps sat by the side of the road for quite some time, and had perhaps been used to being ignored, despised, rejected, rebuked and ignored, but there was something different about this time. This time around these blind men knew that it wasn’t just anyone who was passing by, but it was Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of David. This time around and on this particular day it was Jesus the Christ and the Son of the living God who would pass by on the road from Jericho, and they would not allow their voices to be silenced. These blind men were perhaps used to being ignored, and were perhaps used to being rejected, however, on this particular day they were determined to not only be heard, but also be noticed by Jesus. These blind men refused to allow their voices and their cries to be silenced—especially when they knew that it was Jesus who passed by. They had perhaps grown accustomed to their voices and their cries being silenced by man, but when it came to Jesus of Nazareth they would not back down, they would not be silent, and they would not be quiet. These men were determined to capture the heart and attention of Jesus, and we know that they gathered the attention of Jesus the Christ, for after they cried out all the more, and after they cried out all the louder Jesus stood still, and called unto them. Please catch and make note of this, for it was one thing for Jesus passing by, but it’s something else for Jesus to stand still. The cries of these blind men—and perhaps not only the cries of these blind men, but also the attempt that was made to silence them—which caused these men to cry out all the more, and eventually cause Jesus to stand still. It would be the cries of these blind men that would capture the attention of Jesus, as Jesus would stand still in the midst of the crowd, would call unto them, and would ask them very pointedly and candidly what they desired Him to do for them. It’s worth noting that Jesus didn’t ask them what they wanted Him to do for them, for there is not a doubt in my mind He already knew what they wanted, what they needed, and what He was going to do for them. There is not a doubt in my mind that Jesus knew exactly what these men needed, and what they had been longing for, yet He sought to bring them beyond the place of crying out before and unto Jesus to actually communicating with Jesus.

            When these blind men cried out to Jesus their cry was simply that Jesus would have mercy upon them, but there was something different when Jesus stopped, stood still and called unto them. These men would initially cry out to Jesus that HE would have mercy on them, but there would be something different that would take place when He stopped and called unto them. It would be when Jesus stopped and called unto them that He would ask them what they wanted Him to do for them, and it would be by doing so Jesus would ask them what it was they desired from Him. This is something we dare not and must not forget, for when Jesus asked them what they wanted Him to do for them He was bringing them from the place of crying out to communicating. No longer would they simply be crying out in hopes of getting the attention of Jesus, and no longer would they be crying out asking for Jesus to have mercy on them, but they would now be talking directly with Jesus. There is something about this transition from crying out to Jesus to actually being brought into the place of communicating directly with Jesus that is truly powerful. There is something about crying out to Jesus in the hopes of getting His attention, and in the hopes of getting Him to direct His attention and His gaze toward you, but there is something else entirely and altogether different when you are actually invited in communicating and speaking directly with Him. I absolutely love how these men were brought from the place of crying out unto Jesus by the way side to actually causing Jesus to stand still where He was at—and not only standing still where He was at, but also calling unto them. THE CRY OF THE BLIND MEN, THE CALL OF JESUS! THE CRY, THE CALL AND THE CONVERSATION! These men would cry out unto Jesus as He was passing by, and they would cry out all the more when others attempted to silence their voices as they cried out. These men would not be silenced, and these men would not allow their cries to fall on deaf ears, and they would call out all the more in the presence of Jesus and the multitude. It would be their crying out all the more and all the louder that would actually lay hold of the attention of Jesus as He would invite them to speak directly to Him.

            INVITED FROM THE PLACE OF A CRY TO THE PLACE OF TALKING! These men would cry out in the hearing of Jesus, and in the company and presence of the multitude, and when they refused to be silenced as others perhaps would have, they would capture the attention—and not only the attention, but the stillness of Jesus. I absolutely love that Jesus didn’t merely call unto them while continuing to pass by, but He actually stood still and called unto them from that place of stillness. This was something that neither the priest, nor the Levite actually did when they saw the man who lie on the side of the road half naked, beaten, bloodied, and left half dead. These men saw the need and not only continued passing by, but passed by on the other side. When we read the narrative of Jesus and these two blind men—perhaps on the same road Jesus was thinking and speaking of when delivering the parable—He would stand still in the midst of that road and would actually take the time to speak unto and call out to them. Their refusal to be silence, and their refusal to not allow their cries to go unanswered and unheard would not only capture the very attention of Jesus, but it would also capture the stillness of Jesus. Please do not miss and lose sight of this awesome truth and reality, for as much as these men would gather the attention of Jesus, they would also capture the stillness of Jesus. It would be in that stillness of Jesus—in that deliberate and intentional stopping of forward motion by Jesus—these men would actually be invited into the place of communicating with Jesus. Oh that we would recognize and understand this, for it’s easy to cry out when Jesus is passing by, or when we hear Jesus is passing by; however, it’s something else entirely to speak to and communicate with Jesus as He invites us into His stillness. Notice if you will that it wasn’t the crowd or multitude which caused Jesus to stand still, but rather it was the deliberate and intentional cries of these blind men that caused Jesus to stand still. Moreover, it was in that stillness of Jesus—it was in that moment when Jesus stopped what He was doing and paused where He was going—these men were invited to transition beyond crying out and beyond raising their voices in cries before Jesus to actually speaking directly unto Jesus. What’s more, is that it would be in that stillness of Jesus they would not only be invited to speak with Him, but where they would also be asked what it was Jesus could do for them.

            The more I read and the more I consider the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I am absolutely captivated with the fact that it was in the stillness of Jesus the cry was transformed to communication, and these men were able to be brought into the place of speaking directly unto Jesus. It would be in the stillness of Jesus when Jesus would halt where He was going and stop what He was doing that these men would be able to speak directly to Jesus—and not only speak directly unto Jesus, but actually communicate their hearts and communicate what it was they truly desired from Jesus. If they were willing to be honest with themselves and with Jesus they desired more than simply Jesus to have mercy on them, for they desired that their eyes might be opened. These men desired that Jesus would restore unto them their sight that they might be able to see—perhaps even for the first time, or perhaps again. Oh how much I absolutely love this concept of the stillness of Jesus, for Jesus deliberately and intentionally chose to stand still—to stop in that single place before these two men—and ask them what it was they desired of Him. Jesus would stand still where He was, and it would be in that place of His standing still that He was able to speak with them, and they were able to speak with Him. I am absolutely and completely convinced that we have a great need of understanding this particular reality, for it is this reality that calls and draws our attention to the stillness of Jesus—which is something initiated by Him—and the invitation to speak and converse with Him in that stillness. It is in that stillness of Jesus we see and encounter the awesome and tremendous reality of Jesus doing so much more than standing still before them, but in that stillness inviting them to speak with Him. It is in that stillness of Jesus—“He leads me beside still waters”—we are able to voice our needs, our desires, and that which is truly within the depths of our heart. I absolutely love how Jesus didn’t merely stand still and then declare unto these men that they were healed, but Jesus stood still, called unto them, invited them into a conversation of the heart, and then touched them. IN THE STILLNESS JESUS CALLS OUT AND INVITES US INTO THE CONVERSATION! It was after these men responded to the call of Jesus that Jesus then touched their eyes and they received their sight and followed Him.

            I strongly believe that it is in the stillness of Jesus He invites us beyond the place of crying out and into the place of communicating and dialoguing with Him. It is in that place of communicating and dialoguing with Him He probes the depths and desires of our heart and asks us what we truly need and desire of Him. How we respond to that call of Jesus, and how we respond to the voice of Jesus calling out unto us in the midst of the still can and will determine whether or not we can and will receive the touch we are looking for and desiring. JESUS STOOD STILL. JESUS CALLED OUT! JESUS TOUCHED! The more you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more you will encounter and come face to face with the tremendous reality that Jesus was in the process of passing by—perhaps even passing by these men who were blind—and it was their incessant and continual crying out to Him that caused Him to stand still, and it was in that stillness Jesus would then invite them to speak directly unto Him. They would not be speaking with the crowd. They would not be speaking to the disciples. They would not go through an intermediary. They would speak directly unto Jesus and would have to respond to Jesus when He asked them what it was they wanted Him to do for them. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this truth, for there is not a doubt in my mind that there are many of us who have been crying out before and unto Jesus and need to be invited into the stillness of His presence, for it is in the stillness of His presence we are invited to truly express our hearts and our desires. What’s more, is that even when Jesus stood still and called unto them, the blind men themselves didn’t voice their need and desire in His hearing. It would be in direct response to the stillness of Jesus, and it would be in direct response to the calling of Jesus these men would then be invited to explore the depths of their heart and would be able to truly express themselves in His presence. It would be in response to their expression of desire and need Jesus would then touch them and restore their sight. Oh how absolutely wonderful and powerful it is to think about and consider the fact that it was in the stillness Jesus not only called out to these blind men, but also touched their eyes that they might receive their sight.

            IN THE STILLNESS JESUS CALLS OUT! IN THE STILLNESS JESUS SPEAKS! IN THE STILLNESS JESUS TOUCHES! The narrative of these blind men points to the awesome and incredible reality that their cry in the hearing of Jesus and the multitude, and their continued cry in the hearing of Jesus and His disciples would bring Jesus to the place where He would stand still, where He would halt what He was doing, and halt where He was going that He might meet the needs of these blind men. It would be in the stillness of Jesus and in the presence of a Jesus who is willing to stop what He is doing and where He is going that we are able to truly experience His presence—and not only His presence, but also His voice and His touch. Please note that it would be in this still these blind men would both experience the voice and presence of Jesus, as well as the physical touch of Jesus. This would not be a quick pass by as Jesus would merely speak words of healing and then continue on His way. Quite the contrary, for Jesus Himself would stand still in the midst of the crowd—much like He stood still in the midst of the crowd that would follow Him to the house of Jairus—and would take the time to speak to and minister unto that one who was in desperate need. In the case of the woman who had the issue of blood for twelve years Jesus would stand still in the midst of the crowd and would ask and inquire who touched Him, for He perceived that power went out from Him. It would be there in the midst of the crowd Jesus would speak directly unto this woman and would speak comfortably to her, and call her daughter as she had experienced healing and wholeness in her physical body. IN the case of these blind men Jesus would stand still in the midst of the crowd and would call out unto these two men, and in the process of calling out to these two blind men Jesus would ask them what they wanted Him to do for them. Jesus would stand still and deliberately stop what He was doing that He might speak directly unto these two blind—and not only speak to them, but call unto them and invite them into an honest conversation and dialogue about what it was they desired from Him. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand this truth, for it is in the still of Jesus where He calls out to us and invites us into the place where we allow ourselves to have an honest dialogue with what it is we truly desire from Him.

            IN THE STILLNESS YOU ARE THERE! IN THE STILLNESS YOU ARE SPEAKING! IN THE STILLNESS MY HEART IS REVEALED! IN THE STILLNESS YOU INVITE ME IN! IN THE STILLNESS YOU TOUCH ME! I can’t help but be absolutely gripped and astounded with the awesome reality that surrounding the encounter of these blind men they would initially find themselves as outsiders on the way side—perhaps despised, discarded and rejected by those who would pass them by—and yet their insistent and incessant cries upon hearing Jesus was passing by would not only bring them in the midst of the crowd, but would cause Jesus to stand still in the midst of the crowd and call out unto them. Pause for a moment and think about how incredibly powerful it is concerning these blind men crying out to Jesus and Jesus’ calling out to them. What’s more, is think about and consider that it was in their crying out that Jesus would actually stop what He was doing and where He was going that He might invite them into a dialogue with Him, listen to their heart’s desire, and grant unto them their request. If there is one thing I so absolutely love when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture it’s that Jesus is more than willing to stop what He is doing—and even halt where He is going—that He might stand still in the midst of the crowd, and stand still before two blind men whom He might invite into a discussion and conversation with Him. It would be once these blind men were honest with Jesus and voiced their need and their desire before and unto Him He would touch their eyes—touch that very thing that was the source of their cry—and would restore unto them their sight. Not only would Jesus stand still in the midst of the crowd, and not only would Jesus stand still and call unto these blind men, but Jesus would also stretch forth His hands unto these blind men and touch their eyes that they might have their sight restored. Oh how absolutely beautiful it is to think about and consider a Jesus who is not only willing to stand still, but a Jesus who is also willing to stretch forth His hands that He might touch us. It is truly something worth noting and pointing out that Jesus would both stand still in the midst of this crowd, but would also be willing to stretch forth His hand that He might touch the eyes of these blind men. As Jesus called out to them their hearts would be opened in His presence, and as Jesus touched their eyes their eyes would be opened. It is in the calling out that our hearts are opened in the sight and presence of Jesus, and it is in the stretching forth of our hands that our eyes are opened—not only to see and behold Him, but also to see and behold the world before and around us.

            The more we read and consider the words which are found in the final verses of the twentieth chapter the more we come face to face with the beauty of Jesus—and not only the beauty of Jesus, but also Jesus’ willingness to stand still, to stop what He is doing, to stop where He is going—even if only for a brief period of time—in order that He might invite us into fellowship and conversation with Him. One thing we see through the example and narrative of the two blind men on the side of the road headed away from Jericho is that their willingness to continue to cry—and to not only cry, but perhaps even to cry all the more, and to cry louder—would capture the attention of Jesus the Christ and would cause Him to stop and stand still in the midst of the crowd. It would be in the midst of that crowd Jesus would stop and stand still that He might speak directly unto these blind mind, and invite them into a place where their hearts would be opened in His presence. It would be when they opened their hearts to Jesus they would actually experience the touch of Jesus the Christ as He would stretch forth His hands and touch their eyes. I would love to know what these blind men thought and felt as Scripture doesn’t necessarily reveal that Jesus spoke any words to these blind men before He stretched forth His hands to touch them. There was perhaps no advance warning or preparation given unto these blind men as Jesus would stretch forth His hands to touch their eyes, and Jesus would simply touch their eyes and cause them to see. I wonder what it was like for these blind men as they would feel Jesus’ hands upon their eyes—and not only when they felt Jesus’ hands upon their eyes, but would also experience sight as He removed His hands from their eyes. When Jesus stretched forth His hands to touch the eyes of these men they would be blind, but when Jesus would remove His hands from the eyes of these men they would have their sight restored unto them. What makes this even more attractive and appealing is when you think about and consider the awesome and wonderful reality that after receiving their sight these men would rise from the place where they had been sitting and crying and would follow Jesus. Jesus would stop in the midst of the crowd, He would stand still in their midst, and in that stillness He would not only invite them to voice their need, but would also stretch forth His hands upon their eyes and restore unto them their sight.

            As you continue reading the words which are found in the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find that immediately after Jesus healed these men and restored sight unto them He would draw near unto Jerusalem. The words which are found in the opening verses of the twenty-first chapter point to and reveal the reality that when Jesus healed these two blind men He would be journeying from Jericho unto Jerusalem. It would be as Jesus was journeying unto Jerusalem that he would come unto Betphhage, and unto the mount of Olives, and it would be here Jesus would send two of His disciples ahead of him to find and loose a colt from its place in its master’s house that He might fulfill what was written concerning Him by the prophet Zechariah. It’s worth noting and pointing out in the fourth verse of the twenty-first chapter that the apostle Matthew wrote that Jesus’ sending His disciples to loose this colt and bring it unto Him was to fulfill that which was spoken by the prophet, which spoke and declared, “Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a cold the foal of an ass” (Matthew 21:4-5). The disciples which Jesus would send to find and loose this colt was something I find absolutely remarkable and astonishing when you take the time to truly think about it, for there might be those who read this passage and think that the task and assignment Jesus sent these disciples on was somehow miniscule and beneath them. Jesus would send these two disciples ahead of Him that they might find a colt and loose it for one specific reason and purpose—to fulfill that which had been spoken by the prophet.

            SENT TO LOOSE THAT WHICH WOULD FULFILL THE WORD SPOKEN BY THE PROPHET! SENT TO BRING UNTO JESUS THAT WHICH HE WOULD USE TO FULFILL SCRIPTURE! It’s truly something remarkable and profound to read the words found in this passage and this narrative, for what we find in this passage of Scripture is Jesus sending two disciples to find and loose something which He would use to fulfill that which the prophet had spoken in times past. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this, for while on the surface it might seem like this task was somehow miniscule, minor and beneath these disciples—that which they were called and sent to do was to help facilitate and bring about the fulfillment of what had been spoken by the prophet Zechariah. It is entirely unclear whether or not these two disciples were aware of how powerful this assignment was which Jesus sent them on, but what we see from Scripture is their obedience to the word and command of Jesus would help bring about the fulfillment of prophecy. Stop for a moment and think about how awesome and powerful this is, as these disciples would be used to help bring about the fulfillment of prophecy. This wasn’t an ordinary, nor was it a menial task, for it was something which Jesus would use to fulfill that which the prophet Zechariah had spoken generations earlier. There is not a doubt in my mind that Jesus knew the significance of the colt, and Jesus knew what His riding on the colt would in fact fulfill and bring about, and He invited these disciples to be a part of that prophetic fulfillment. INVITED TO FULFILL PROPHECY! INVITED TO FULFILL THAT WHICH THE ANCIENT PROPHETS HAD SPOKEN! Jesus undoubtedly would have known what His riding on a colt would mean, and that it would fulfill that which was spoken by the ancient Hebrew prophet, and He could have gone Himself and found the colt and loosed it. There is not a doubt in my mind that Jesus could have gone to where this colt was, and Jesus Himself could have loosed and prepared it that He might ride upon it as He entered into Jerusalem, and yet instead of doing it Himself He invited these disciples into that moment in history that would fulfill yet another prophetic word spoken concerning Jesus. Jesus would invite these disciples to enter into a moment that would be etched and echoed into history as it would set the stage for the triumphal entry of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem.

            As I sit here today I can’t help but encounter and come face to face with the beautiful reality that while these disciples might not have known what they were in fact doing, and what they were participating in—Jesus knew exactly what He was doing and exactly what would be fulfilled through these actions. I find it absolutely breathtaking to read this passage and consider the beautiful truth that Jesus invited these disciples into a place where they would not only be a part of history, but would also be a part of helping Jesus fulfill prophecy. I can’t imagine what these disciples thought while they were making their way to find this colt, and what they thought as they were loosing it, and even what they thought as they were bringing it unto Jesus. What’s more, is I can’t help but wonder if these disciples realized what they had been a part of when Jesus mounted the donkey and when He entered into Jerusalem. Were these disciples completely and utterly astonished when they learned and realized that what Jesus had sent them to do was to help fulfill the prophetic word which had been spoken by the prophet concerning Him? If there is one thing this passage and narrative reveals it’s that we dare not and ought not despise the day of small beginnings, and we dare not and must not despise and look down upon what might seem like trivial and mundane tasks and assignments within this life, for those tasks and assignments might very well be used as profound fulfillments of the heart, the mind, and the will of the Father. It was in the heart and mind of God the Father when He spoke through the prophet Zechariah concerning this moment, and in order to set the stage for that moment Jesus would enlist the assistance of these two disciples. On this particular day Jesus would invite these two disciples into a profound place in the divine mystery of the eternal God as they would participate in helping to bring about the fulfillment of the prophetic word which had been spoken more than a half a millennia earlier.

            After Jesus had entered into the city riding upon a donkey, and after the entire city of Jerusalem was moved concerning Him as they inquired who it was who was entering into the midst of the city. Those who knew Him would emphatically proclaim that this was Jesus which was the prophet of Nazareth. What makes this even more fascinating is when you think about and consider that although Jesus would enter into the city of Jerusalem meek and lowly riding on a colt He would enter into the Temple and completely and utterly cleanse it. Jesus would come in Jerusalem and He would come into the house of His Father, and it would be in the house of His Father Jesus would see all those who bought and sold in the midst of it, and would cast them out, as well as overthrowing the tables of the money changers, and the seats of those which sold doves. Jesus would take this even further and would declare how it was written that the Temple of the LORD which was the house of His Father was to be called the house of prayer, but they had made it a den of thieves. It’s something worth noting and considering that Jesus would enter into the city of Jerusalem meek and lowly riding on a colt as the people would shout, saying, “Hosanna,” and yet upon entering into the Temple in the midst of the city He would respond with great fierceness, great zeal, and great jealousy for the house of the LORD, as He would not only cast out those who bought and sold therein, but also overthrew the tables of the money changers, and the seats of those which sold doves that the house might be throughly cleansed and purged. Jesus would enter the Temple, and He was not willing to allow this commercialization of sacrifice and offering continue any longer. Jesus would watch and witness as men and women would no longer have to engage themselves in sacrifice within their homes, but could simply come to the Temple and purchase that which would be offered upon the altar. I would dare say that which angered Jesus so much was that men and women no longer needed to sacrifice before they left their homes in choosing from among their own flock what they would offer unto the LORD, and could actually enter into the house of the LORD and purchase that which would be offered upon the altar.

            Jesus would enter into the Temple and would watch as there were those who would commercialize sacrifice and who would monetize the gifts and offerings that they might offer sacrifice with convenience. Stop for a minute and think about the fact that in the Old Testament the LORD prescribed the children of Israel to take a lamb or goat from their own flock without blemish and to bring that gift and offering unto the house of the LORD that they might offer it before the priest and unto the LORD. It would be the priests who after that child of Israel would break the neck of the sacrifice would arrange the sacrifice upon the altar in the order prescribed by the living God, and would do with the blood what had been ordered by Him through His servant Moses. The question I can’t help but wonder is whether or not the priests were somehow in league and agreement with the money changers and those who sold doves and other animals which were used for sacrifice. Is it possible that the priests and the Levites were somehow in agreement with those who commercialized and monetized sacrifice and offering, and perhaps received a portion of the proceeds and funds? We don’t know whether or not this was in fact true, and whether or not this was the case, but what we do know that Jesus would enter into the Temple, would see the tables of money, would see the animals, would see people buying and selling, would see the money changers, and would essentially see how the court of His Father’s house would become a market. What’s more, is we must make note of the fact that Jesus would declare unto those whom He spoke to in the court of the Temple that His Father’s house was to be a house of prayer, but they had made it a den of thieves.

            The question I find myself asking is how Jesus could make such a statement to those who were present in the midst of the Temple. Please note that I am not asking this question as it pertains to the authority which was upon and given unto Jesus, but rather what would make Jesus speak unto those present in the Temple and declare unto them that they had made the Temple a den of thieves. The question then becomes how they had indeed made the Temple a den of thieves and how they had made it a den of robbers. What did the money changers, and what did those who bought and sold in the midst of the Temple do to cause Jesus to declare unto them that they had made it a den of thieves? I am convinced the answer lies not only in sacrifice with convenience, but also in that which was offered upon the altar. Those who bought and sold in the Temple of the LORD would rob God and turn the house into a den of thieves as they would use the sacrifices, the gifts and the offerings of God to line their own pockets, and to make it about themselves and their own profit and gain. Those who bought and sold within the Temple and house of the LORD would rob and steal from God because they would offer sacrifice that would be easy and convenient for those who would come unto the house of the LORD to not have to bring that which would come from their own herd and their own flock, but would be able to be purchased at the house of the LORD. What a striking and appalling thought it is to think about and consider the fact that men and women at this time could actually come unto the Temple and house of the LORD and buy their sacrifice rather than give their sacrifice. What’s more, is that sacrifice and offering would no longer be about them bringing unto the LORD that which was present in their own herd and flock, but they would bring unto the LORD that which was purchased rather than offered. PURCHASED SACRIFICES VERSUS SACRIFICES WHICH ARE GIVEN AND OFFERED!

The narrative of Jesus entering into the Temple and declaring how they had made it a den of thieves is truly something we need to pay close and careful attention to, for it draws and calls our attention to the truth that those who bought and sold in the Temple of the LORD would indeed steal and rob from God, for no longer would men need to give of what belonged to them, but they could purchase that which others were selling. It is an incredibly dangerous place to no longer give unto the LORD that which He has asked and required of us, and instead offer unto Him that which He had commanded and instructed them to give Him. Those who bought within the courts of the Temple would rob God of that which they had in their own herd and flocks, and those who sold would rob those same individuals of being able to give an offering willingly and voluntarily. When Jesus would enter into the Temple and cleanse it He would essentially restore and bring balance back into the house of the LORD, for the house of the LORD was to be a house of prayer—a house where the people of God would offer their sacrifices their gifts and their offerings unto the LORD. It is absolutely incredible to read these words found in the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, for the words which we find here would reveal a zeal and jealousy of the LORD concerning the house of His Father, which was to a place of prayer unto all nations. It would be in the prophetic book of Jeremiah where we find the reference to the people making the house of the LORD a den of thieves, and it would be in the prophet Isaiah we find the words concerning the house of prayer being a house of prayer unto all nations. I am convinced it is absolutely necessary and imperative we pay close attention to the words found in this passage of Scripture, for the words we find within them are words which call and draw our attention to our own hearts and lives and whether or not we are attempting to offer unto the LORD sacrifices of comfort and convenience rather than sacrifice and willingness. The question we have to ask ourselves is what we offering and what we are bringing into the presence of the LORD, and what we are truly offering before and unto Him, and whether or not He is and will be pleased with our offerings.

            The more I think about the disciples’ concern for who was greatest in the kingdom of heaven—and not only who was greatest in the kingdom of heaven, but also which one among them was the greatest of the disciples—the more I can’t help but feel compelled to call and draw your attention to the narrative and account of John the Baptist when his disciples came unto him declaring how Jesus baptized and made more disciples than he did. Any discussion you have about the disciples jockeying and vying for position, status, stature and rank in the kingdom of heaven and among themselves must needs also examine and take a long and hard look at the response John the Baptist gave to his disciples when they came unto him concerning the actions of Jesus the Christ who had emerged on to the scene and was apparently stealing the show. The disciples of John were perhaps taken back by the amount of attention Jesus was getting among the hearts and minds of men, and there is not a doubt in my mind they fully expected John the Baptist to agree with them. Undoubtedly the disciples of John somehow felt slighted, and somehow felt as though Jesus was stealing the attention and focus away from their teacher and master, and they expected—and perhaps even desired John the Baptist to fully agree with them. When you read about John the Baptist and his disciples coming unto him about the ministry of Jesus, and how the ministry of Jesus the Christ seemed to be garnering all the attention and focus of the individuals you will be brought face to face with an awesome and incredible contrast between one who knew their place in the kingdom of heaven, and those who sought to find their place in the kingdom. Oh, there is a key and fundamental difference between knowing your place within the kingdom and seeking to find your place in the kingdom. John the Baptist knew his position within the kingdom, and he knew his role, his assignment, his purpose, and his task in the midst of the earth, and he never tried to exceed or surpass that. With this in mind I invite you to not only consider the words which John the Baptist spoke unto his disciples, but also the words which Jesus the Christ spoke concerning John the Baptist when speaking to those who gathered themselves unto Him:

            “After these things came Jesus and His disciples into the land of Judaea; and there He tarried with them, and baptized. And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. For John was not yet cast into prison. Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying. And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, He that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him. John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am no the Christ, but that I am sent before Him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease. He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all. And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony. He that hath received His testimony hath set to his seal that God is true. For He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him. The Father loveth the Son, and He hath given all things into His hand. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:22-36).

            “And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding His twelve disciples, He departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities. Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, He sent two of His disciples, and said unto Him, Art thou He that should come, or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raise dup, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they that wear soft clothing are in king’s houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. Verily I say unto you Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding He that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (John 11:1-15).

            The words which we find in the third chapter of the New Testament gospel of John, as well as the words which are found in the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew point to the awesome reality that John the Baptist knew where and what his position was in the kingdom of heaven. There was absolutely not a doubt in the heart and mind of John the Baptist where his place was in the kingdom of heaven, and he never attempted to move beyond his station, his assignment and that positioned which was granted unto him by the Father who was in heaven. It is necessary that we recognize and understand this awesome truth, for there are countless men and women within and among our churches and houses of worship, as well as within Christendom and the kingdom of heaven who not only know where their place is in the kingdom of heaven, but as a direct result of not knowing their place in the kingdom of heaven they seek to elevate themselves beyond what they have been called to do. I am firmly convinced that those who do not know their place in the kingdom of heaven, and those who do not know their assignment and role within the kingdom can and will jockey for position, status, stature, fame, glory and honor. What is so absolutely tremendous about John the Baptist is that he was one who not only knew his place and assignment in the midst of the kingdom of heaven, but he never tried to move beyond that role and that assignment. John the Baptist never sought to be and become someone he was not, nor become someone he was never created or intended to be. John the Baptist recognized that his mission and his assignment was to point men unto and prepare men to meet and encounter the Christ and the Messiah, and once the Messiah would be manifested in the midst of the earth his role and position might very well be diminished in the midst of the earth. In fact, I can’t help but wonder if John the Baptist being put in prison wasn’t a sign and symbol unto this prophet of the Lord that declared unto him that he had fulfilled his assignment within the earth. What if his being shut up in prison—even though and despite the fact that he was imprisoned by Herod because he preached against his adultery and fornication—was not so much about what man desired and intended, but what the living and eternal God had intended? What if John the Baptist being imprisoned during the days of the manifestation of Jesus the Christ was a powerful statement and message unto him concerning the fulfillment of His task, His mission and assignment in the earth, and that he had carried out and done exactly what it was he was asked and required to do?

            Even when you read the words which are found in the third chapter of the New Testament gospel written by the apostle Matthew you will find an apparent link and connection to John’s recognition of his place and position in the kingdom of heaven and his not yet being put into prison. In fact, I would dare say that one of the final statements mentioned by John the Baptist before he was imprisoned by Herod was indeed these words concerning his needing to decrease that the Messiah and Christ might increase. The more I think about and the more I consider these words the more I can’t help but be brought face to face with the overwhelming and tremendous reality that John the Baptist’s being imprisoned by Herod was permitted by the LORD as a powerful statement and declaration of the Father that He had carried out and fulfilled what he was sent and raised up to do, and that his time of public ministry had drawn to an end. This is in all reality what makes his words while in prison so captivating, for it would be while in prison he perhaps not only doubted everything he had done in the midst of the earth, but also doubted whether or not Jesus was indeed the Messiah who was to come. It would be while in prison John the Baptist would send his disciples unto Jesus to inquire whether or not He was the Messiah and the Christ, or whether or not they needed to look for another. Jesus would declare unto his disciples that the lame walked, the blind saw, the dumb spoke, the deaf heard, and the kingdom was being preached during those days—words which would have stood and served as a testimony before and unto John the Baptist in prison. I can’t help but get the strong sense when reading the gospel narrative of the apostle Matthew that when John the Baptist was in prison—not only did he have questions and doubt whether or not Jesus was the Messiah, but perhaps he also doubted whether or not he had indeed and had in fact fulfilled and carried out that which he had been sent and raised up to do. There is something about being put in prison that has the potential and the ability to cause you to not only question whether or not you had fulfilled that which the living God had asked and required of you.

            One of the greatest realities surrounding John the Baptist is when you think about and consider that while it was true that John the Baptist might very well have questioned whether or not Jesus was indeed the Messiah, and although he might very well have questioned whether or not he fulfilled his purpose, his mission and his assignment in that generation, Jesus would speak unto the crowds and the masses concerning John the Baptist, and would declare that among those which were born of women there had not risen one greater than John the Baptist. It’s worth noting and pointing out that immediately after this Jesus would emphatically and boldly declare that he which is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John the Baptist. Please don’t miss all the dynamics and truths that are found within these passages of Scripture, for there is a powerful and intrinsic link between John the Baptist decreasing that the Messiah and Christ might increase and John the Baptist fulfilling that which He had been sent by the Father and raised up to do. What’s more, is that there is also an apparent link and connection between John the Baptist fulfilling that which he had been called and raised up by the LORD to fulfill, and his being imprisoned. There is not a doubt in my mind that John’s being imprisoned by Herod was not only a sign and mark that he had fulfilled what was asked and required of him, but also that his work and assignment had drawn to a close. What if—in the divine sovereignty of God John the Baptist being put in prison was not necessarily a sign of displeasure of the living God, but rather a sign of pleasure and confirmation of the ministry he had been entrusted with? It would be very easy for us to view the imprisonment of John the Baptist and consider the fact that it was somehow a mark of displeasure and disapproval of the living God, and yet I am absolutely and completely convinced that the exact opposite is true. I am absolutely convinced that the imprisonment of John was a sign and a mark of the divine pleasure of the living God with the work he carried out and performed in the earth, and was a sign of the delight the living God had in him. As much as the imprisonment of John might very well have been a removal from the public spotlight that the Messiah might shine in the midst of that generation, it was also a means of declaring unto John the Baptist that the Father was well pleased and well satisfied with the work which he had performed in the midst of the earth. John the Baptist being imprisoned was as much a sign of ending and conclusion as it was a sign of the beginning, as eventually John the Baptist would be beheaded in prison at the request of Herodias and her daughter who would manipulate and persuade Herod to put him to death.

            The more I think about the question the disciples asked Jesus concerning who was indeed and who was in fact the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, as well as their own internal disputes and debates as to which one of them was the greatest, the more I am brought face to face with the awesome truth of John the Baptist, and how John the Baptist knew and understood his place within the kingdom of heaven, and within the economy of the living God. John the Baptist knew and was very much aware of the reason and purpose for which he had been placed upon the earth, and even when his disciples would speak to him about Jesus baptizing more than they did—perhaps expecting John to agree with their words and their assessment—he emphatically declared and proclaimed unto them that he needed to decrease that the Messiah might increase. John the Baptist realized and understood that it wasn’t his mission, nor was it his assignment to move beyond his station, and beyond the role and purpose he had been given within and upon the earth. John the Baptist was one who understood what he had been called and assigned to do within the earth, and even when his disciples attempted to come to him with the idea that Jesus was baptizing more than they were, he corrected their thinking—a thinking that had at the very core and foundation the truth that he wasn’t the Messiah, nor was he to be something he was never created or intended to be. There is not a doubt in my mind that we cannot truly understand what was so dangerous about the disciples’ question regarding who was greatest in the kingdom, and which among them was the greatest disciple without considering the narrative of John the Baptist. John the Baptist knew and understood exactly who he was and what he was called to do, and he would not seek to exceed and move beyond that station and that identity. Even Jesus Himself recognized and understood that He was not sent to the earth to do His own will, do His own agenda, and be who He wanted to be. Jesus the Christ recognized that He was sent to the earth to fulfill that which the Father had sent Him to accomplish upon the earth. Jesus understood that apart from the Father He could do nothing, and therefore He always trusted fully and completely on the Father, and always listened to the words and voice of the Father. It would be the Father who would be the ultimate foundation for the work and ministry He would engage Himself in here upon the earth, as He would never move beyond that. This was what was so incredibly dangerous about the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, for the devil would not only tempt Jesus based on the concept and realm of identity, but he would also tempt Him on the basis and realm of living and moving beyond that which He had been called to do. The temptation(s) of the devil would indeed have at the very heart and center of them the identity of Jesus the Christ, however, they would also be geared toward tempting Jesus to move and live beyond that which was authorized and ordained by the eternal Father. It is with this all in mind I invite you to consider the words which John the Baptist spoke unto the crowds and masses, the words which John the Baptist spoke unto the scribes and Pharisees when they came from Jerusalem, as well as the words which Jesus Himself spoke which is recorded in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John:

            “Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his Baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptized you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: whose fan is in his hand, and He will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:6-12).

            “And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey; and preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost” (Mark 1:5-8).

            “And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; as it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God. Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and is cast into the fire…And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not; John answered, saying, unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable. And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people” (Luke 3:5-18).

            “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through Him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:6-9).

            “John bare witness of Him, and cried, saying, This was He of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. NO man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:15-18)

            “And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? That we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself. He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing” (John 1:19-28).

            “And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay Him, because He had done these things on the sabbath day. But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God. Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel” (John 5:16-20).

            The words found within these passages bring us face to face with the truly remarkable and beautiful truth that John the Baptist recognized what he had been called and sent to do, and he would and could never seek to move beyond that station and assignment. I am absolutely and completely convinced that those who either don’t know who they are, or those who don’t know what their place and assignment is—or a combination of both—will always seek to jockey and strive for position, for status, and for fame within the kingdom of heaven. I would dare say that even before the disciples would be baptized with and by the Holy Spirit they would not truly understand their place and their position within the kingdom of heaven. Despite the fact that Jesus would send them forth two by two their would indeed be a competition between and among them concerning which one was indeed the greatest. Even at the last supper in the upper room the disciples would have a debate, a quarrel, and an infighting among themselves concerning which one among them was indeed the greatest of the disciples. Stop and think about the fact that even in the upper room on the night in which Jesus was betrayed the disciples would allow themselves to be caught up in a debate and quarrel concerning who among them was the greatest. Oh it is absolutely necessary that we recognize the awesome reality that one of the greatest needs we have within our hearts and lives is to both know who we are in Christ, as well as know our place in the kingdom, for it is only to the degree and measure we know and are aware of these realities we can and will truly understand our place in the midst of the earth. If we allow ourselves to move beyond who we have been called to be and what we have been called to do we will find ourselves striving with others as we seek to elevate ourselves beyond what we have been called to do and be. Even in our churches today there is a constant infighting and quarrelling among men and women as they jockey and fight for position and status in the kingdom of heaven. What’s more, is that there are men and women who are pretending on being someone they are not in order that they might somehow obtain the Father’s blessing and approval. Much like Jacob who would dress himself in his brother’s clothes, and would put goat’s skin upon his flesh to give the appearance of his brother that he might receive the blessing of the father, so also we clothe ourselves in that which does not belong to us that we might somehow seek the approval of the Father in a manner we were never called or created to receive.

            In the opening verse of the eighteenth chapter we find the disciples coming unto Jesus that they might inquire who was indeed the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. The underlying question I can’t help but ask is why the disciples would even ask such a question. Pause and think about what would and what could cause the disciples to approach Jesus concerning greatness—and not only greatness, but also greatness within the kingdom of heaven. Stop and consider the line of thinking and the condition of the hearts of the disciples that they would dare ask Jesus concerning who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. What’s more, is we must needs ask ourselves what being the greatest in the kingdom of heaven would even require of us. It’s interesting and worth noting that the disciples didn’t ask Jesus who was great in the kingdom of heaven, but who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Please note there is a vast and fundamental difference between the two questions—the question concerning who is great in the kingdom of heaven, and the question concerning who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. I would dare say that it is possible to be great in the kingdom of heaven and yet have absolutely no desire, nor even a care or concern to be greatest in the kingdom of heaven. It is possible to be great in the kingdom of heaven and never seek to be, nor ever be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. What’s more, is I can’t help but wonder why anyone would have a desire to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Think about what would be asked, what would be required, and what would be demanded of you if you were going to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven—greater than all the others before and around you. With that being said we must recognize and understand that we have all been given the call and the command to deny ourselves and take up our crosses and follow Jesus. We have all been given the emphatic declaration that he who loves father or mother more than Jesus, and who loves son or daughter, or brother or sister more than Jesus is not worthy of Him. There is not a single individual within the kingdom of heaven who hasn’t received the same call to a life of self-denial and sacrifice, and even the apostle Paul besought the saints in Rome—yea, even the saints throughout the ages—to present and offer their bodies as living sacrifices holy and acceptable in the sight of the LORD, which is our reasonable service.

            I sit here today thinking about the question which the disciples asked, and the question they never asked was who was great in the kingdom of heaven, but who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. The disciples never argued, nor disputed among and with each other concerning which one among them was great, but which one among them was the greatest. We must realize and understand that there is a vast difference between asking the question concerning who is great, and the question of who is the greatest. The question of who is great in the kingdom of heaven is not necessarily a question about title, rank, position, status, stature, and the like—although it is certainly possible that those elements can be a part of one inquiring concerning it. The question of who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven is a question that is steeped in pride and arrogance, and is a question that is centered upon rank and position in the midst of the kingdom of heaven. One of the greatest challenges we face within the body of Christ is allowing ourselves to get caught up in something aspiring to be the greatest, or thinking we are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is not like the economy in which we are living, nor is the kingdom of heaven like the corporate world where we transition and elevate ourselves to different positions with different titles. Even when you consider the parable of the talents you will find that the one who had been given two talents immediately put those talents to work and earned two more talents. The one who had been given five talents would immediately put those talents to work and would earn five more. When the master of the house came back and called for an accounting of their stewardship these individuals would not only provide unto the master that which he had given and bestowed unto them, but would also give unto the master twice his investment. I am convinced that one of the greatest questions we must ask ourselves is not only whether or not we are putting to use that which we have been entrusted with by the Master, and not only whether or not we are able to return unto the Master what has been entrusted unto us, but we must also ask ourselves whether or not we are returning unto the Master a return on the investment He has bestowed unto and upon us. It’s one thing to return that which we have been given, for even the third servant returned unto the master what he had been given. It’s something else entirely to return unto the Master that which He had entrusted us with, and doing so with interest and with a return on that investment. I can’t help but ask whether or not we are giving the Master a return on investment within our lives and within the kingdom, or whether or not we are somehow burying that which the Master had given unto us and returning it unto him unused.

            RETURNING UNUSED TALENT! The narrative of the three servants who were each entrusted with a portion of their master’s wealth is not only about returning unto the master that which they had received from him, but it is also about returning that which has been entrusted unto us having put it to good use—and not only putting it to good use, but also providing a return on that investment. Do you know that what the Master has given you is not only an assignment, but also an investment, and we have been entrusted to both put that which has been given unto us to good use, as well as to provide a return on that investment. The servant who was given two talents would not only return the two original talents, but would also add two more talents, thus increasing the master’s worth and providing a return on the investment. The servant who was given five talents would not only return the five talents which had been given unto him, but would return five more talents, thus not only providing a return on the investment, but also increasing the wealth of the master. RETURNING THE INVESTMENT, GROWING THE INVESTMENT! I am absolutely and completely convinced that when we speak about the kingdom of heaven there is a great need within our hearts and lives to not only return unto the Master that which has been entrusted unto us within this life, but also to provide the Master with a return on that investment as we took it and both grew and increased it. What so amazes me about the parable of the talents is that although that one who had been given five talents had increased those five talents and returned five more talents, the master did not consider him greater than the servant who had been given two talents and had both returned those two talents, and given the master two additional talents. Both servants were considered faithful in the master’s eyes, and in the master’s house, and neither servant was viewed as being better and greater than the other. Both servant was faithful with that which the master had entrusted into their hands and into their care, and the master not only rewarded their faithfulness, but also praised their doing well with what they had been entrusted with. We dare not underestimate the nature of this parable which Jesus spoke and revealed, for even when we are speaking of faithfulness with what has been entrusted into our care we must not think about, nor consider that such a reality somehow makes us the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

            The question the disciples asked when speaking with Jesus was not who is considered great in the kingdom of heaven, but who was considered greatest in the kingdom of heaven, thus speaking about and suggesting rank, position, title and place within the kingdom. We must recognize the words which are found in the opening verse of this chapter, for what we find in the opening verse of this chapter is a description of the disciples coming unto Jesus asking and inquiring who was indeed the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. After having heard a number of parables concerning what the kingdom of heaven was like, after hearing Jesus speak concerning the kingdom of heaven, and after witnessing and beholding the many miracles, signs and wonders Jesus performed, the disciples would come unto Him and ask who was considered the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. I am absolutely and completely convinced that we must pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture, for it revealed the faulty mindset and way of thinking that was found within the hearts and minds of the disciples, as they gave themselves to getting caught up position and rank within the kingdom of heaven. Moreover, this question asked by the disciples would in turn compare the kingdom of heaven to something which men would have to strive and attain in order to somehow reach a pinnacle and zenith in the midst of it. In all reality this question which was asked by the disciples would suggest the kingdom of heaven was likened unto something that would require men and women to push, scrape, claw, fight and perhaps even quarrel their way in the midst of it that they might somehow attain status in the kingdom of heaven. In all reality—when we think about and consider the narrative of the kingdom of heaven we must recognize and understand that the only status worth speaking of is the status of who is least in the kingdom, and who does not devote their time, effort and energy into striving to be someone they were never created to be, nor do something they were never intended on doing. The kingdom of heaven is not some type of corporate environment where we need to fight, and jockey and maneuver for position as though we need to somehow attain to some elevated measure of success, recognition, title and position. It is with this in mind I would like to call and draw your attention to the various narratives found in the four gospels concerning the disciples and their concern for being greatest in the kingdom of heaven—and not only the disciples concern for being greatest in the kingdom of heaven, but also Jesus’ words which were spoken concerning the first being last, and the last being first. Consider if you will the following words found within the gospel narratives concerning the disciples’ misguided thinking concerning greatness in the kingdom of heaven, and Jesus’ declaration concerning the upside down economy of the kingdom of heaven, and how the last shall be first and the first shall be last:

            “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:11-12).

            “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 man 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).

            “Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest. And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by him, and said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great” (Luke 9:46-48).

            “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 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? Is not he that sitteth at meat? But I am among you as he that serveth. Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto 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 the thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:24-30).

            “Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s seek, shall receive an hundred-fold, and shall inherit everlasting life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first” (Matthew 19:27-30).

            “For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He that saith unto them, Go ye also in the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive. So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, saying, These last have wrough but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it now lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen” (Matthew 20:1-16).

            “Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last first” (Mark 10:28-31).

            “And he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When one the master o the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last” (Luke 13:22-30).

            The eighteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew begins and opens up with the disciples coming unto Jesus inquiring who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and we must recognize and understand that such a question and such an inquiry is incredibly dangerous within the heart and mind of a disciple and follower of Jesus the Christ. We must remember that such a question as who in the kingdom of heaven is the greatest is indeed a question that is rooted and grounded in pride and arrogance, and one that causes me to consider which one of the disciples actually thought and believed they would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. What’s more, is that I can’t help but wonder what would and what could have happened within the hearts and minds of the disciples if Jesus had indeed come back and declared that Simon also called Peter was the greatest in the kingdom, or that John was the greatest, or even that James was the greatest. We know that of the twelve disciples there was indeed and there was in fact an inner circle which was perhaps not the closest to Jesus, but were definitely exposed to other experiences and encounters the other nine disciples weren’t. There was an occasion when only Peter, James and John would be brought into the house of Jairus when his daughter lie sick on the point of death. It would Peter, James and John who would accompany Jesus on to the mountain where He would be transfigured before them. It would be these three disciples who would also accompany Jesus further in the garden of Gethsemane. Even with all of this being recorded in the gospels there wasn’t a single disciple who could have considered themselves the greatest, and yet they still argued and disputed among themselves who was the greatest. The disciples argued among themselves who among them was the greatest, and yet such a question severely and sorely misses the point of the kingdom of heaven, and that the kingdom of heaven has never been and will never be about hierarchy, nor about status, not about clout, nor about position, nor about title and rank. The kingdom of heaven has always been and will always be about those who are willing to lose their life that they might find it, those who are willing to deny themselves, those who are willing to die that they might live, those who are willing to take up their cross and follow Jesus the Christ.

            EXCEPT YE BE CONVERTED! BECOME AS LITTLE CHILDREN! HUMBLE HIMSELF AS THIS LITTLE CHILD! THE SAME IS GREATEST IN THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN! RECEIVE ONE OF THESE LITTLE ONES! WHOSO SHALL OFFEND ONE OF THESE LITTLE ONES! WOE UNTO THE WORLD BECAUSE OF OFFENSES! [WHY WOULD JESUS SPEAK OF OFFENSES IN A CONVERSATION ABOUT WHO WAS THE GREATEST?] IT MUST NEEDS THAT OFFENSES COME! WOE TO THAT MAN BY WHOM THE OFFENCE COMETH! DESPISE ONE OF THESE LITTLE ONES! [TAKE HEED]. THE SON OF MAN IS COME TO SAVE THAT WICH WAS LOST! OFFENSE AND FORGIVENESS! IF THY BROTHER SHALL TRESPASS AGAINST THEE, GO AND TELL HIM HIS FAULT BETWEEN THEE AND HIM ALONE! [DON’T GO BROADCASTING YOUR BROTHER’S FAULT! DON’T GO BROADCASTING YOUR OFFENCE! WE LIKE TO MAKE A HABIT OF TELLING OTHERS THE FAULT OF OUR BROTHER AND OUR OFFENSE WITH HIM RATHER THAN TELLING HIM!] HOW OFT SHALL MY BROTHER SIN AGAINST ME, AND I FORGIVE HIM? TILL SEVEN TIMES? UNTIL SEVENTY TIMES SEVEN! [SO LIKEWISE SHALL MY HEAVENLY FATHER DO ALSO UNTO YOU, IF YE FROM YOUR HEARTS FORGIVE NOT EVERY ONE HIS BROTHER THEIR TRESPASSES!} A CONVERSATION ABOUT WHO WAS THE GREATEST TURNS INTO A CONVERSATION ABOUT OFFENSE AND FORGIVENESS! THE RICH YOUNG RULER! JESUS SPEAKING TO THE DISCIPLES ABOUT HIS SUFFERING AND HIS DEATH! THE MOTHER OF JAMES AND JOHN REQUESTING SPECIAL TREATMENT AND PLACEMENT FOR HER SONS! If you continue reading the words found within this portion of Scripture you will find that what would begin with the disciples asking Jesus who was greatest in the kingdom of heaven would eventually transition and turn to Jesus speaking directly unto them concerning offense and forgiveness. This conversation and dialogue would initially begin with the disciples asking Jesus who was greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and to this question Jesus would respond by declaring unto them that unless they be converted and become like little children they would not even enter into the kingdom of heaven. What’s more, is that Jesus would then go on to speak unto the disciples and declare unto them that whoever humbled themselves as a little child whom He had set in their midst would be considered greatest in the kingdom of heaven. It’s actually quite interesting to read and consider the words found in this passage of Scripture, for the words we find contained therein begin with the disciples inquiring who was greatest in the kingdom of heaven, yet Jesus’ response unto them would be one that perhaps utterly and completely stunned them.

            The disciples would ask Jesus who was greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and immediately after calling a little child to be set among them in their midst Jesus would declare unto them that unless they be converted they would not even enter into the kingdom of heaven. Please don’t miss the tremendous significance of what is found within these verses, for what we find within them is Jesus answering their question by first speaking of conversion and then speaking of humility. Jesus would declare unto the disciples that if they wanted to even enter into the kingdom of heaven they would need to be converted—converted in their heart, converted in their mind, converting in their way of thinking, converted in their pursuit, converted in their endeavors, converted in their desires, converted in their passions, converted in their pursuits. The disciples would ask Jesus who was greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and to this question Jesus would speak directly to the reality and need of being converted and becoming as little children. What’s more, is that being converted wasn’t the only thing that was needed, for Jesus would also go on to speak unto them concerning needing to humble themselves as the child which was set among them in their midst. There was something about a little child—there was something about being as a little child—that would have direct implications on the disciples, and anyone else for that matter to be converted in their minds and in their way of thinking, and to humble themselves as a little child. Those who were converted and would become as this little child would be able to enter into the kingdom of heaven, and those who humbled themselves as this child would be greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Thus, what we behold and witness in this passage of Scripture is a powerful call to conversion—and not only conversion, but also to humility before and in the sight of Jesus and His Father who was in heaven. As the disciples asked Jesus who would be greatest in the kingdom of heaven Jesus would speak unto them about conversion and humility—both of which would not only be needed to enter into the kingdom of heaven, but which would also be considered greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

            What is also incredibly powerful when reading these words is when you consider the fact that a conversation that would begin with the disciples asking Jesus who would be greatest in the kingdom of heaven would transition to Jesus speaking of humility as a little child, as well as conversion as a little child. Beyond this, however, we would find Jesus going on to teach and speak to the disciples concerning offenses—and not only offenses, but also forgiveness. You cannot read the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew and not encounter and come face to face with the awesome reality that in the same encounter and discussion as being greatest in the kingdom of heaven Jesus would go on to speak of offenses—and not only offenses, but also offending one of these little children in the kingdom of heaven. Immediately following Jesus’ words concerning humbling oneself as a little child He would transition to speaking unto them about receiving one such little child, and how whoever received such a child would actually receive Him. Conversely, however, those who offended such a little one which believed in Him—it were better that a millstone were hanged about their neck, and they be drowned in the depth of the sea. Jesus would then speak and declare unto them, saying, “Woe unto the world because of offense,” and how “it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes.” We cannot and must not miss and lose sight of what is found within this passage of Scripture, for the entire conversation and dialogue would shift and transition to Jesus’ speaking unto the disciples concerning forgiveness of those who had wronged and offended them, as well as speaking unto their brother and/or their sister whom they believed has offended and wronged them. Please do not miss the awesome and incredible reality of what is found within this passage, for there seems to be an apparent link and connection between this discussion concerning who was greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and offenses within the kingdom, and forgiveness of offenses and wrongdoing. It’s almost as an expression and manifestation of this conversion and humility as spoken by Jesus the Christ would directly touch and be connected to offenses and forgiveness, as both would undoubtedly be part of life as a disciple and follower of Jesus the Christ. What’s more, is that Jesus would go on to speak unto His disciples and speak of their somehow offending others, as well as others somehow offending them. Jesus warned against offending one of these little ones who believed in Him, but He also spoke unto them about possibly being offended by others, and how to handle such offenses.

            As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I feel it is absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture, for in a conversation that centered around and upon the disciples asking who was greatest in the kingdom of heaven Jesus would speak unto them concerning offenses in the kingdom of heaven, as well as forgiveness. We dare not, we cannot and must not miss and lose sight of these words and these realities, for they bring us face to face with some of the greatest challenges we face within our hearts and lives as disciples and followers of Jesus the Christ. Even if we make the conscious and deliberate decision to walk with and follow Jesus that does not make us immune—either from others legitimately offending us, or our being offended by the words and actions of others. We ought not think and believe that simply because we walk with and follow Jesus the Christ that offenses cannot and will not come, and that there is not a true and ultimate need within our hearts and souls to guard ourselves from offenses. In all reality, I would dare say that not only ought we to guard our hearts from offenses and from being offended, but we must also open our hearts to forgiveness. You cannot read these words without first seeing and encountering the tremendous need to guard our hearts from and against offenses—as well as potentially offending others—and opening our hearts to forgiveness to those who have forgiven us. There is a wonderful and powerful call within this passage of Scripture to not only ensure that we guard our hearts from and against being offended by others, but also guarding our hearts and our lives from somehow offending others. Jesus made sure to point out and reveal the tremendous truth that offenses can and will come, but woe unto those by whom the offenses come. If we want to have a discussion about the greatest in the kingdom of heaven we must needs initially speak about being converted and humbling ourselves, but we must also understand that within the kingdom of heaven there is a great and powerful need to guard our hearts from offending and being offended—and not only guarding our hearts from being offended and offending, but also forgiving those who have trespassed against us. It takes a great humility within our hearts and lives to not only guard ourselves from being offended, as well as forgiving those who have somehow offended and wronged us. What we must realize is that there is a vast difference between being offended in terms of someone somehow wronging us and our being offended as it relates to taking the offense within our hearts and holding on to it. One of the greatest truths we can and must learn is that offenses must needs always remain outside our physical persons and must never be allowed entrance and access to our hearts, to our souls, and to our minds.

            I sit here today preparing to close this writing out, and I find myself encountering the awesome and incredible truth that it is natural, it is expected, and it is anticipated that offenses (that which takes place and occurs outside our physical persons) take place—and even take place within the kingdom of heaven. Where the rubber meets the road and where we must need guard ourselves is concerning those offenses being able to transition from outside our physical bodies to somehow gaining access and entrance into our hearts and our souls. What’s more, is Jesus declared unto us how we deliver ourselves from those offenses which occur outside our physical persons, and those offenses which have been committed against us. That way and that method we are to deliver ourselves from offenses which occur outside our physical persons is through forgiveness—forgiveness of those who have wronged and offended us and those offenses have remained outside our hearts and souls, and forgiveness of those who have wronged us and the offenses have somehow gained access and entrance into our hearts and souls and we become and grown offended. OFFENDED BUT NOT OFFENDED! EXPERIENCING OFFENSES, BUT NOT BEING OFFENDED! OFFENDED, YET FORGIVING! If we want to ensure we guard our hearts and our souls from those offenses which occur outside our physical persons, and those offenses which threaten to creep into our hearts we must needs speak to our brother who might have offended us, as well as forgive that brother and/or that sister whom we feel has wronged and offended us. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and pay close attention to this, for it is one of the greatest struggles found within our hearts and our lives as disciples and followers of Jesus the Christ. We must needs guard our hearts and our souls from being offended—despite the fact that we have absolutely no control over, nor can we guarantee that offenses won’t come. There is absolutely no way to guard ourselves from offenses, and there is absolutely no way to prevent offenses from occurring within our lives, however, we can indeed guard our hearts and our souls from allowing the offenses to take root within us and our being offended. The truest and ultimate way to guard our hearts from offense in terms of what is present within our hearts is to not only speak directly to our brother and/or sister, but also forgive that one from whom the offense has come. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this reality, for the single greatest tool and weapon we have against becoming and growing offended is forgiveness. Jesus recognized and understood that forgiveness was and will always be the single greatest tool we have in our arsenal to guard ourselves from the offenses of others, and from somehow taking the offenses of others and allowing ourselves to be offended.

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