True greatness is in smallness

(Luke 9: 46-50)

Arnaud Weulassagou

Our text of the day is in Luke 9, from verse 46 to verse 50.

The text before us gives us a principle of life. But before addressing this text, I want to remember that the Bible is not a book that we read to have principles of life, although the Bible gives us principles. And the best principles that we can have and that we can apply.

But rather, here is how it should be approached: The Bible gives us a revelation of who God is, how God behaves. How would God behave if he were in a given situation? 

Of course, the Bible proclaims principles, but it is not just moral principles that we must apply. We must consider them more as a revelation of the character of God, and therefore of the actions that would flow from it, and then a model to which we should strive with the help of the Holy Spirit who transforms us.

A principle of life flows from a character: looking at the principles of life that the Bible gives us, one should not just try to apply the principle; but to hope that our character is changed so that we naturally apply the principle that the Bible sets out to us - as a Christian, we believe in regeneration, that is to say in the power of God to transform our character into better - ; basically that our character is changed to look like the character of Jesus Christ and God revealed in the Bible.

It's not so much the thing to do that matters; but the character to have to do the thing.

I went back to the cinema a short time ago. And I think we have a good illustration in the film "ready player one". This is a movie where the characters are immersed in a virtual reality game where there is a big prize to win: the hero who succeeds the game is not the one who had the most resources, but the one who knew the game. better the author of the game and who had the same interests as him, because all the clues that allowed the game to succeed were based on the author of the game and his interests. In the same way, "Succeeding in life", or leading one's life appropriately, does not depend only on the wisdom one has to have. But from the knowledge we have of the creator of life: God himself.

William Ames, a puritanical theologian of the 16th century, defined theology as "a teaching to men on how to live for God [and further on it] ... Men live for God when their lives are in accordance with the will of God, for the sake of God. glory of God and with God acting in them. "

So when the Bible proclaims principles, of course, but it is not just moral principles that we must apply. We must consider them more as a revelation of the character of God, and therefore of the actions that would flow from it (because the actions we take are a function of our character), then a model to which we should strive with the help of the Holy Spirit. Spirit that transforms us.

The theme of today's text is the theme of greatness. And I think it's a theme that speaks to every man. I think of course in a way where another one aspires to be great / to do something great.

And as we can see in this text it is also the case of the disciples.

In fact, Jesus' disciples ask him a question about the greatness to which they aspire like all human beings. As we will see in the text, the question is perhaps indicative of a lack of character at home. But in any case thanks to this question, we have the opportunity to hear Jesus the teacher par excellence, God made flesh, give us a clear vision of what greatness should be and what we should aspire to.

To explore the teaching of the Lord Jesus on this theme, I propose to approach the text in three parts. Based on the case of the disciples, we will first see the human aspiration to greatness: through their questions verses 46 and 49. Then we will see the answer that the Lord Jesus gives to the disciples and his definition of magnitude. Finally, I will share with you a reminder of what the Lord Jesus himself did and how he himself was the perfect example of His definition of greatness.

I- Human aspiration to greatness (Luke 9: 46 & 49)

Luke 9: 46: "They had a discussion between them to know which of them was the greatest."

Two weeks ago, we saw the transfiguration, Jesus who had a more glorious, more heavenly appearance before three of His disciples. On this occasion, Moses and Elijah had also appeared to three of the disciples.

Is it because of that that they have the discussion?

Do they say that Moses and Elijah were great at their time ... Maybe we who serve Jesus are the great ones of our time, but who among us is the greatest?

It is amazing to see the sincerity of the gospels on this discussion.

We all have dreams of greatness. May be inscribed in us by God. A desire for perhaps sound mastery in our activity, which would assimilate to cultivate and keep the garden as God had asked Adam, etc. But the sin of all corrupted in us, and where he must have a healthy quest for mastery of his activity / environment, there is also jealousy, covetousness; the desire to be above others.

When I was little, like all little ones, I wanted to be great and from the age of 14 I saw that God wanted me to be in the under 1m70 category (and I often prayed saying why me? ) ... but when you grow up the size you aspire to is not only physical, you aspire to "social" greatness: you want to have good diplomas, you want to be realized, etc. And this text teaches us that as a Christian one can even aspire to be great in the context of the kingdom of God (the church).

Then in verse 49—

Luke 9: 49: "Then John answered and said, "Master, we have seen someone casting out demons in your name, and we have prevented him, because he does not follow us."

John through this question shows that he has an attitude of saying, "Even if they are people who serve God, our subgroup is better, our way of doing things is better."

Often, to find the natural tendency in men, it is necessary to look at the children. In children the natural and human tendency is expressed without filter.

And something that makes me see this trend in the human is when we were in college or college and we had to train football teams by class as part of the campus tournament. We were convinced that our class had the best team on the campus. And when we lost we found a reason. Either it was the referee or we had a small error etc. John's attitude reminds us of how much we tend to think that the group of people we belong to is more valuable than others or better than others.

We could even find this attitude in the Church: We Calvinists, for example, we could think better than those who "have not yet understood" the doctrines of predestination and sovereign grace like us.

It is in the human tendency: because of the deformation created by sin, not only are we striving to be more honored than others, and to have more value than others, but also to think of our higher belonging group. to others.

II- The Divine Definition of Greatness (Luke 9: 47-48 & 50)

First, at the disciples' first question, who is the greatest among them, we read the Lord's response in verses 47-48:

Luke 9: 47-48: "Jesus knew the thought of their hearts; He took a little child, placed him near him, and said to them, "He who welcomes this little child in my name, it is I who receives him, and he who welcomes me welcomes him who sent me." In fact, the one who is the least of all of you is the one who is tall."

Jesus does not tell them just who is tall, but he tells them what to do.

Do not look for an inherent greatness in yourself: the greatness of a person is recognized by the greatness of the things to which that person applies. Great people recognize themselves at their center of interest. Big people are interested in big things.

The Lord turns their attention away from themselves. As they seek to know if there is a greatness in them, the Lord directs them to the great things. Show your greatness by doing what is great. And what is big? Serve the "little ones"

In serving the little ones what is given to them the time that is given to them is as if it were done to God Himself.

What would it be like today?

The Lord speaks of children. So it is literally at first small children. The Lord calls us to have a consideration for little children, to give them time.

But today in our society, the little ones can be all those who are a little on the margins of society, all those who do not have access to the things that define greatness. I think of homeless people, migrants, etc.

But in this church for example it can be simply those who are not executives, who have not made large schools, or who do not work in a large cabinet:

James said (the apostle James in his epistle):

James 2 v 2-4: "Suppose, indeed, that a man wearing a gold ring and sumptuous clothing should come into your assembly, and also a poor man with filthy clothes.3 If you turn your attention to the one who wears the sumptuous clothes to say to him: "You, sit here in this place of honor" and say to the poor man: "You, stand here standing" or else: "Sit down on the ground, at my Do you not make a distinction in yourself, and do not you become judges of bad reasoning?"

While I was thinking about the text this week, it occurred to me that there are examples among us of people who do this: 1. Service to retired people (Ludovic and Madame Violette); 2. The service with the homeless (Steve and Anthony, Anne-Laure); 3. Or we have brothers and sisters among us who engage with migrants who are in the process of integration in society (Edouardo, Karlina, Adalberto, Aude ...).

Whoever occupies a position at the Elysee Palace is necessarily a job that is prestigious. He works for the President of the Republic. In general they are people from grandes écoles (sup de co, ENA etc.) and they probably receive a good salary. But the one who devotes time to those who are literally small or to those who are "small" in society does something greater: he does not work for a president or a King ... He works in the service of God Himself. even.

I hope that you who are already involved in the service to the poor and on the margins of society find encouragement in this word; and I hope that those of us who are less so also find an encouragement in this Word: When you welcome these "little ones" of the society it is to Jesus that you welcome, it is to God that you make welcome. And as Jesus said in another context ... God rewards them in secret - perhaps in a way that is not directly visible - but God certainly rewards them.

Then to the remark of John, who told the Lord that they had prevented someone from casting out demons in the name of Jesus because that person had not joined their group, the Lord replied:

Luke 9:50: "Do not forbid him, Jesus answered him, because he who is not against us is for us."

In the first response of the Lord, he gave the disciples roughly a definition of what it means to be great in His kingdom: according to the Lord Jesus, to be great is "to be a servant".

In His response, the Lord gives another element of what characterizes a true servant: He does not seek His own glory: A true servant, and here in this case a servant of God has at heart that the work be done, even if the merit for the accomplished work goes to someone else.

If we are servants of Jesus Christ, we want His kingdom to advance. We want to see more people turn to Him. And it does not matter who the Lord will choose to serve.

There is a way to test if you do things because you have a servant's heart or for your personal ends and for your personal glory. I think I heard it from Paul Washer. It is by asking the question: if someone else did this, would you be satisfied?

The Lord Jesus saved us, He leads us into His Kingdom and now presents us how we must manage our natural aspiration to greatness: seeking to occupy ourselves with a great occupation: the service of the "little ones"; and seeking not our own glory, but that of the Lord, even if we do not receive honor at all.

So we have seen how man naturally aspires to greatness. We have seen the response of the Lord, who as a Father shows us a more excellent way. But as a reminder, I also want to show that this is what the Lord Jesus himself did.

III- Jesus the model par excellence of the greatness according to God.

There are certainly dozens of items that could be found in the Gospels to illustrate how Jesus modeled greatness as he just taught His disciples, that is, as a servant.

The perfect example that I know in the washing of the feet:

We find it in John 13. I read in verses 4 and 5:

"He got up from the table, left his clothes and took a cloth he put around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began washing the feet of the disciples and wiping them with the clothes he had around his waist."

At that time, it was the slaves who washed the feet of their masters. After a day, if we walked outside, we had our feet filled with dust. Those who had slaves had just to settle comfortably and their slaves came to wash their feet and wipe them, and they were all clean.

We know a little Jesus' disciples, among them many who lived fishing before committing full time to the ministry of the Word of God ... They probably would never have afforded the luxury of having slaves .

But their master, Jesus, who is also God, comes to wash their feet. [If we remember the scene we know that Peter strongly opposes it at first].

By and large Jesus the Lord of the universe behaves like a servant and treats His disciples as kings.

And this is a picture of what Jesus does, not only for the twelve disciples but for all his disciples in the world: as it says in 2 Corinthians 8: 9:

"[...] Our Lord Jesus Christ: for you became poor when he was rich so that by his poverty you would be enriched."

On the one hand Jesus was literally poor (he had no place to put his head), but most of all, Jesus willingly put himself in the posture where the poor put themselves so that we are in a posture of honor.

But that did not stop there. The apostle Paul continues in Philippians 2 v 8 - 9:

"He humbled himself ... [9] This is also why God raised him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above all names.".

The Lord, in His lifetime, behaved like a servant even though He was king and Lord of all. But today God raised him above all and gave him all the power over everything that exists


As an application and conclusion, I want to lead us to consider the Word of the Lord in verse 48.

"Whoever welcomes IN MY NAME this little child ..."

We know that we are saved from our sins and the wrath of God against us because of our sins when we put our faith in Jesus. And let us accept the gift of forgiveness that God gives us.

We are not saved because we practice works of charity, or because we put ourselves at the service of the poor.

But once we put our faith in Jesus. If this faith is true, it is supposed to bring us closer to Him. It is supposed to push us to love him. When we realize what Jesus did for us, we are pushed to love him. And if we love Jesus then we must do what was important to him, what he would do if He was on Earth ... Serve the little ones.

In a second time ... Regarding the search for greatness or honor we can receive: God has given us gifts ... and the call that God makes to Adam when he asks him to cultivate and keep the garden is for each one of us to excel in His gifts. But with regard to the glory that is associated with it, the Lord invites us not to pursue it, but to pursue greater: the glory of God. And the one who wants to be big ... The thing to do is not to try to be big, but to do great things ... Serve the little ones.