Our context for today's lesson is Jesus, Peter, John and James came down from the Mount of Transfiguration and found an angry crowd stirred up by the teachers of the Law (scribes). The other disciples could not drive a demon out of a boy brought by his father. Before driving the demon out, Jesus rebuked the generation saying, "O unbelieving and perverse generation…" then called for the boy. The demon threw the boy on the ground convulsing. Jesus rebuked the demon. The boy looked as if he were dead (Mar 9:26), but began to move and stood up healed. The crowd went wild marveling at all that Jesus did - yelling, jumping, and applauding, laughing, and crying. You can imagine the energized elated scene. As that happened, we read…
Luke 9:43-45 And they were all amazed at the greatness of God. WHILE EVERYONE WAS MARVELING at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, "LISTEN CAREFULLY TO WHAT I AM ABOUT TO TELL YOU: The Son of Man is going to be BETRAYED into the hands of men." But they did not understand what this meant. IT WAS HIDDEN FROM THEM, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.
The Message Bible says,
(TMB) Luke 9:44-45 "TREASURE AND PONDER EACH OF THESE NEXT WORDS: THE SON OF MAN IS ABOUT TO BE BETRAYED INTO HUMAN HANDS." THEY DIDN'T GET what he was saying. It was like he was speaking a foreign language and they couldn't make heads or tails of it. But they were embarrassed to ask him what he meant.
In the midst of all the marveling, seemingly, out of the blue, Jesus hit the disciples with "The Son of Man is about to be betrayed..." Jesus is such a downer sometimes. Ever been there? Things are going good when in the midst of rejoicing and being amazed at the greatness of God, you come to church and Jesus blasts you - your plans change, your theology is challenged, conviction comes. Why in this ecstatic moment did Jesus tell them about his betrayal?
One reason was the disciples experienced failure, but the kingdom is going to advance despite anyone's failures. Jesus will be betrayed and crucified. It will appear as failure, but the kingdom will advance. Nothing will, or can, stop the kingdom of God and church (Mat 16:18) not even the betrayal and death of Jesus.
Think about this a moment. Every one of us experienced failures, but from those failures, God advanced his kingdom in you and perhaps in others. It may be because of your perceived failures you're here and in the kingdom today. Jesus was letting them know their failure had not damaged his mission. Though his betrayal was intended to stop the kingdom, it couldn't.
It says "it was hidden from them." Why tell of the betrayal if it was hidden from them? The reason Jesus continually told them of his arrest, trial, scourging, crucifixion, and resurrection was so after it happened they would recall it realizing it was not failure. He told them to "listen carefully to" - treasure - what he was about to tell them. Put it in a safe place. You will need it. It would later become a primary truth to them of Christ's success, not failure. They would see it was all in God's plan. Instead of the betrayal becoming a bad thing, it would be a good thing.
When we think about it, the future hidden from us is a mercy of God. God will hide things from us. If we knew the things we would face and our end, we would go crazy with worry. Plus, we'd loose the joy of anticipating the good. The Lord doesn't give us more details than we can handle. One day, it will all make sense and we will see how God worked out his plan through each of us. I want to tell you no matter what crazy thing you're experiencing, if you don't get it, it's hidden from you and God's got a plan. You will look back and get it. Your faith will increase.
So, Jesus tells them "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men." Serious issues, right? The next thing we read is…
Luke 9:46 An ARGUMENT started among the disciples as to WHICH OF THEM WOULD BE THE GREATEST.
They were not arguing about who "was" the greatest. They argued about "which of them would be the greatest." Human nature is amazing. Jesus shared a major emotional moment of his impending betrayal leading to the horror ahead and the disciples take his statement as a cue to begin jockeying for personal position. I mean, if Jesus is about to be betrayed and handed over to men, there will be room at the top.
Do disciples argue? Really? Do church people argue? Do you ever argue? God's attempting to tell us something extremely important and we're arguing! What brings on arguments? It is pride and selfishness. Jesus' disciples constantly struggled with this. We are told of their huge arguments three separate times (here, Mat 20:20; and Luk 22:24 at the last supper!). Jesus persistently dealt with them each time giving them a lesson. Obviously they didn't learn. I think it's that way with us. We all struggle with pride. You may say, "Well, I don't think I do." Do you ever argue? Arguing is a dead giveaway of pride and ego. I don't know if we ever learn and realize how dangerous pride is to us.
Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before DESTRUCTION, a haughty spirit before a FALL.
Pride sets up our own destruction. When I, or you, or anyone becomes arrogant and prideful, a fall is not far away. God will see to it. He hates the proud look (Pro 6:16-19).
Luke 9:47 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him.
(KJV) Luke 9:47 And Jesus, perceiving THE THOUGHT OF THEIR HEART
I hate it when I realize God knows the thought of my heart. The last thing I want when arguing is for Jesus to get involved. If I'm in a heavy argument with Judy, voices raised, tension high, the last thing I want is for Jesus to do a teaching. Why? If I'm arguing, I know something's wrong in my heart. (Even though I'm right - kidding - I shouldn't be arguing.) I've allowed pride to rule me. That's so difficult to remember in the heat of an argument.
A little child was close. Jesus took the little child and had him stand beside him. What a beautiful image.
Luke 9:48 Then he said to them, "WHOEVER WELCOMES this little child IN MY NAME welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is LEAST among you all -- he is the GREATEST."
Jesus gave them a visual. I believe Jesus was an imposing man in his stature. If you're capable of driving people out of the temple with a whip and putting people out of Jairus' house, you're imposing. Jesus placed a little child beside him. There stood big, famous, important Jesus who is the Messiah, and the unknown little child. What an image!
He showed them greatness doesn't come by who wins the argument. Greatness comes by our willingness to assume the least role and function there. What's the least roll? Well, notice it's not the little child who is the greatest. It's the person with the ability to welcome this little child - treat this little child - as though he or she was welcoming/treating Jesus the King - "in my name." That's the role of the "least."
The greatest is the person who can take someone who is seemingly unimportant, small in the eyes of society, someone who has accomplished nothing, perhaps dirty like a child, and receives that person the way they would receive the King of the universe, the center of the Godhead.It's getting past any social status and stigmas. It's getting beyond race, skin colors, nationality, and gender. There is no prejudice in the kingdom of God. If you treat the seemingly unimportant as the greatest then you are the greatest. Why does it make you the greatest? You have welcomed/received Jesus and Father - "the one who sent me."
Obviously the disciples struggled with prejudice among themselves. Do we have prejudice problems at Life Gate among us? Do you? Jesus gave us a secret of the kingdom of God concerning how to experience the greatest life possible.
Then, seemingly out of context, we read…
Luke 9:49-50 "Master," said John, "WE SAW a man driving out demons IN YOUR NAME and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us." "Do not stop him," Jesus said, "for whoever is not against you is for you."
I want to note a few things. (1) You don't have to be an apostle to drive out demons. This guy was driving out demons. (2) Even people close to God will tell you to stop driving demons out. Don't stop.
Immediately after Jesus corrected the disciples concerning "greatest" John made this comment. The KJV says, "John answered and said…" John is responding to Jesus. He encountered someone successfully driving out demons, but said "We're the demon driver outers around here. We have the exclusive commission to drive out demons." John realized his pride messed him up. Now he's convicted.
This is a little ironic. John said, "We saw…" So this wasn't only John. Other disciples were involved in attempting to stop this person driving out demons. Only a short time prior to this, nine disciples couldn't drive a demon out of one boy. Probably some of them who failed were responsible for telling a man who was successful to stop.
How do you feel when someone is enjoying success and you're not? I have to check my heart. Something inside me wants to say, "Yes, but…" Then point out a fault I think I see. It's the insidious nature of pride and jealousy and argument and ego. Jesus said, "Listen, if they are not against you they can't hurt you. Leave them alone. Don't stop them. You focus on what you're to do."
John's convicted. I get convicted too. When my egotistical words and pride rule my heart, I, like John say, "Lord, I messed up. Someone is having success and I (with my words) tried to stop them. Lord, help me with my pride. I don't want to fall. I don't want to face destruction." How about you?
Where are you concerning Biblical greatness? How are you concerning welcoming the small, the dirty, the seemingly unimportant, those who society says are lower than others? Do you push them down further, or do you make them feel like kings and queens? The way you welcome them is exactly the way you welcome Jesus who is the Son of Man, and the one who sent him.