World Wide Study Bible


a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary

True Greatness

46 An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest. 47But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side, 48and said to them, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.”

Select a resource above

Ambition of the Disciples Reproved.

43 And they were all amazed at the mighty power of God. But while they wondered every one at all things which Jesus did, he said unto his disciples,   44 Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men.   45 But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask him of that saying.   46 Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest.   47 And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by him,   48 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.   49 And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.   50 And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.

We may observe here, I. The impression which Christ's miracles made upon all that beheld them (v. 43): They were all amazed at the mighty power of God, which they could not but see in all the miracles Christ wrought. Note, The works of God's almighty power are amazing, especially those that are wrought by the hand of the Lord Jesus; for he is the power of God, and his name is Wonderful. Their wonder was universal: they wondered every one. The causes of it were universal: they wondered at all things which Jesus did; all his actions had something uncommon and surprising in them.

II. The notice Christ gave to his disciples of his approaching sufferings: The Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men, wicked men, men of the worst character; they shall be permitted to abuse him at their pleasure. That is here implied which is expressed by the other evangelists: They shall kill him. But that which is peculiar here is, 1. The connection of this with what goes next before, of the admiration with which the people were struck at beholding Christ's miracles (v. 43): While they all wondered at all things which Jesus did, he said this to his disciples. They had a fond conceit of his temporal kingdom, and that he should reign, and they with him, in secular pomp and power; and now they thought that this mighty power of his would easily effect the thing, and his interest gained by his miracles in the people would contribute to it; and therefore Christ, who knew what was in their hearts, takes this occasion to tell them again, what he had told them before, that he was so far from having men delivered into his hands that he must be delivered into the hands of men, so far from living in honour that he must die in disgrace; and all his miracles, and the interest he has by them gained in the hearts of the people, will not be able to prevent it. 2. The solemn preface with which it is introduced: "Let these sayings sink down into your ears; take special notice of what I say, and mix faith with it; let not the notions you have of the temporal kingdom of the Messiah stop your ears against it, nor make you unwilling to believe it. Admit what I say, and submit to it." Let it sink down into your hearts; so the Syriac and Arabic read it. The word of Christ does us no good, unless we let it sink down into our heads and hearts. 3. The unaccountable stupidity of the disciples, with reference to this prediction of Christ's sufferings. It was said in Mark, They understood not that saying. It was plain enough, but they would not understand it in the literal sense, because it agreed not with their notions; and they could not understand it in any other, and were afraid to ask him lest they should be undeceived and awaked out of their pleasing dream. But it is here added that it was hidden from them, that they perceived it not, through the weakness of faith and the power of prejudice. We cannot think that it was in mercy hidden from them, lest they should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow at the prospect of it; but that it was a paradox, because they made it so to themselves.

III. The rebuke Christ gave to his disciples for their disputing among themselves which should be greatest, v. 46-48. This passage we had before, and, the more is the pity, we shall meet with the like again. Observe here,

1. Ambition of honour, and strife for superiority and precedency, are sins that most easily beset the disciples of our Lord Jesus, for which they deserve to be severely rebuked; they flow from corruptions which they are highly concerned to subdue and mortify, v. 46. They that expect to be great in this world commonly aim high, and nothing will serve them short of being greatest; this exposes them to a great deal of temptation and trouble, which they are safe from that are content to be little, to be least, to be less than the least.

2. Jesus Christ is perfectly acquainted with the thoughts and intents of our hearts: He perceived their thoughts, v. 47. Thoughts are words to him, and whispers are loud cries. It is a good reason why we should keep up a strict government of our thoughts because Christ takes a strict cognizance of them.

3. Christ will have his disciples to aim at that honour which is to be obtained by a quiet and condescending humility, and not at that which is to be obtained by a restless and aspiring ambition. Christ took a child, and set him by him, v. 47 (for he always expressed a tenderness and kindness for little children), and he proposed this child to them for an example. (1.) Let them be of the temper of this child, humble and quiet, and easy to itself; let them not affect worldly pomp, or grandeur, or high titles, but be as dead to them as this child; let them bear no more malice to their rivals and competitors than this child did. Let them be willing to be the least, if that would contribute any thing to their usefulness, to stoop to the meanest office whereby they might do good. (2.) Let them assure themselves that this was the way to preferment; for this would recommend them to the esteem of their brethren: they that loved Christ would therefore receive them in his name, because they did most resemble him, and they would likewise recommend themselves to his favour, for Christ would take the kindnesses done to them as done to himself: Whosoever shall receive one such child, a preacher of the gospel that is of such a disposition as this, he placeth his respect aright, and receiveth me; and whosoever receiveth me, in such a minister, receiveth him that sent me; and what greater honour can any man attain to in this world than to be received by men as a messenger of God and Christ, and to have God and Christ own themselves received and welcomed in him? This honour have all the humble disciples of Jesus Christ, and thus they shall be truly great that are least among them.

IV. The rebuke Christ gave to his disciples for discouraging one that honoured him and served him, but was not of their communion, not only not one of the twelve, nor one of the seventy, but not one of those that ever associated with them, or attended on them, but, upon occasional hearing of Christ, believed in him, and made use of his name with faith and prayer in a serious manner, for the casting out of devils. Now, 1. This man they rebuked and restrained; they would not let him pray and preach, though it was to the honour of Christ, though it did good to men and weakened Satan's kingdom, because he did not follow Christ with them; he separated from their church, was not ordained as they were, paid them no respect, nor gave them the right hand of fellowship. Now, if ever any society of Christians in this world had reason to silence those that were not of their communion, the twelve disciples at this time had; and yet, 2. Jesus Christ chid them for what they did, and warned them not to do the like again, nor any that profess to be successors of the apostles: "Forbid him not (v. 50), but rather encourage him, for he is carrying on the same design that you are, though, for reasons best known to himself, he does not follow with you; and he will meet you in the same end, though he does not accompany you in the same way. You do well to do as you do, but it does not therefore follow that he does ill to do as he does, and that you do well to put him under an interdict, for he that is not against us is for us, and therefore ought to be countenanced by us." We need not lose any of our friends, while we have so few, and so many enemies. Those may be found faithful followers of Christ, and, as such, may be accepted of him, though they do not follow with us. See Mark ix. 38, 39. O what a great deal of mischief to the church, even from those that boast of relation to Christ, and pretend to envy for his sake, would be prevented, if this passage of story were but duly considered!