The Best-laid Plans
Patient Lord, so often my life is tamper-resistant to You. May Your Word break through and make me whole.
Read Luke 9:46-50
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
Who do you most admire in the church? Make a little list of your Christian heroes, and reflect on why you admire them.
This little passage is one of the most challenging in the Gospels! It is so radical in its implications that it is hardly surprising that we tend to ignore it. We much more naturally see things the way Jesus’ disciples did: having been commissioned as ministers of the Kingdom (1-6), they now see careers stretching in front of them, and naturally they want to do well. Which of them is the one who is bound to go far? Who will be “the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:1)?
Jesus responds in two ways: first, by his action and words about the “little child” (47,48), and then by what he said about the exorcist who was “not one of us” (49,50). The social background here is important. Children had no status at all in the ancient world. They were loved, of course, but were seen merely as adults-in-preparation, with no inherent social value or rights. Jesus’ words in v. 48 turn this on its head!–and so would have been completely rejected by all right-thinking people. How can a child be “greater” than its parents? Similarly Jesus’ saying in v. 50 is amazing: you don’t even have to belong to the official group of followers to qualify for acceptance, respect and admiration!
I belonged to a Christian academic community once where it became clear to me that the person with the most “Kingdom” significance among us was not one of the highly qualified and praised professors and lecturers I worked with, but the cleaning lady. Her life radiated far more of the Kingdom than anyone else. In the simplicity and clarity of her discipleship, she helped me to see more clearly what the whole institution was supposed to be about.
Come back to your list of heroes. How might you revise it in the light of this passage? What further thoughts do you have? Turn them into prayer.
Lord, I am challenged again by these words. I often embrace the world’s definition of greatness. Enable me to embrace true greatness by serving others in Your name.
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