THE UPSIDE-DOWN KINGDOM
Gracious Jesus let me see others through your eyes—eyes filled with love and compassion.
Read LUKE 9:37-50
Jesus Heals a Demon-Possessed Boy
37 The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. 38 A man in the crowd called out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. 39 A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. 40 I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.”
41 “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.”
42 Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the impure spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. 43 And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.
Jesus Predicts His Death a Second Time
While everyone was marveling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, 44 “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.” 45 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.
46 An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. 47 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. 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 it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”
49 “Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.”
50 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.”
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’1
The disciples debate about who is the greatest among them (v 46).2 There is a narrative irony here, in that this episode is bracketed by a story in which Jesus is exasperated by their inability to drive a demon out of a boy (vs 40,41) and another prediction of Jesus’ suffering which the disciples misunderstand and ignore (vs 44,45), and a story in which they are jealous of others – ‘not one of us’ – who are successfully driving out demons in Jesus’ name (vs 49,50). Luke’s arrangement of stories highlights the disciples’ frivolous attempts at self-advancement. As Jesus makes clear, this behavior is the exact opposite of true greatness.
Jesus highlights a child as an example of one who appears least but is actually greatest. In his culture, children were generally marginalized until reaching adulthood, so this claim would have caught his listeners’ attention. It highlights the upside-down nature of the kingdom – people become great in God’s sight as they sincerely look away from themselves to revere him and to serve others. This paradigm overturns the world’s value structure: a truly great life is characterized by humble and loving service.
The child represents anyone on the fringes of society, anyone overlooked and ignored. Our care for others, particularly the helpless, the needy, and the poor, is a measure of our greatness. How much concern do you show for others? So many are only interested in worldly greatness – status, wealth, power, possessions, reputation. Jesus’ counter-intuitive path to greatness radically undermines this system by reminding us that the last will be first and the least will be greatest.
Look for opportunities to pursue God’s kind of greatness. Learn how to prefer others above ourselves. Ask for God’s heart for the disadvantaged and the marginalized.
Lord Jesus, forgive my arrogant tendencies; help me to serve you with humility, always seeing others as better than myself.
1 Mark 10:45 2 See also Luke 22:24
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