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The Scriptorium

Greatness as Leastness

Jesus looks on the heart. Luke 9.46-50

Luke 9 Part 2 (4)

Pray Psalm 146.5-7, 10.
Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help,
Whose hope is in the LORD his God,
Who made heaven and earth,
The sea, and all that is in them;
Who keeps truth forever,
Who executes justice for the oppressed,
Who gives food to the hungry.
The LORD gives freedom to the prisoners…
The LORD shall reign forever—
Your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the LORD!

Sing Psalm 146.5-7, 10.
(Hallelujah! What a Savior!: Man of Sorrows)
Blessed are they whose hope resides in the Lord, Christ at His side.
By Him heav’n and earth abide – God forever reigns in Zion!

He is faithful evermore; He gives justice to the poor,
feeds the hungry from His store – God forever reigns in Zion!

Read Luke 9.28-50; meditate on verses 46-50.


1. About what were the disciples disputing?

2. How did Jesus respond to them?

These verses show us how easily pride can enter the soul even of those closest to the Lord. “Dispute” is a little too harsh here; “discussion” is more like it. They were casually, perhaps even whimsically, comparing themselves with one another, perhaps to recover some “face” after the failed attempt to heal the little child. We can imagine Peter, James, and John thinking themselves to be head of the class, what with the (wink, wink, but don’t tell, v. 36) vision of Jesus in glory still in their minds. And everybody was probably eager to keep Peter from thinking too highly of himself, given Jesus’ commendation earlier in the chapter (cf. v. 20, Peter’s commendation implied from Matt. 16.17-19).

Then there was John’s attempt to shore up the status of the “inner ring” (Lewis) by suggesting a certain person who was not a part of their “group” should not be allowed to act as if he was. John said they told the man (the Greek makes it clear it was a man) to stop casting out demons because he was not one of them (v. 49). He didn’t have the right credentials.

In each case, Jesus gently but firmly took aim at the disciples’ pride. Greatness is a matter of leastness, He explained (vv. 47, 48), just as He Himself had become least of all people to die for our salvation. Greatness is childlikeness. Don’t vaunt yourself. Be humble and unassertive. Obey those who have authority over you. Greatness lies this way.

And as for the “outsider”, Jesus said to leave him alone. He was on Jesus’ side as evidenced by the work he was doing and the power he displayed. And the humility: The man did not seek to gain status by pushing for admission to Club Disciples. He just did what he saw Jesus doing to help those in need. That’s what Jesus is looking for in all His followers.


Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face.
Now I know in part, but then I shall know
just as I am known” (1 Cor. 13.12).

Fully known by the Lord God. The good stuff and the bad are right on display with Him.

“And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart…” (Lk. 9.47).
“O God, You know my foolishness; and my sins are not hidden from You” (Ps. 69.5).

Nothing about us is hidden from His purview, yet knowing all, He loves us enough to warn us away from sin.

As Solomon prayed, “LORD God…hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and act, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know (for You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men), that they may fear You all the days that they live in the land which You gave to our fathers” (1 Ki. 8.23, 39, 40). Yes, know and warn us, teach and train us, love and forgive us.

“The Lord knows those who are His” (2 Tim. 2.19); and as the writer of Hebrews notes, “The word of God…is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4.12).

On this occasion, Jesus perceived that the thoughts of His disciples’ hearts needed a quick paradigm shift. He, like God with Cain, was shining a warning light on thoughts that He knew would lead quickly to sin if not checked. “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” (Gen. 4.7). Cain didn’t and Abel died.

My heart known, my thoughts perceived, my prayer heard and answered:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties;
and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139.23, 24).

For reflection
1. How can we keep our heart from straying into pride?

2. Today, as you go into your Personal Mission Field, how will you practice Kingdom leastness?

3. It’s good to remember that the Lord always sees our heart. Explain.

Christ brought forward the child as a pattern of simplicity and innocence, and set him by him. He showed him as in an object lesson, that he accepts and loves those who are like the child. He thinks they are worthy of standing at his side, as being like-minded with him and anxious to walk in his steps.
Cyril of Alexandria (375-444), Commentary on Luke,, Homily 54

Pray Psalm 146.1-4, 10.
Praise Jesus for humbling Himself to come among us, to live, die, and rise again for our salvation. Ask God to make you more like Him – more of a servant, shepherd, witness, and seeker of the lost.

Sing Psalm 146.1-4, 10.
(Hallelujah! What a Savior!: Man of Sorrows)
Praise the Lord, my soul, give praise! While I live, His Name I’ll raise,
and exalt Him all my days – God forever reigns in Zion!

Trust we not in prince or man; no salvation’s in their hand;
death shall take them, breath and plans – God forever reigns in Zion!

T. M. and Susie Moore

You can download all the studies in our Luke series by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by
clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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