Luke 9:46-48

I wrote this as my chapel message this week. It went a lot better than the last one. The idea was struck by a recent sermon I heard and an old blog post from Tim Challies.


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.”

Jesus has just finished remarking that he is going to be handed over to the Romans and crucified. He is about to make himself least for the sake of his disciples. What do the disciples do upon hearing this? Luke tells us they did not understand what he was saying and they were too afraid to ask him what he meant.

And it’s quite clear that they hadn’t understood the words of Jesus from the next passage, there we read that the disciples were arguing among themselves over who was the greatest. Previously Jesus gave them the power to heal and cast out demons, as our Lord himself had been doing; then he told them to take up their cross and follow him; a little later they witnessed the transfiguration and saw the Messiah in his glory. Perhaps the powers granted to them had puffed them up and caused infighting among them. After seeing the Messiah in his glory and hearing the voice of the Father, they must have learned something about the one they were following, but perhaps they took it to mean something about themselves too. That there was something in themselves that made them worthy of being Christ’s disciples.

Regardless of the reason, it’s clear that pride was at work in the hearts of the disciples. The brothers began fighting among themselves and arguing about who was greatest. And what does Jesus say to all of this? How does he respond when he sees what is happening?

“Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”

Receive the least. Be welcoming to everyone, show hospitality to all, even the little children who can’t repay you. Take care of the ones you would otherwise overlook. Ultimately the message of Jesus here is: stop fighting about who is the greatest and follow my example by becoming the least.

So what is the message for us? We did not witness the casting out of demons and we haven’t been granted – as far as I know – the power to heal or exorcise unclean spirits. I haven’t heard anyone arguing they should be appointed as Archbishop of CRTS.

Yet I think we all face the temptation to compare ourselves to one another. We each have different gifts and talents, and these can become sources of envy and competition.

Instead we should focus on the fact that we bear witness to the work of God in us. You and I are living testimonies of God’s mercy. We are living testimonies that God does indeed receive the little children.

And if one person thinks they are better than another, how do they go about showing that? I have no one else to compare myself to because I can’t speak to the sins of others.

There’s a saying from William Law, “We may justly condemn ourselves as the greatest sinners we know because we know more of the folly of our own heart than we do of other people’s.” And this rings true. No person can know the reasoning or motivation or cause of another person’s sin. In the Christian context, if one person thinks he is better than another, he does not truly realize the depths of his sinfulness.

We can’t see what is going on in another person’s mind or in their heart. We can’t see if they have wept over their sins and repented of them, or if their heart has been hardened. What we do know, at least in part, is the motivation for our own sins. We do know how quickly we fall to temptation, it’s much more difficult to speak of how long our brother or sister resisted before falling. We aren’t witnesses of all of our brother’s or sister’s sins, but we have witnessed each one of the sins we committed. With that perspective how can we dream of arguing who is the greatest?

And the beauty of the gospel is that Jesus died for the greatest of sinners. He died to cleanse us of our sins and of our evil. He redeemed us by his blood but it didn’t stop at redemption from sin.

He redeemed us by his blood so that we could be called children of God, brothers and sisters in Christ. Before we were Christians there may have been some worldly value in finding out who was the greatest, some temporary benefit. Now that we are in Christ we are all co-heirs with him, we all serve the same King. We all have the same objective. We’ve all been given the same chief end by the one who is indeed the Greatest.

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Understand herein the goodness of the Creator…

Understand herein the goodness of the Creator, that so far as you by sinning have cast yourself down, so far has He descended in following you.

Rufinus, 345–411

 

While working on a paper regarding the phrase in the Apostles’ Creed “He Descended into Hell,” I came across this quote and thought I’d share it.

Another Update

I really have to think of better titles for these. It’s been a busy and fruitful number of weeks since I last posted an update. My studies continue to prove challenging and beneficial, and I’m daily reminded of how much more I have to learn. I’m also reminded of the great salvation we have in Christ as our Lord and Saviour.

I submitted two papers last week, one was a text critical assignment on 2 Corinthians 14, and the other a personality reflection paper. Both did not involve too much research, basically just the notes which I had on hand.

I’ve also helped restart a program called Moses’ Clinic. It’s basically a workshop for seminary students where we work on our public speaking skills, reading abilities, and similar things. It’s been fruitful so far and I’m hoping it will continue to help me grow in my abilities. Thankfully it doesn’t take much planning or organizing. Basically I send out an email once a week with what we’ll be covering in the workshop and then hope people show up 🙂

Yesterday, Friday November 3, I had an oral exam on the Heidelberg Catechism. In preparation I had to memorize the first 31 Lord’s Days and the major themes of the catechism. This was easily the greatest challenge for the freshman so far. I stumbled a fair bit, mainly due to the stress of the situation, but am happy with the B grade I received. Aside from reciting a number of questions and answers, one of the interesting things I was asked about was the use of Faith in the Catechism. It’s remarkable that Faith is referred to in three different ways in the catechism.

First we are told that faith is necessary for salvation and the only means by which we can be saved. It is defined in LD 7 as “a firm confidence that not only to others, but also to me, God has granted forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation, out of mere grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits. This faith the Holy Spirit works in my heart by the gospel.”

Second, it appears in Lord’s Day 23 where we confess that this faith is our righteousness before God, yet we are not righteous because of the worthiness of our faith, “for only the satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ is my righteousness before God. I can receive this righteousness and make it my own by faith only.”

Third, it is mentioned in Lord’s Day 25 where we confess how this faith is worked in us by the Spirit, “who works it in our hearts by the preaching of the gospel, and strengthens it by the use of the sacraments.”

So faith is spoken of in three ways, it’s defined as a firm confidence, confessed as our only grounds of salvation, and spoken of as the result of the Spirit’s work.

Looking ahead, I have that paper on the Descent into Hell to write over the next seven days. I think I may have bit off a bit more than I can chew with this one… It’s an incredibly interesting subject but I’m having trouble narrowing down my topic which has made things quite difficult.

I also have the last Hebrew test of the semester on Wednesday. We’ll be tested on the rest of the catechism in February, so I have a nice chunk of time to work on that yet 🙂

Lord’s Day 10

Q.
What do you understand by the providence of God?
A.
God’s providence is
his almighty and ever present power,
whereby, as with his hand, he still upholds
heaven and earth and all creatures,
and so governs them that
leaf and blade,
rain and drought,
fruitful and barren years,
food and drink,
health and sickness,
riches and poverty,
indeed, all things,
come to us not by chance
but by his fatherly hand.

Q.
What does it benefit us to know
that God has created all things
and still upholds them by his providence?
A.
We can be patient in adversity,
thankful in prosperity,
and with a view to the future
we can have a firm confidence
in our faithful God and Father
that no creature shall separate us
from his love;
for all creatures are so completely in his hand
that without his will
they cannot so much as move.

Depending on God

(I can’t remember where exactly I found this prayer)

O Jesus Christ, Thou Son of the Blessed, Lamb of God, Which takest away the sins of the world : In Thy all-sufficient merits alone we trust for the remission of our sins. Through the Blood of Thy Cross we hope for peace with God, for strength against the powers of darkness, for safety, and help, and salvation ; the communion of Thy Holy Spirit here, and everlasting bliss with Thee hereafter. In Thy unfathomable grace, and the unsearchable depths of Thy love, is our trust. In Thy Name standeth our help. Have mercy on all broken hearts, and heal them ; all struggling with temptation, and rescue them ; all fainting in despair, and raise them up. Have mercy on all that groan beneath their sins ; on all that fall away from Thee ; on all that waver in their faith, and stablish, strengthen, settle them. O Blessed Jesus, Who didst shed Thy Blood for our souls to save them, shed Thy Holy Spirit upon all, and heal them. Have mercy on all in misery, or peril, or pain. Preserve them, Thou Who didst on earth so mercifully relieve and succour the distressed. Thou God of all help and comfort, take us to Thy tender care, and save and succour both our bodies and our souls. Thou that didst redeem us all, keep us for ever Thine, we pray Thee, for Thine infinite mercy’s sake ; and keep us in the love of God, until we come with all the multitude of Thy redeemed saints to those eternal mansions which Thou hast prepared in the kingdom of Thy Father. Bring us in Thine own good time to share Thy glory, and to praise Thee, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, One God for evermore. Amen.