Who is the greatest? My answer is going to surprise you! The big question today is, who is the greatest?
Now, before we get into the answer there’s a story told about a pastor who, every Sunday before the adult sermon, brought the children forward and would give a little children’s sermon before they’d be released to go to Sunday School. So, one Sunday, at the beginning of his children’s sermon with all of those kids gathering around him, he said, “Okay, children, I have a question for you. What is small and furry and has a long tail and climbs up and down trees?” One little boy raised his hand, and the pastor said, “Okay, Johnny, what’s the answer?” And he said, “Well, I know the answer is Jesus, but it sure sounds like a squirrel to me!”
He was so used to the answer always being Jesus, it had to be Jesus even when it didn’t make a bit of sense.
A Less-Known Verse
So, with my question today, who is the greatest, I know everyone’s thinking, well, that’s an easy question. Jesus said, “The greatest among you shall be the servant of all” (see Matthew 23:11).
Okay, you’re right, but that’s really not what I was going say today. Because there’s another person whom Jesus said is the greatest, and this particular verse we’re gonna look at is not hardly ever mentioned. It’s surprising. The one that I just quoted, whoever is the servant, he’ll be the greatest, everybody knows that one. There have been lots of sermons about that.
The one I’m going to share is hardly ever shared, but it’s right out of the Gospel of Matthew and it’s right out of the Sermon on the Mount. And it’s Matthew 5:19.
Whoever Keeps and Teaches the Commandments
Jesus was speaking about the commandments, and holiness and righteousness, and He says, “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” Now, He didn’t say you wouldn’t get in, but He’s lowered his status in the kingdom of heaven because he annulled some minor commandments and also taught others to do so.
Now we keep reading, “but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” So, of course the important thing is to get into heaven. I mean, if you get in just barely and you’re amongst the least, praise the Lord, better than being cast into hell, right? Right.
But, why settle for being the least when there’s no reason you have to be among that group of people and you can get to be among the greatest, or at least closer to it?
How To Be the Greatest
And Jesus told you how to accomplish that: by keeping and teaching the commandments. Of course, we know we’re not under the Old Covenant law of Moses, we’re under the law of Christ. I’ve talked about that on previous Little Lessons, although the law of Christ certainly includes all the moral aspects of the law of Moses.
But, we’re under the law of Christ, so whoever keeps and teaches the commandments of Jesus, they’re going to be the greatest person. And notice Jesus didn’t say, “Whoever teaches the most people, has the biggest crowds, biggest church, widest audience.” Oh, no. God is not looking at numbers like we’re looking at numbers. He’s looking at faithfulness, and the heart’s motivation.
Teaching the Most Important Things
So, it’s going be so surprising. So many great people in heaven that you and I never heard of: Sunday School teachers, people that have jail ministries, people that go into personal care homes and have little bible studies and all those people who are just faithfully teaching small numbers of people. And they’re teaching them the important things.
Here are the commandments of Christ. This is what Jesus said we should do, and that’s what we all should be striving to do and I’m teaching you by my example and by my words. And again, it’s not just teaching, the lecture kind of teaching. The most important kind of teaching, of course, is our example.
We teach other people. They look at us and then they can imitate us. Just as Paul said, “Imitate me like I’m imitating Christ” (see 1 Corinthians 11:1).
A Question for Pastors
So, here’s the question. Are you doing it? I can, first of all, speak to pastors. I wonder so much sometimes if pastors are aware of this particular verse.
Because it doesn’t seem like the thrust of their teaching revolves around trying to help people understand and obey Christ’s commandments. There are so many things that Jesus said that nobody talks about. All those things Jesus said about stewardship, they’re rarely mentioned by preachers in North America, anyway, and I guess by preachers all over the world.
Those are things Jesus said to do, and that’s extremely important. So, if you’re just teaching people how to live an abundant life and how to get more stuff and how to be happier and how to overcome their psychological woes, I’m happy for all that. But that’s not what Jesus said is going to make you great in the kingdom.
Jesus also didn’t say whoever is successful at it, no. He’s not judging on how well people listened to you as you taught.
If you do teach Christ’s commandments, I can guarantee you’re probably not going to get a big crowd, or a big following. Just face up to it, because people don’t want to follow or obey Jesus’ commandments. So, whether they listen to you or not, if you’re keeping his commandments and teaching them, and of course, doing it in a loving way… because that’s one of his commandments, is to love people, love your neighbor as yourself…
Now, if you’re one of those holiness preachers who’s always screaming’ at people and yelling at them and condemning everybody and sending them to hell.. Come on, you need to get up there and weep for people. And you need to confess your own faults.
All right, thank you so much for joining me! God bless you.