Who is Greatest
Jesus was asked who is the greatest in his kingdom. His answer is an illustration in chronological order. By studying the timing we can find who he considers greatest, the Patriarch Joseph. This article explores.
Jesus was presented with a pretty simple question. Who is the greatest?
His answer involves a little boy who is brought into the middle. The account is told in 2 places, Matthew and Mark. Here are the passages.
1At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"
2He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5"And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. Matthew 18:1-5 NIV
1At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?tis ara (who) - ara empty 2And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, 3And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.ean mee (except) - mee empty ou mee (not) - mee empty 4Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.how ean (whoso) - ean empty Matthew 18:1-5 KJV
33They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the road?" 34But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
35Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all."
36He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37"Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me." Mark 9:33-37 NIV
33¶And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? 34But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. 35And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. 36And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, 37Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me. Mark 9:33-37 KJV
The 12 Gathered
To answer their question about who is greatest, Jesus calls together the twelve disciples. This action is the parable’s way of calling attention to the twelve patriarchs, Abraham’s great grand kids. After Abraham, their births are the next main event in the Bible’s original chronology. As explained in an earlier article, this happened while Jacob’ was in Laban’s service in the 20 years from 9001 AA through 9020 AA.
The sons of Jacob ran into the issue of who was greatest also. They were arguing amongst themselves, jockeying for position. Reuben was the rightful heir to Abraham’s estate, so he would naturally be the greatest.
They were stunned when their young brother Joseph began having prophetic dreams. The brothers would not believe what God was saying, and projected their own hearts on Joseph. Everyone in the family, including their father Jacob, was stunned by some of the things Joseph’s dreams implied, though they would come true in time.
Eventually, Joseph, was the greatest in his generation when he was made Prime Ministry of ancient Egypt. (About 9040 AA.) Because of Reuben’s sin, Joseph also inherited Abraham’s right of first born, as well as the ’great nation’ promise given to Abraham.
Notice, though, the role of Joseph relative to the rest of the family. Joseph knew he was their servant and did all he could to provide for the needs of the rest of his family. He was both greatest and least.
The ’great nation promise’ passed to Joseph is one of the covenant promises that is key to understanding the lost tribes. The specific ’great nation’ promise passes to Joseph’s sons and eventually to the nations descended from them.
The parable continues and Jesus brings in an important word picture, the ’millstone.’ The following is the text:
The narrative now turns to looking for a famous child. Abraham would be near in terms of the overall timeline, but he does not become famous until he is around age 100.
The little child with dreams, though, is Joseph. The disciples in this story are like the other brothers of Joseph, who hate him because of his dreams. He becomes the greatest in the kingdom, as we see later in Joseph's life as he works to keep people from starvation.
The story continues with more details.
7¶Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! 8Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. 9And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. Matthew 18:7-9 KJV
7"Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! 8If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. Matthew 18:7-9 NIV
10Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.dia pantos (always) - dia empty 11For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. 12How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? 13And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.no English for hoti (tag 9) 14Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish. Matthew 18:10-14 KJV
10"See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. 11
12"What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost. Matthew 18:10-14 NIV
15"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that `every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
18"I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Matthew 18:15-18 NIV
15¶Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.ean kai (if) - kai empty 18Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.hosa ean (whatsoever) - ean empty (twice) Matthew 18:15-18 KJV
38"Teacher," said John, "we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us."
39"Do not stop him," Jesus said. "No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40for whoever is not against us is for us. 41I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.
42"And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck. 43If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. 44 45And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. 46 47And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48where "`their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.' 49Everyone will be salted with fire.
50"Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other." Mark 9:38-50 NIV
38¶And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. 39But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. 40For he that is not against us is on our part. 41For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward. 42And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. 43And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: 44Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 45And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: 46Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 47And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: 48Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 49For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. 50Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another."have lost his saltness" was translated from "analon genatai" (more literally "became unsalted"); This is more phrase-for-phrase, so I tagged both words to this whole phrase. Mark 9:38-50 KJV
The narrative now turns to the question of who is the greatest. The question is an interesting one because it challenges scripture knowledge.
Of course the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven is Jesus himself. His is the servant of all, having died on a cross. He refers to himself as the least in the kingdom in heaven, especially in reference to John the Baptist. (cite)
Beyond Jesus, of course, who is greatest?
There were many great men in the Bible, Moses, David, Noah are some. But across the field of possible answers, one man stands out as the most important.
That man was Joseph.