Joe Brown - Who is the Greatest - New Pine Creek, California - 1978

I want to speak about a few of the words of Jesus in Matthew 18. The chapter begins by saying that the disciples came to Jesus. It is noticeable in this gospel how many times the disciples came to Jesus, and they were never disappointed. They often came to Him with questions, and He always faithfully answered their questions. On this occasion, they came with a question that perhaps was not very pleasing to Him, but all the same, He took the whole chapter to answer their question. The question they asked was "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" Jesus took a little child and set him in their midst, and said, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Except ye be converted from your ideas of greatness, you cannot even enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus spoke very straight even to His own disciples, the very best that He had.

Jesus used this word “Little” seven times in this chapter. When Samuel spoke to Saul, he said “When thou wast little in thine own sight, the Lord anointed thee king over Israel.” (1 Sam 15:17)  It seems that, that day was gone, and now he had become great and self sufficient and great in his own estimation and the spirit of the Lord departed from him and an evil spirit troubled him.  We notice that a number of kings of Judah and Benjamin made a good start, but some of them made a poor finish. I hope that we will be concerned about starting right and continuing right so that some day we might finish right. We read of King Solomon, when he became king, he prayed to God because he knew the greatness of the responsibility that was on his shoulders. "This is a great people, and I am but a little child.  (I Kings 3:7,8) His prayer pleased the Lord. If we could keep like a little child, with faith in our Heavenly Father, obedient to our Heavenly Father, dependent upon our Heavenly Father, we are likely to finish well.

Another word that has impressed me very much is the word "humble." Jesus was one who not only talked about humility, He was humble. We read that He humbled Himself. When others were seeking to exalt themselves, He was humbling Himself. The hymn says, "From Heaven's glory, from His radiant throne above came our Redeemer in His wondrous love." Think of His humility all through His days on earth. Philippians 2:5, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." This is something that we need very much: the mind of Christ. If we have the mind of Christ, it will cause us to do in some measure what He did. He humbled Himself and took upon Himself the form of a servant. When He ate the Passover with His disciples, He helped serve the meal, then He washed the disciples' feet. He humbled Himself. He could have humbled Herod and Pilate. He could have humbled Annas and Caiaphas and all the proud priests of Jerusalem, but He didn't humble any of them. He humbled Himself and took upon Himself the form of a servant, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. This was the mind of Christ. This is what He thought, and this is what He practiced. “He that exalteth himself shall be humbled.” You remember the story of the Pharisee who went to pray, and boasted to God about the great man that he was and the great things that he was doing. Then the story of the publican who said, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”  Jesus said that man went down to his house justified.

I also like the word "agree." If we can succeed in keeping humble as a little child, it is not likely that there will be disagreement amongst us. In Matthew 5:25, Jesus said, “Agree with thine adversary quickly.”  In order to understand who the adversary is, you have to read some of the forgoing verses.  When you come with an offering, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there.  Don't go on offering, because God will not accept any offering from anyone who mistreats his brother.  Your conscience will accuse you.  If our conscience excuses us when we are doing something wrong in the sight of God, that is not a good conscience. But when our conscience accuses us, that is a good conscience, and we ought to obey it. In these chapters, He used the word "first," and I would like to keep things in the order that Jesus said it should be. First be reconciled to thy brother, and agree with thine adversary. It would be a sad thing if our brother became our adversary because we have mistreated him. In the 18th chapter, it speaks about a brother mistreating us. It tells us what to do. We all need to take this to heart, even though we hope there are no disagreements, and we don't know of any. Satan tries hard to bring about disagreements in churches and amongst God's people. Don't go and publish it and tell somebody else about it and make matters worse, but go to your brother alone. Get alone with your brother or sister and tell them their faults. If we would follow the commandment of Jesus in this matter, I don't think there would be much trouble amongst the people of God.

Then He spoke about forgiveness. He spoke about two debts…one a very great debt and another very small debt. The man with great debt went and pleaded and begged for forgiveness, that the debt would be cancelled and because he desired this, it was all cancelled. Then he found one of his fellow-servants, who owed him a very small amount; he said, “You pay up or I will make you suffer.”  Even though his fellow-servant asked him to have patience, he wouldn't be patient with him. God is called the God of patience. Jesus was patient with His Disciples.  He loved them to the end, in spite of their faults and shortcomings. That is why some of them became the greatest men in this world.  It was because of the patience that Jesus had in dealing with them.

Peter was a man with a good conscience. I don't think he ever trifled with his conscience.  Acts 10:14 shows us what sort of a man Peter was. He was very much like Daniel, who purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself.  Peter had a very tender conscience. Peter was troubled and said, “How often shall I forgive? Until seven times?” I don't know what he had in his mind, but I wonder if I would have been willing to go that far. Jesus said, “Until seventy times seven”…just keep on forgiving. Make sure that you do it from your heart, not just outwardly, in pretense.  If we do not forgive from our hearts, God will not forgive us.  When I think of the great debt that I owe to God, it makes any debt that might be owed to me very, very small indeed.

Jesus gave the disciples a model prayer.  We find it in Matthew 5, and in Luke 11.  First, He said “Our Father.”  What a privilege to have such a Father!  Don't forget who He is - Lord of Heaven and earth.  That is very much like what Melchizedek said to Abraham.  Abraham learned that from Melchizedek, and used the very same words when speaking to the king of Sodom.  It would be good for us in our prayers to remember who He is.  When Jesus prayed in John 17, He first of all called Him Father, then Holy Father.  This person that we call Father is much more than any human father.  Jesus called Him Holy Father, then righteous Father.  He is never wrong.  He is always right.  If we forgive from the heart, and take to heart what Jesus spoke, then God will forgive us.  Those who are greatest in these things that we have been speaking about are greatest in the Kingdom of God.