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The Path to Greatness

June 2, 2019 Speaker: Dr. Rick Gregory Series:

Topic: Greatness Verse: Luke 9:46–9:50

 “The Path to Greatness”

Luke 9:46-50



The greatness of the Christian is in humility before the Savior. 



Introduction:  It’s been said: “You can get too big to be used of the Lord, but you’ll never be too small.” Greatness in the eyes of the Lord is something that runs counter to the principles by which we typically live. Unlike earthly greatness that is measured in terms of might, control, dominance, and the exertion of power over another, greatness in the eyes of the Lord is the de-emphasis of oneself and the exaltation of our King Jesus. The “greatest” prophet, John, declared: “He must increase but I must decrease.” 


The folly of a self-assessment that boasts of personal greatness occurs because we fail to see things as they really are. The only way any of us can be enamored with our own greatness is when the glory of Christ Jesus is veiled, ignored, or dismissed. It is like a little minnow that would claim a greater significance than another when there is one much greater against which they have no power at all. 


Today, we desire to look at how it is that a believer can follow the path to greatness in the eyes of God. His assessment of us is the only one that counts. 

I. Realize the Obstacles to Greatness – 9:46

A. The Assumption of Greatness

  • As Jesus’ incomparable greatness was displayed in the previous section, the disciples begin to argue about which of them ought to be seen as superior – “An argument started among them as to which of them might be the greatest.”
  • Each of them seemed to have a reason why they ought to be seen as greater than the others – and they were “reasoning” with one another – “argument” [διαλογισμός] – suggests that they were throwing thoughts back and forth between them.
  • Their perspectives were flawed regardless of arguments that they might present because their presupposition was that they were somehow filled with merit and eligible for “greatness” – that they were worthy of preeminence because of some inherent characteristic or extrinsic accomplishment.
  • Their pride and self-promotion caused them to discredit themselves as valuable servants of Christ – cp. 1 Corinthians 3:3; Romans 12:3, 16. 

B. The Assessment of Others

  • The thinking of the self-promoting is almost always to compare oneself with others and conclude that you are superior.
  • Notice that they were arguing “as to which of them might be the greatest”
  • It could be that they were recounting their successes in the ministry tour that they had taken at the beginning of this chapter – cp. Luke 9:1-6
  • It is almost amusing that this “argument” erupted just after the nine disciples who were not taken up on the mountain with Jesus for the Transfiguration unable to free the boy from the demon.
  • It is a fool who develops esteem for himself by comparing himself to others – cp. 2 Corinthians 10:12, 18
  • Seeking to find prestige, glory and privilege above those around you for the purpose of self-advancement is incompatible with the humility that knowing Christ brings.
  • When it comes to the ability to enter into a state of blessing and favor in the eyes of God – trumpeting one’s own virtues, abilities, skills, and qualifications does not ever impress God.
  • We will never feel that we are properly honored when we compare ourselves to other people – we will always vaunt ourselves far above legitimate merit since we “think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think.”


  • Why does Scripture never encourage us to think highly of ourselves, but warns us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think?
  • Does comparing yourself to someone else provide an adequate standard of self-contentment?
  • With Whom ought we be comparing ourselves? How will this affect our attitude toward ourselves?

II. Renounce a Sense of Superiority – 9:47-48

A. The Call to Renounce Pride – vv. 47-48a 

  • The disciples were apparently attempting to hide their “argument” from Jesus – indicating that they knew that their carnal & depraved conduct would not be looked upon kindly by Jesus. 
  • Such attempt to cover their behavior was useless – “But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart …”
  • In a brilliant demonstration of wisdom, Jesus “took a child and stood him by His side …” – a gesture that would in itself humble the disciples.
  • Children were essentially considered “pre-people” in the Jewish culture of the 1st Century
  • “In Judaism, children under twelve could not be taught the Torah, and so to spend time with them was considered a waste.”
  • This is behind the shocking treatment of children by Jesus – cp. Mark 10:13-14.
  • Jesus shocks the haughtiness of the disciples by saying “… to them, ‘Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me’ …”
  • To “receive” [δέχομαι] – refers to the welcoming of them with full respect and significance even as they would of Christ; just as “receiving” Christ is with the full respect as the Father “who sent [Him].”
  • It is to see no personal superiority over the one being received – to see them as more important than oneself – cp. Philippians 2:3-5.
  • The way that believers treat “the least” among the kingdom of heaven is the way that they are treating Christ Himself who is present in them – cp. Matthew 25:40.

B. The Criterion for Greatness – v. 48b

  • He then provides the true measure or criterion of greatness: “… for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great.”
  • This is counter-intuitive – great saints never claw their way to the top, asserting themselves as some standard by which others are to be assessed, but they humbly consider others are more important than themselves – cp. 1 Peter 5:5-6.


  • How does your awareness of Christ’s perception of how you think affect the way you think?
  • What does it mean to “receive a child in My name” mean?
  • How do you keep your motive for humility pure when the result of being humble means that you become great? 

III. Rejoice in the Preeminence of Christ – 9:49-50

A. The Confession of Partisanship – v. 49  

  • The apostle John seemed to comprehend what Jesus is saying and responds accordingly – “John answered and said, ‘Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name; and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow along with us.’”
  • The encounter with this man and the disciples is nowhere recorded in Scripture and this is all we know about it.
  • He wasn’t merely “trying to cast out demons,” he actually was exercising the power of God in the name of Christ Jesus.
  • Their problem was not that he was freeing people from their demon oppression, but that he was not honoring their authority and preeminence.
  • Their selfish ambition and comparison with others to vaunt themselves caused them to dismiss, discredit, and discourage others in ministry – trying “to prevent him because he does not follow along with us.”.

B. The Commendation of Partnership – v. 50

  • Rather than partisanship, Christ advocated partnership – “But Jesus said to him, ‘Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you.’”
  • When it comes to truth – there is only true and false – no mostly true.
  • There is no third alternative to sound doctrine and heresy – you are either for Christ or you are against Him; there is no “undecided” – cp. Luke 11:23
  • Those who are speaking the truth ought to be embraced; but, those who speak falsehood must be identified and rejected – 1 Timothy 6:3-5


  • How does insistence that people conform to us reveal pride?
  • How is your ministry potential diminished when you feel that there is only one way to do it?
  • Why is Jesus not advocating ecumenism when He says: “for he who is not against you is for you?”