Dr. John E. Johnson

Dr. John E. Johnson

Monday Debrief (09/26/11)

(a weekly post reflecting on the weekend)

The Text: Matthew 18:1-5

As their journey begins to move toward Jerusalem, the disciples are increasingly concerned with the pecking order.  Who is the greatest in the kingdom (or at least, who is the top dog amongst us twelve)?  They want to know. Jesus chose three to go to the Mt of Transfiguration, giving the keys to the kingdom to one of them.  Is Peter Mr. Bossypants?  And what is greatness anyways?  Maybe Jesus will enlighten them and give a Jim Collin’s type of answer, showing them how to move this emerging church from good to great.  But Jesus does just the opposite, turning their question on its head. Just as we saw last week, Jesus’ answer is aimed to make them think.  Last week, he declared that small faith is solved by small faith (17:20). In other words, to do extraordinary things will require a different kind of faith that you have.  This week, He took an object lesson, a small child (typically considered of little importance, a nuisance), set her in their midst, and said—here’s greatness. It will take a different definition than the one you are working with.

The Insight

Most of us have asked ourselves, “Where do I stand amongst my peers?” It’s natural to want to know where we sit in this pecking order.  My favorite story is Al Haig and Ron Ziegler having aides measure their sleeping accommodations so that their beds would be equidistant from Nixon’s on Air Force One. But I’m not so proud of my own moments, going to pastor’s conferences to be inspired, only to spend a certain amount of emotional capital wondering how I compare with others.

If Jesus had answered their question as the world often does, most of our lives would be a mess.  If He defined greatness as, say Hayward, in his book Greatness, as having a bold vision, having the capacity for immense strength, an iron will, and rock like convictions, we would be off to the races.

Instead, the insight here is that Jesus simply pointed to a child and in the process redefined greatness.  And maybe it goes something like this:

-Greatness is a childlike dependence that recognizes in every waking moment we, apart from God, can do nothing-John 15:5

-Greatness is a childlike wonder that never loses a sense of curiosity, never stops learning, and never stops being amazed by God’s grace

-Greatness is a childlike freedom that wakes up relaxed because one does not assume too much self importance

-Greatness is a childlike naiveness that is okay with a certain simplicity, that does not have to know what an impure, sophisticated, experienced world wants to teach it

-Greatness is a childlike authenticity that does not put on airs.  Children are not too concerned with designer labels and make-up.

This kind of childlikeness separates the good from the truly great (and greatly takes the pressure off).

The Helps

I appreciated thoughts in both Mahaney’s Humility: True Greatness, as well as McManus’, Uprising. Marva Dawn writes one of most insightful books on the subject in her Power, Weakness, and the Tabernacling of God

The commentaries particularly helpful this week.  The Gospel of Matthew, France and  Matthew, Bruner


Given the responses and my own experience, I will go with three out of four.

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