the absolute best

“Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” [Matthew 18]

It’s a logical question for spiritual people. It’s a very appropriate question for people wanting to become better than they are now. It’s a thoughtful question for people care about finding examples that they can follow.

It is, in short, a completely silly question for people who haven’t fully grasped that they are actually talking to the closest thing to the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Sometimes the disciples didn’t completely understand what they were asking.

But Jesus did. He knew that they reason they were asking wasn’t to find a role model. They were wanting to find out where they stood in the status parade, whether they were going to end up at the top of the guest list. (After all, they kept asking this kind of question.)

So Jesus makes it simple for them. He doesn’t say, “Guys, that’s me!.” He doesn’t say, “That’s the stupidest question.” He simply calls over the least in the kingdom of earth and says, “Be like this.”

A child is simple. A child is full of unrealized potential. A child is more about being than doing. A child is capable of incredible feats of trust. A child can’t pull her own wait. A child can’t work for a living. A child is completely dependent. A child is acceptably immature. A child is unskilled at completely theological feats, but is often theologically astute. A child would laugh at the word “astute”. A child would come when Jesus said come. A child would be at the bottom of the cultural hierarchy. To be a child would be to give up everything you worked for, all the status and perks and sophistication and responsibility and pretense.

A challenge, but worth everything.


2 thoughts on “the absolute best

  1. ktennant

    I love the way Jesus responds to what can easily be seen as “silly questions.” It’s one of those skills the rest of us seem to be lacking–I certainly am. I get caught up in what’s wrong with the question, rather than focusing on what’s right, or what’s at the heart of it, the way Jesus does.

    Which brings to mind children. My children love to ask questions. That’s part of what Jesus loves about them, I suppose. It makes me wonder what we can do, as adults, to nurture rather than squelch that natural impulse to ask whatever comes to mind. And to feel free to do more of that asking ourselves.


    1. Jon Swanson

      it’s funny. I was writing the next post on this text as your comment came. And thinking about the nurturing process. What you are saying, however, about the questioning, puts a very helpful bit of practical context in what I was thinking. Thank you (as always).


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