Greatest in the Kingdom

The carpenter from Nazareth taught that he who would be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven must be the servant of all. This was in direct answer to the request of James and John Zebedee’s mother who came asking that Joshua allow her sons to be seated on the left and right of Joshua in the coming Kingdom. This again demonstrates the wrong ideas that the Jews had of the spiritual kingdom that the Son of Man was proclaiming. They kept waiting and wanting Joshua to take the throne of David and make them his chief officials. The apostles argued amongst themselves who would be the greatest in this new political system which the Messiah was supposed to create.

What a taste of bitter irony it must have been for Salome, the mother of James and John, to witness the crucifixion of two thieves, one on the left and one on the right of the dying Joshua. 

Joshua turned upside-down all their ideas of national glory when he taught them to be servants and not rulers who lord it over others. That these simple men eventually did overcome their racial pride is evidenced by their many selfless acts of service to the Gentiles, many of which are recorded in the book of Acts.

Man’s pride, one of his greatest weaknesses, does not naturally permit him to be humble and to serve others. Pride desires to exalt the one who nurses it in his heart. Ego usually needs to lord it over others to be appeased. The sin of Lucifer began with his own self-admiration. He fell in love with himself.

Servanthood delivers us from the tyranny and bondage of self. The humility that Joshua taught was the humility towards God. It is not necessary to be timid and kow-tow before men, something which Joshua did not do. Joshua was intimidated by no man. He was completely fearless. When arrested he gave himself up willingly. When abused he responded with respect, “If I said something wrong,” Joshua replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?”

Joshua taught a religion of courage in the face of our enemies and humility based on the living out of the will of God. Our western society teaches self-assertion, the imposing of our personal will on others and the seeking of self as the highest ideal. The emptiness of a life bent on pursuing sensual desires, accumulating possessions and indulging every whim and fancy is often tragic. The people with everything often have nothing.

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