Least Among You – BT1
God reverses the hierarchal structure of who really knows Him
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As we saw in the introduction in Jeremiah 31:34, God says the radical difference of the New Covenant over the old is that “My people shall actually ALL eido mentally ‘see’ to perceive/know Me”– not just Moses who was the only one who saw God face to face (c). Furthermore, God emphasizes in the grammar and sentence structure that the hierarchy of knowledge dissemination will be reversed: “from the least of them (a) to the greatest (b).” <Notes> a) qatan, micros: small or little in size, stature, rank, influence, or age but especially of children or youth; weak, insignificant or unimportant people, b) gadowl, megas: great or large in magnitude or extent, number, degree or intensity, sound/voice, space, importance; of distinguished, eminent, important, exalted, notable, majestic people or God, of age or might, c) Exodus 33:11.
This reversal of hierarchy of importance is a precursor of the millennial kingdom that Isaiah 60:2-22 describes for a redeemed Israel after a “darkness shall cover the earth . . . but Yahweh shall arise upon you . . . and nations shall come to your light . . . the wealth of the nations shall come to you . . . for the name of Yahweh your God and/coupled for the Holy One (Jesus) of Israel . . . for the nation and kingdom that will not serve you shall perish . . . be utterly laid to waste (a) . . . I will make the place of My feet glorious . . . you shall know that I, Yahweh, am your Savior and your Redeemer . . . the sun . . . and moon shall not be your light, but Yahweh will be your everlasting Light . . . The least one (b) shall become a clan and the smallest one (c) a mighty (d) nation – I am Yahweh, so in its time I will hasten it.” Once again we see an allusion to the everlasting New Covanent!<Notes> a) at the 2nd coming of Christ after the battle of Armageddon, b) qatan; small or little in size, stature, rank, influence, or age but especially of children or youth; weak, insignificant or unimportant people, oligos: little, small, few, c) tsair, elachistos: little, insignificant, young; the very micros small, the least, d) atsuwm: mighty, vast, numerous; great; megas: large in magnitude or extent, number, degree or intensity, sound/voice, space, importance; of distinguished, eminent, important, exalted, notable, majestic people or God, of age or might, e) The “Everlasting Covenant” is elaborated on in Ezekiel 11:19-20, 16:60, 36:22-27, 37:23-28.
Jesus’ teaching ties right into these Old Testament (OT) references, even using the same words! He teaches: “For he who is [so-called] micros least among you all is the one who is actually megas great” (a). But just who are the “least among you?” Well, the Greek word gar for “for . . .” links the phrase back to the previous situation: “An argument arose among them (His disciples) as to which of them was meizon greater (a). But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a hold of a paidion young child (b) and stood him upright (c) by His side. Whoever receives/welcomes this paidion young child (b) in My name receives/welcomes Me . . .”. Clearly, the “least among you” included very young children that most people thought of as insignificant, but Jesus exalts them to megas greatness. <Notes> a) Luke 9:46-48: mega is great, meizon is greater or greatest, b) paidion: a child younger than 7-8, thus still under training, whereas pais applies to children up to 20 as adults, c) histemi: placed, made to stand up, balanced into place. The child must have been very young for Jesus to lay a hold of him and then enabled him to stand by His side.
In a parallel or different occasion of Matthew 18:1-10, when His disciples asked about “Who is the meizon greater in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus “calls to Himself a paidion young child, putting him in the midst/middle of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you change direction and become like the paidion young children, you will not in possibility or in fact enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever lowers himself like this paidion young children is meizon greater in the kingdom of heaven (a) . . . See that you do not despise one of these micros little ones (b), for I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” Little children are humble or “lowly” to whom God gives grace to rather than the “high and mighty” proud that God opposes (c). Which group will we emulate? <Notes> a) Luke 18:17 People must receive the kingdom like a paidion young child to enter it; Mark 10:15 People will never enter the kingdom unless receive it like a paidion young child, b) micros: small or little in size, stature, rank, influence, or age but especially of children or youth, c) James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5.
In a similar Mark 9:34-37 passage, Jesus squares away the 12 apostles “arguing about who was the meizon greatest . . . saying, ‘If anyone would be protos first (a), they must be eschatos last (b) of all . . .’ and having taken a paidion young child and having embraced him in His arms, He stood him upright (b) in the midst/middle of them and said to them: ‘Whoever receives/welcomes one such paidion young child in My name receives/welcomes Me.” <Notes> a) protos: those before others, most important, principal, chief, first, b) eschatos: end, furthest, last.
Society considered paidion young children as eschatos “lasts,” but Jesus made them protos “firsts.” Later in Matthew 19:13-15 and Mark 10:13-15, paidion young child were brought to Jesus to lay hands on and pray for them, but the disciples rebuked the people for this. Jesus was indignant and told them to not only let them come but not to hinder them for the kingdom belongs to such as these.” In Matthew’s account, the disciples witness an “important” rich young ruler fail to enter the kingdom. Certainly, society viewed them as protos “firsts.” But Jesus remarks in Matthew 19:30, “Many who are protos ‘firsts’ shall actually be eschatos lasts, and the ‘lasts’ firsts.” Jesus is turning the tables on who we view as important, but why? Well, we saw that being “lowly” or humble has something to do with it! And little children have powerful angels watching out over them!
Jesus also applied this saying in Matthew 20:16 to those who only served Him for a short while receiving the same reward as those who served Him for much longer. Although the Jews were protos “first” to serve God and the Gentiles eschatos “last,” many Gentiles will have entered the kingdom ahead of many of the Jews, although Paul says in Romans 11:25 that this “partial hardening has come upon Israel only until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” In Luke 13:30 Jesus applied this saying to those who will come from all over the world into the kingdom, that is Gentiles that the Jews considered eschatos “lasts” compared to themselves as protos “firsts.” He said this while journeying toward Jerusalem, replying to someone who asked if only a few would be saved. During that time the Essenes believed that only a few Jews would be saved. Also, I’m sure many Pharisees believed they were the hand-picked! Nobody even considered the Gentiles! Jesus said the way/door was narrow and many will seek to enter after the door is closed and thus won’t be able to. These were the Jews who rejected Christ’s preaching in their own streets! The proud Jews thought they were “workers” of God, but Christ called them “workers of evil,” to be “cast out into the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Jesus said He was the only way to the Father (a) and the only door of His sheep (b). Judgment Day is going to be a real shock to a LOT of people! So now we see the list of “the least among you” consists of little children and Gentiles. <Notes> a) John 14:6, b) John 10:7.
But the eschatos “lasts” were also servants, bond-servants, and slaves. Jesus caught His disciples more than once “arguing with one another about who was the meizon greatest.” In Mark 9:34-37, Jesus said to them: “If anyone would be protos first, he must be eschatos last of all and/coupled diakanos servant (a) of all.” Here Jesus is directly coupling “last of all” to “servant of all.” The servants didn’t belong to the family, business, or office, but were truly on near the bottom of the stack. But Jesus goes further, as we already spoke of: “Having taken a paidion young child and having embraced him in His arms, He stood him upright in the midst/middle of them and said to them: ‘Whoever receives/welcomes one such paidion young child in My name receives/welcomes Me.” We know from Galatians 4:1 that according to Jewish tradition, “the heir, as long as he is a nepios breast-feeding infant (b) is nothing different from a doulos slave (c), even though he is the kurios owner (d) of everything.” Clearly, Jesus is directly linking nepios breast-feeding infants and paidion young children to “the lasts of all” and to “servants of all,” and even to slaves whether willing bond-slaves or not! Now the list of “the least among you” is complete! This is the last place the dissemination of the knowledge of God under the old covenant ever got to, if it did at all! <Notes> a) diakanos: “those who thoroughly raise/kick up dust by moving/running in a hurry so as to minister”, b) nepios: a milk-feeding infant or little child that requires the gentleness of a nursing mother – 1 Thessalonians 2:7, Hebrews 5:13, or minor not of the age of inheritance, or figuratively of a simple-minded or immature, unlearned, unenlightened person, c) doulos: a servant who belongs by “bond” to another, thus have no rights of their own. “Bond-servants” are freed slaves that choose to still serve their masters, d) kurios: lord, master, or owner.
Jesus really drives home the point of being a servant or slave, who obviously can’t “exercise authority over” anybody! His disciples and family members were always arguing about leadership, greatness, and who would sit at Christ’s right hand of authority! Jesus kept having to set them straight! In Matthew 20:20-28 and Mark 10:35-45, Jesus said: “You all know that the archon ‘top leaders’ (a) of the world’s peoples exercise authority over (b) them and their megas ‘greats’ (c) exercise authority over others (d), BUT-INSTEAD THIS ABSOLUTELY IN FACT SHALL NOT (e) be so among you, for whoever would [desire] to be megas ‘great’ (f) among you-all must shall actually become you-all’s deaconos servant (h) and/coupled whoever would be protos first among you-all to actually, ongoingly be you-all’s duolos slave (g), just as the Son of Man came not to be diakoneo served but to diakoneo serve (h) and/coupled give His life as a ransom for many.” Servants and slaves, who Jesus lived as for our example, don’t give orders to others – they take them! Jesus really drives this home in the abridged Luke 22:24-27 version to correct the arguing disciples about who would be meizon greater, Jesus added to the list of who society viewed as “the meizon greater among you” using the imperative: “I strongly urge them to presently/ongoingly be as the neos younger-in-age, and/coupled the one that is presently/ongoingly hegeomai chief-leading as those who are presently/ongoingly diakoneo serving, for who is the meizon greater: the one who reclines at table or the one who is diakoneo serving? By no means, absolutely not in fact the one reclining! Indeed, I am among you as the one who serves!” (i). There are a lot of church leaders who are in for a rude awakening on Judgment Day! And a lot of Christian bosses! <Notes> a) archon: preeminent ruler, chief, or leader who takes precedence, or commander with authority/influence over people of a jurisdiction, b) katexousiazo: act as masters: having or wielding privilege, might and power, will, authority, or control over or down upon, c) underling governors, majors, supervisors, bosses, etc., d) this is the common top-down hierarchy we see in the old covenant rule over Israel and its dissemination of the knowledge of God, and what we see in every organization of the world including its religions, even many Christian churches and businesses, e) ouk: objectively negates a statement, absolutely ruling it out as a matter of fact, f) Luke 22:24-27 says hegeomai leader/chief, g) doulos slaves are on the bottom of the barrel in society, giving nobody orders. Mark 10:44 says “must be slave of all,” h) diakoneo is the verb of diakanos: “those who thoroughly raise/kick up dust by moving/running in a hurry so as to minister,” i) some bibles improperly translate this as: “Who is greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serve.” This ignore the normal use of de for “Indeed, moreover.” Ouchi ho anakeimenos is statement “By no means . . . the one reclining,” not a question! Certainly, the disciples were thinking the greater is the one reclining, because that’s what they were arguing about! Jesus doesn’t have to restate their false reasoning – He needs to correct them with this forceful statement and then use Himself as an example! Some bibles really miss the obvious, which makes me believe they lack the Holy Spirit’s discernment and are having to twist bible verses to say what their agenda is – see New Covenant Ways – BT16.
So the bond-servant or slave is society’s absolute eschatos “last,” but Jesus makes Himself as one of these as our model to follow! Paul says the same in Philippians 2:3-8, “Do absolutely nothing in possibility from self-gain (a) or kata down-from/in-accordance-with vain-pride (b), but instead in lowliness routinely counting/holding one another as being superiorly/surpassingly above yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interest of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though He was in the form of God . . . emptied Himself by taking the form of a diakanos servant . . . He lowered Himself.” If you lower ourselves to elevate others, serving the interests of others over our own, then we are living like Christ, and thus actually making ourselves greater in the long run! This is the exact opposite of the world and much of its religions, even the Christian ones! <Notes> a) eritheia: acting for one’s own gain, regardless of the discord or strife it causes. Self-ambition places self-interest ahead of the Lord’s or the good of others. Mercenaries are those who are hired self-seekers. People coming into the Church were seeking followers by the means of gifts – to themselves, b) kenodoksia: a state of pride which is without basis or justification, so it is empty, cheap, and vain.
In Matthew 25:41-45, Jesus describes Judgment Day: “Jesus will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome Me, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ . . . Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these (a), you did not do it to Me.” Here we see “the least among you” list grow to include all the Christian disciples. Certainly, the unbelieving world is in for a rude awakening at Judgement Day! <Notes> a) v. 25:40 make it clear that Jesus is referring to “My brethren” – Christians were consider even worse than Jewish slaves, so dead “last” – and many Jews wanted them dead. Here we see the various forms of persecution! In Matthew 10:40-42 micros little ones that were given a cup of water in His name were any disciple of Christ. I know an African man that built his entire ministry on a misinterpretation of these passages, believing that he needed to go through Africa and feed, clothe, etc. every person, even the unbelievers, or Christ would judge Him on the last day.
Do you think that most church organizational structures follow any of this advice or do they resemble more of “the greatest to the least” hierarchal structure of OT religion or almost every organization in the world patterned after the demonic realm according to Ephesians 6:12 with hegeomai chief-leaders who have positions, offices, and titles who then exercise authority over those under them, despite everything Jesus taught against this? The Lord showed me that this is the “borrowing” from the OT and the world that is building The Great Wall quenching the Holy Spirit in the Church, from the first century on!
Isn’t much of Church teaching of the bible simply a continuation of the OT’s hierarchy of disseminating the knowledge of God? By the educational-formats they choose and the stage, isn’t it still favoring society’s “firsts” over the “lasts?” Are we relying on old methods that appeal to the “wise and understanding” over the “uneducated, little children, and other least among us?” Isn’t most of the leadership still barking out orders? Or are they the servants and slaves taking the orders from you? If so, why are you still in the audience, why is there even a stage usually elevated, when’s the last time you “weighed in on what was said,” and were you able to correct the speaker “so that all may learn and ALL may be encouraged” per Paul’s instructions for “orderly worship services” in 1 Corinthians 14:29, 31?
As Christians musicians, are we arranging ourselves on stages as those “over” the audience? Are we having them follow our “orders?” Are we “exercising authority over” members of the band or the audience? Are we treating ourselves as “the workers of ministry” instead of realizing that we are simply “equippers – coaches and facilitators for the saints to do the work of ministry to build up the Church” per Paul’s instructions for ministry in Ephesians 4:8-16? Are we looking to the audience as somehow serving our ministry, or are we servants to help them be the minister to build up the Church? Why do we call it “our worship ministry” when this really the ministry of the congregation as a whole? Our language betrays our true beliefs! Are we appealing to society’s “firsts” or focusing on the “lasts?” Are we showing the same kinds of partiality in the Church that James 2:1-13 was describing? Aren’t we also thus “committing sin and are convicted by God’s nomos instruction as transgressors?” Are we trying to become like the “wise and learned” and expecting others to learn about God indirectly the same way through biblical writings just as the OT tradition dictated, and indirectly through a chain of teachers? Or are we trying to become like the “little children” and other “least among you” of the New Covenant and leading others into this mindset/attitude so that “the secrets of the kingdom are made-unhidden to such as these?” The other BLOG topics will explore all these questions and more to help us take obedient steps of trusting-relying-faith to move forward like humble, teachable, little children!