Disciples Argue Who is the Greatest

by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut

WHILE JESUS was passing through Galilee for the last time, he wished not to do in that land any more wonderful works or to give any further teachings in public. He desired not to have crowds around him, but to be alone with his disciples, for there were many things to be told them before he should be taken away from them.

As they were on their way to Capernaum, which had been his home during the year before, he saw that his disciples as they walked were having some dispute or quarrel. He well knew what they were saying to each other, for he knew all things; but at the time he said nothing.

He came to Capernaum, for the first time followed by no crowd, but with his twelve disciples only. In the evening, as they sat together in the house, he said to them:

"What was it that you were talking about today as we were walking on the road?"

The disciples looked at each other, a little ashamed, and at first did not speak. Finally, one of them said:

"We were asking each other who of us should hold the first place in your kingdom."

Although Jesus had more than once told these men that he must suffer and die, they did not believe it. They saw that he was on his way toward Jerusalem, and like all the people who believed in him, they thought that when he came to that city, he would take his kingdom and rule; and each of his disciples wanted a place for himself next the throne.

"The first place!" answered Jesus. "If any of you has the will to be first in the kingdom of heaven, that one shall be the last of all and shall serve all the others!"

A little child was playing near him, for the children were never afraid of Jesus and loved to be with him. Jesus reached out his hand, took the child in his arms and held it close to him. Then he said to his disciples:

"I tell you, unless you change your spirit and become like little children, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven at all! Whoever of you will become humble and gentle, like this little child, not seeking great things for himself, that is the one who shall be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And any one who helps even a little child to be one of my followers is helping me.

 But if anyone puts a
snare or stumbling-block in the way of one of these little ones, to keep him from following me, it would be better for that man to have a great millstone hung on his neck, and to be thrown into the deep sea!