Bella Vista Church of Christ

LIFELINES

06/07/2017

Charles Cash        

 

The Least, The Last, The Lost

 

  Christ had a deep concern for the least, the last, and the lost. Christ was the master teacher! He used many different methods and approaches in His teaching. One of these was the use of a paradox.A paradox is defined by Webster as “a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true.” There is no “perhaps” about it being true when it is spoken by Jesus. A paradox has been called “truth standing on its head.” Christ used paradoxes to teach important lessons about the least, the last, and the lost. It sounded like strange arithmetic to the ears of those who first heard Jesus preach; and it still sounds that way to a lot of people today.

 

  The least. Toward the conclusion of our Lord’s ministry on the earth, even the twelve were having a power struggle and an argument among themselves “as to which of them would be the greatest” in the kingdom? (Luke 9:46) Jesus said, “For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.” (v. 48) They came to Jesus with the question: “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” In response, Jesus “called a little child and had him stand among them. And He said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 18:1-4)

 

  Even the mother of James and John got involved in this power struggle by asking a favor of Jesus: “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” (Matthew 20:21) She had absolutely no clue what she was asking! Jesus said in reply, “You don’t know what you are asking.” (v.22) Then Jesus said to the other ten apostles: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.”(Matthew 20:26)

 

  One of the deepest desires of man has always been the desire to be great. Jesus explained repeatedly that the way to true greatness is through humility and service. The least, or least according to worldly standards, can be great in the eyes of the Lord. Matthew Henry wrote:“Nothing can make a man truly great but being truly good, and partaking of God’s holiness.” That means humility and service. Goodness is not tied to greatness, but greatness to goodness.

 

  The Last. “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” (Matthew19:30) Jesus is again referring, it seems, to the matter of humility and service. God’s standards of judgment are not the same as man’s standards of judgment. As William Barclay put it: “There is eternity to adjust them is judgments of time.” The tables will one day be turned, reversed. People put a great deal of value on being first in everything they do. People who were first in life by worldly standards may end up last in the world to come.

 

  Humility will give up rights, sit down anywhere, look to the interests of others and serve whenever and wherever needed. It was Vance Havner who once said: “If you are too big for a little place; then you are too little for a big place.” Jesus was truly concerned about those whom we tend to forget. One day those who are considered by the world to be last will be first.

 

  The Lost. “Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”(Matthew 10:38-39) Jesus is speaking of the denial of self and total surrender to Him. Without self-denial we are lost. We lose our real life, spiritual life. “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?’” (Matthew 16:24-26) “Denial,” “cross,” and “follow” are strange words for 21st century man! Jesus is not talking about denying ourselves of some possession or commodity, but rather denying ourselves. It is relatively easy to deny myself of a $70,00.00 Chevrolet Suburban or a$60,00.00 SUV, but not so easy to deny myself. He is telling us to die to self. The cross is a symbol of death. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote: “The call of Jesus is always the call, come and die.” Self-denial and surrender will bring us true life, spiritual life, now and forever. In modern jargon Jesus is saying, “Get yourself off your mind and your mind off yourself.” We die spiritually by living to ourselves; we live spiritually by dying to ourselves. J. W. McGarvey wrote: “The more we make our own life the center, the more we get lost.”  God sends no one away empty except those who are full of themselves.

 

  Yes, Jesus was deeply concerned for the least, the last, and the lost. So much so that He suffered a cruel, heinous death on a Roman cross for them. Praise the Lord!

 

—CharlesCash