Devotion for Today
“First shall be Last.”
They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it. They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
A couple of years ago, our small groups went through a workshop called, “When Helping Hurts.” This material taught us the best way to help those without homes, without hurting them. While the material did give practical suggestions, it taught us that the only way to truly help the homeless community was to change our perception of ourselves. Rather than coming from an “I am better off than you, so let me help you” mentality, we need to recognize that we are no different. Because of our sin and our wretchedness, we are in need of Jesus to rescue us. It is only through this lens, that we can truly embrace those without homes. Through embracing the marginalized, we are embracing Jesus.
In this passage, Jesus sits with the Twelve and talks about the “Upside down kingdom.” He mentions in verse 35, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” However, to make His point clearer, He equates welcoming a child to welcoming the Father. How do these two verses connect?
In ancient Israel, children were considered fundamentally deficient and not yet human in a full sense. They were physically small, underdeveloped, and vulnerable. This child represented all people who were disregarded by society; the weak, the poor, the sick, those without homes, tax collectors, and prostitutes.
I believe Jesus is telling us that in order to become first in the kingdom of God, we need to embrace those who are marginalized in our society. More than just meeting their physical needs, followers of Jesus need to welcome them with open arms. Because of our sin, this difficult act requires us to lower ourselves and to see that they are no different than us. This cannot be accomplished by our own strength, but only through the transformational work of the Holy Spirit! Today, let’s spend some time asking the Lord to give us hearts of compassion for the marginalized people of our society. As we embrace the oppressed, we embrace the Father.
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You that you are a compassionate Father. Please remove any obstacles in my heart that prevents me from seeing that I am no different than the oppressed. Help me to love them the way You love them. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Phil 2
Lunch Break Study
Read Micah 6:6-16: “My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? Answer me. I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam. My people, remember what Balak king of Moab plotted and what Balaam son of Beor answered. Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of the Lord.” With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Listen! The Lord is calling to the city—and to fear your name is wisdom—“Heed the rod and the One who appointed it.[b] Am I still to forget your ill-gotten treasures, you wicked house, and the short ephah,[c] which is accursed? Shall I acquit someone with dishonest scales, with a bag of false weights? Your rich people are violent your inhabitants are liars and their tongues speak deceitfully. Therefore, I have begun to destroy you, to ruin[d] you because of your sins. You will eat but not be satisfied; your stomach will still be empty. eYou will store up but save nothing, because what you save[f] I will give to the sword. You will plant but not harvest; you will press olives but not use the oil, you will crush grapes but not drink the wine. You have observed the statutes of Omri and all the practices of Ahab’s house; you have followed their traditions. Therefore I will give you over to ruin and your people to derision; you will bear the scorn of the nations.[g]”
Questions to Consider
- In verses 3-5, what is the Lord’s attitude when He begins His case against the Israelites?
- According to verse 8, what does the Lord require of Israel?
- How does the Lord judge the Israelite’s wickedness? (see vv. 14-15)
- The Lord begins with questions which reveal the Lord’s sadness for His people. The Lord reminds them all that He has done for them. Yet, Israelites reject His love by acting wickedly.
- The Lord requires the Israelites to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with their God.
- The Lord judges the Israelites by taking away their blessing. The imagery He uses in verse 14-15 show that the Israelites will work hard but never reap the benefits.
Today, we learned that to be first in the kingdom of God, we need to be last. Jesus gives us a practical advice of how to follow this kingdom principle. He calls us to love and embrace those who are oppressed and broken. Spend some time this evening asking the Lord to give us strength to take the first step to love those who are marginalized in our society.