What Did Jesus Say When the Disciples Ask Him Who Is the Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?

When the disciples asked Jesus who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, He gave them an unexpected answer. His response not only challenged their understanding of greatness but also provided valuable lessons for us today.

In Matthew 18:1-4, we read that the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” It’s easy to imagine that the disciples were thinking about earthly greatness – power, wealth, and influence – but Jesus had a different perspective.

Jesus’ Response

Jesus called a little child to Him and placed him among them. Then He said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:2-4).

This response must have puzzled His disciples. They were expecting Jesus to name one of them as the greatest – after all, they had left everything to follow Him. But instead of pointing to any one person, Jesus pointed to a child.

What did He mean by that? How does becoming like a child make us great in God’s eyes?

The Humility of a Child

Children have a unique capacity for humility. They don’t care about status or power – they simply trust their parents and accept their love without reservation. Their hearts are open and receptive to new experiences and ideas.

Jesus was calling His followers to be like children in their faith and humility. He knew that true greatness comes from recognizing our dependence on God and submitting ourselves to His will.

The Apostle Paul echoed this sentiment when he wrote: “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25). In other words, we must surrender our own desires and ambitions in order to follow Christ and find true life in Him.

  • True greatness comes from humility and a willingness to serve others.
  • We must be willing to set aside our own desires and ambitions for the sake of the kingdom.
  • Like a child, we must trust in God’s love and provision for us.

The Danger of Pride

Jesus’ response to His disciples also highlights the danger of pride. He knew that His followers were prone to thinking too highly of themselves – just like we are today.

When we focus on our own abilities, accomplishments, or status, we can easily become prideful and self-centered. We begin to think that we don’t need God or anyone else, and we start to believe that we deserve all the credit for our success.

But this is a dangerous path to walk. The Bible warns us that “pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). If we want to be truly great in God’s eyes, we must be willing to humble ourselves and recognize our need for Him.


So who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? According to Jesus, it’s not the person with the most power, wealth, or influence. It’s not even the person with the most impressive spiritual resume.

True greatness comes from humility – from recognizing our dependence on God and submitting ourselves to His will. When we become like little children in our faith and trust in Him completely, then we can experience the fullness of life that He has promised us.