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Greatest in the Kingdom


“Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” was a question haunting the disciples of Jesus during his public ministry. They even had arguments on the topic that came to Jesus’ attention (Lk 9:46-48). There were several reasons for these.

1. Zebedee’s sons, along with their mother, had asked Jesus for their privilege to sit on either side of him when he would establish the Kingdom. That made others indignant of the two (Mt 20:24).

2. When Simon told Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16) at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus renamed him Peter and told him: “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and what you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven” (Mt 16:18- 19). Thus, Jesus appointed Peter as ‘Prime Minister’ of his Kingdom.

3. Simon was the only disciple Jesus renamed making him his own. That was a special privilege for Peter.

4. Jesus showed the preference to three of his apostles: Simon Peter, James, and John. Only they could see the transfiguration on the mountain. The others could not heal a demon-possessed boy (Mt 17:14-21).

5. Jesus asked Peter to get a miraculous catch of fish to pay the Temple tax for Jesus and Peter. He excluded others from that privilege.

Competition for prominence was going on among the disciples. They were thinking of a new kingdom that Jesus would establish in Jerusalem. However, they got confused when they repeatedly heard from Jesus that he must “go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the Jewish authorities, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law and be killed, and be raised on the third day” (Mt 16:21). So, the disciples wanted to hear more about the victorious stage rather than the sufferings that might happen before it.


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