Matthew 18:1

Who Is the Greatest?

1 1At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"

Matthew 18:1 Meaning and Commentary

Matthew 18:1

At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus
When the receivers of the half shekel had spoke to Peter about his master's paying it, and Christ and he had conversed about it, by whose orders he had taken up a fish out of the sea, and from it a piece of money, which he had paid for them both; just at this time came the other eleven disciples to the house where Christ and Peter were: saying,

who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
Mark says, that the disciples disputed this point in the way; and that when they came to Jesus, he put the question to them, what they had been disputing about: and Luke takes no notice of any question put by one or another; but observes, that Christ perceiving the thoughts of their hearts, in order to rebuke, and convince them, took the method hereafter mentioned. All which is reconcilable, and of a piece: the sum is this; that as they were in the way to Capernaum they fell upon this question, which, being known to Christ, the omniscient God; when they came to Capernaum, and to the house where he was, and knowing that the same thought was in them, he asked them what they had been talking of by the way; upon which they were silent; but calling them nearer to him, and they finding that the matter was known, took courage to put the question to him, and desired to have his sense of it. The Vulgate Latin reads, "who dost thou think"; and the Arabic version, "who in thy opinion" The occasion of this could not be the respect shown to Peter, in paying the half shekel for him; for this conversation was begun in the way, and before this was done, or, at least, before they knew it: rather it might be occasioned by his promise of giving the keys of the kingdom of heaven to him; or by his taking him, and James, and John, so lately to the mountain with him, where he was transfigured before them; though it seems best to ascribe it to the mention Christ had made of his resurrection from the dead: for as Dr. Lightfoot, Hammond, and others, have observed, something of this kind generally followed any account Christ gave of his death and resurrection, as ( Mark 9:31 Mark 9:34 ) ( Matthew 20:19 Matthew 20:20 ) ( Luke 22:24 ) and this thought of an earthly kingdom still continued, when they saw him risen, ( Acts 1:6 ) for they had been taught, that the resurrection, and the kingdom of the Messiah, would be at the same time F24. And, by the kingdom of heaven, they meant, not the kingdom of glory in another world, but the kingdom of the Messiah in this; and which they looked upon to be a temporal one, though they call it the kingdom of heaven; not only because Christ often used this phrase, but because the times of the Messiah, and his reign, were frequently so called by the Jews; (See Gill on Matthew 3:2). Now, what they wanted to be satisfied in was, who should be advanced to the post highest in that kingdom next to the Messiah; and, as they doubted not but it would fall on one of them, to have the most honourable post, and the place of the greatest trust, they were desirous of knowing who it should be.


F24 Vid. Poceck. not. miscell. ad. Port. Mosis, p. 103, 104, 105, 106.

Matthew 18:1 In-Context

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"
2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them
3 and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,

Cross References 1

  • 1. Matthew 17:24; For ver. 1-5, see Mark 9:33-37; Luke 9:46-48; [Matthew 20:20-28]
The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.