Matthew 18:1 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Matthew 18:1, NIV: "At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, 'Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?'"

Matthew 18:1, ESV: "At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”"

Matthew 18:1, KJV: "At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"

Matthew 18:1, NASB: "At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, 'Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?'"

Matthew 18:1, NLT: "About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, 'Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?'"

Matthew 18:1, CSB: "At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "So who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?""

What does Matthew 18:1 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Matthew skips the set-up to the question the disciples ask Jesus in this verse. Mark and Luke reveal that the disciples were disputing with each other about who among them was the greatest (Mark 9:33–34; Luke 9:46). It shouldn't surprise us that the disciples would end up jockeying for position and pecking order among themselves. Not only is that human nature, but rank and honor were significant in the culture of the day.

Perhaps it was apparent to all of them that Peter, James, and John were the preferred disciples. After all, they were selected to go with Jesus to the mountain to witness the transfiguration. Peter often appears to be their de-facto leader, but he is also the one who is most often called out by Jesus for blunders. In Matthew 20, the mother of James and John will attempt to manipulate Jesus into promising that her two boys will be the greatest in His kingdom, showing that neither she nor the disciples yet understand that Jesus has not come to establish a political kingdom on earth at this time.

Instead of revealing their selfish ambition, Matthew begins the story with a simple question from the disciples: Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? To modern ears, the idea that some are greater than others in heaven's kingdom might seem unimportant. Jesus, though, will give a very specific and surprising answer.