For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.” (NIV84)
On the surface, this statement above sounds like an oxymoron, but when we consider that almost everything important in the Bible is not literally represented, and must, therefore, be spiritually discerned, we must look deeply into the words to see their spiritual meaning.
Let us first look at the whole discussion.
An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. 47 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. 48 Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.” (NIV84)
Who is greater: you or Jesus? Be serious now; who is greater? Okay, now, who is greater: you or a little child? That is what Jesus is saying here. If you want to be the greatest, you must see yourself for what you truly are; that is, you are truly the actual servant of any little child and, therefore, any young person, and therefore any other adult. Jesus himself, his soul as it were, saw himself as being the actual servant of all mankind. The person who was great was God. Jesus represented God. To disrespect, Jesus was to disrespect God because Jesus made himself so unimportant that even a child was more important than he, and therefore, what he represented was pretty much all there was.
Let us look at this in another way. The President of the United States represents the United States. To disrespect him (or her) is to disrespect the entire nation. If the President wanted to be the greatest President ever, then he (or she) must humble him or herself entirely, until they don’t really exist anymore. The only thing that still exists for the humbled President is the United States itself. The person is out of the way; the thing that the person represents is all that is visible. Words that the great President speaks are as though the nation itself was speaking them. That man who gets his own personal agenda out of the way entirely, and only lives to represent that which he represents, is the perfect representative.
If you want to be the greatest possible Christian, then you must empty yourself of every personal ambition and desire and, for all practical purposes, become the perfect image of the one you represent, that is, God. When you are completely out of the way, then whenever anyone sees you, they are actually seeing God. That is what Jesus Christ is. Jesus Christ so humbled himself, to his very core, so that the only thing that could be seen in him was God.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. (NIV84)
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (NIV84)