March 12, 2023:The Greatest in the Kingdom- Matthew 18:1-9
When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
The Christ, the anointed one. The Messiah promised from the beginning would be wounded while conquering the curse of death. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (Genesis 3:15). He was prophesied to come as one greater than Moses. The children of God were to watch for Him. The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; (Deuteronomy 18:15). He is David’s descendant who would establish both King David’s house and his throne. And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever. (2 Samuel 7:16). All these Old Testament truths are affirmed by Peter’s declaration of who Jesus is. May we open our hearts and minds with such conviction and strength of faith. God, grant us the boldness to confess openly who Jesus is. The entire Bible is about Him and is inspired by Him. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. (Psalm 40:7, Hebrews 10:7). This is where we start: knowing who Jesus is. It changes everything.
In our lesson today, the disciples are learning about the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus has preached the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5), and they, like all faithful Jews, are anxious for Him to free Israel from the rule of Rome. Jesus taught them to pray for His kingdom on earth to be as it is in heaven (Matthew 6). They have witnessed miracles, healings, and the feeding of thousands. As they ponder this new authority and reign of Jesus, the disciples want to know how they will fit into the new kingdom. Jesus did not indicate any one disciple was more important than any other. So, just who will be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven? We shake our heads that human nature never changes. Let it be of great comfort to us that God’s nature doesn’t change either!
At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
We might scold the disciples for asking this question. Notice Jesus did not. What the disciples know is that Christ is King, of Heaven and of Earth. Naturally, they would assume there will be a need for new leaders - officers of standing and importance. Fishermen and tax collectors are not usually held in high authoritative esteem. Jesus selected each of them, and they gave up everything to follow Him. Mingled into that mixture of thought are also arrogant, ignorant, and possibly envious considerations. Who does Jesus think is the most valuable? Unfortunately, humans build on a hierarchy of status and rank. This is such an important question that Jesus invokes a visual aid.
And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Children have no problem acknowledging their needs. They are not ashamed of being dependent upon their parents. Those who recognize their great need for Christ and the grace of God and who trust Him to be all that we need will not be disappointed. Can you see the confusion on their faces? This is not what they had in mind at all. Converted and become as a child? What does this child reveal?
Authority: The child recognized the authority of Jesus. Recognize His authority. There are many things He calls out to us to do.
And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. (John 5:17).
Obedience: When Jesus called, the child came to him. Start by coming to God. Put aside the desire for anything else. Focus on obeying God.
For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry (1 Samuel 15:23).
Size Difference: A small person willingly walks to a much bigger person. We are not big. It isn’t about us, our rank, or our status at all. It is about Jesus. Always. Keep a Godly perspective.
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. (Romans 12:3).
Trust: The child is not afraid and does not hesitate when called. Jesus says to come to Him as the child does. Never be afraid to come to Jesus, to ask question, or to follow his commandments.
Ask. Follow. Trust Jesus. And he (David) said, The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my savior; thou savest me from violence.( 2 Samuel 22:2-3).
Simplicity: The child does not have and is not expected to have great thoughts, ideas, or plans. Believe. Keep Faith in Jesus.
And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. (Isaiah 35:8).
Humility: There is nothing this child can do for Jesus. Jesus owns everything, created everything, and controls everything. He doesn’t need our help. But he invites us lovingly to come to him. Keep your priorities straight. Stay humble.
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.(Phillipians 2:8).
And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
We have to learn to see others as belonging to Christ. It doesn’t come naturally. Timothy said it this way, And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26). Our job is not to keep people out but to get them in. We are obligated to tell them Truth, in love.
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!
Here is the warning! Offending a little one, someone that believes in Jesus, casting them aside, hurting their feelings, or making them turn away from God is serious business. Yes, they have to make their ultimate choice. Yes, their decision will have horrible consequences should they choose to renounce God; however, if we play a part in that by our careless actions, our uncensored words, our attitude towards them, or our demands of them, then we also have some serious consequences. As Jesus holds this child, no one would dare hit it, pinch it, yell at it, or pull its hair. They know better. As we interact with our fellow Christians, we should know better. Humans thrive on offenses; they are effective excuses. As Christians, we guard our actions, acting in the light of God’s word. Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.(Galatians 6:1-3)
Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.
This is a concept called comparative value. In light of eternity, our physical bodies have little importance. During our lifetimes, the desires of our flesh, or natural bodies, can seem all-consuming, but this life is not all there is. Literally, cutting off body parts to keep from sinning? If we started cutting off things to keep us from sinning, it wouldn’t be long until there would be nothing left of us! I can cut off my right hand and still sin with my left hand, etc. Because this is such a drastic comment, we recognize the seriousness of the fight. Jesus is saying we must willingly battle, mentally, physically, and spiritually our flesh and minds in the war against sin. The seriousness of this decision is evidenced by what we are willing to remove from our lives. Our eternal destination depends on our decision.
So, who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? The obedient son of the Father. The one who fulfilled the plan of salvation devised from the foundation of the world. He humbled himself to the cross, despising the shame, making a way so simple that even a fool could not err from it. Being born again gives us a place in the Kingdom of Heaven, but the greatest was, is, and always will be Jesus.
And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain…….. (Revelation 5:5-6).
Thank you for studying with us! God bless!