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Matthew 18:1-6: Become Like a Little Child

Posted by adventbiblestudy on April 6, 2012


Become as little childrenMatthew 18:1-6 MKJV At that hour the disciples came to Jesus, saying, Who is the greater in the kingdom of Heaven? (2) And Jesus called a little child to Him and set him in their midst, (3) and said, Truly I say to you, Unless you are converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven. (4) Therefore whoever shall humble himself like this little child, this one is the greater in the kingdom of Heaven. (5) And whoever shall receive one such little child in My name receives Me. (6) But whoever shall offend one of these little ones who believes in Me, it would be better for him that a millstone were hung around his neck, and he be sunk in the depth of the sea.

Up to this point the disciples had seen Jesus heal and feed thousands twice. Jesus had saved them from two storms on the sea. They had heard Jesus answer questions from the priests, scribes, and Pharisees on a number of subjects. Jesus taught them how to interpret parables, pray to God, and follow the Spirit. Peter, James, and John watched Jesus talk to Moses, Elijah, and heard the voice of God coming from His glorious presence in the could.

Sitting in a circle amongst themselves, John and James began questioning, who was the greatest. They wanted to tell the others what they had seen on the mountain, but remembered their promise to Jesus. Peter sat quietly, waiting to see what the outcome would be, before offering his opinion on the subject. The others questioned how one trip up the mountain could promote them over the others. In John’s mind, it meant everything.

The discussion became so heated, James suggested they take the question to Jesus. John was so certain of the answer, he agreed, and immediately headed in His direction.

Jesus was sitting among a small group, teaching them about the Kingdom of Heaven. John walked right up to Jesus, interrupting the lesson. As he gestured towards the disciples he asked, “Who is the greater in the kingdom of Heaven?” Jesus gave him a look suggesting He could not believe John could ask such a question. Jesus gave him a minute to think about what he had just done.

Jesus had been praying His disciples would understood the lessons He had been teaching. Did they forget the first words He spoke on the mountain? “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3). He could see they still had not reached a level where they could put the influence of the world behind them.

Jesus knew His disciples were in desperate need of a new lesson. One that would impact their hearts in such a way there would be no misunderstanding. Jesus called a little child to Him and set him in their midst. He was just a little boy, only capable of walking for a few weeks. He had dark curly hair, puffy cheeks, a smile that could melt any beating heart, and eyes that defined innocence. As he walked over to Jesus, his arms held out to the sides helping to maintain balance, the disciples wondered what this child had to do with John’s question. They carefully studied the scene as Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, Unless you are converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven.” Now the disciples were beginning to remember Jesus’ sermon on the mountain where He began preaching. Jesus continued, “Therefore whoever shall humble himself like this little child, this one is the greater in the kingdom of Heaven.”

John’s mind went back to the evening Nicodemus came to see Jesus. He was a leader of the Pharisees, and came under the cover of darkness. Meeting with Jesus would have been political suicide for him. John always thought this displayed Nicodemus‘ lack of faith. All of a sudden, John was beginning to understand how his question displayed his lack of faith.

John could see what Jesus was teaching the disciples. It was the same lesson He shared with Nicodemus when He told him, “no one can see the Kingdom of God without being born again.” What does it mean to be born again? When a baby is born, it ends total dependence on its mother when the umbilical cord is cut, but still remains dependent on others, including the mother for all its needs. This seemed strange to John. God gave women everything to ensure the baby is fed in the womb. Every requirement for proper growth is met. John wondered if there was a spiritual application to the fact, once a child is born, anyone can meet its needs. Or can they? Is there a spiritual connection between a mother and child at birth? Does a child understand such a connection?

Nicodemus could not understand how a man could be born again. He told Jesus, “He certainly cannot enter his mother’s womb and be born a second time!” “I am telling you the truth,” replied Jesus, “that no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. A person is born physically of human parents, but is born spiritually of the Spirit.” John looked at the spiritual rebirth as removing the umbilical cord attached to the world, and taking on the spiritual cord of Jesus, providing the bread and water through the Word of God. He remembered how Jesus used the wind to explain how the Spirit works. You can hear the wind, and see the results, but you cannot see the wind itself. There is one thing which had been going through John’s mind since he heard Jesus tell Nicodemus, “You do not believe me when I tell you about the things of this world; how will you ever believe me, then, when I tell you about the things of heaven?” This focused John’s attention on the lesson Jesus was now revealing with the aid of the little child.

Turning the boy around to face the disciples, Jesus continued, “whoever shall receive one such little child in My name receives Me. But whoever shall offend one of these little ones who believes in Me, it would be better for him that a millstone were hung around his neck, and he be sunk in the depth of the sea.”

This seemed to be a strange scenario Jesus presented. You are either converted and become as little children to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, or cast into the sea with a millstone tied to your neck. It took a moment of thought. As the disciples discussed the lesson, Peter explained. “Whoever shall receive one such little child in Jesus’ name receives Him. One way of showing we have accepted the Master’s teaching is to be like Him, and to accept people like He accepts them.” Andrew added, “remember the Samaritan women at the well?” James chimed in, “He healed lepers.” His brother John spoke what had been on his mind since the lesson began, “He reached out to the Pharisees.” Peter continued, “can’t you see, the child is a symbol of everyone Jesus has reached out and helped. Remember He asked, who is your neighbor? There is a lesson in the trust and openness of a child.”

The disciples related example after example that Jesus impressed upon their minds, when Peter suddenly mentioned the other part of Jesus’ lesson. “But whoever shall offend one of these little ones who believes in Me, it would be better for him that a millstone were hung around his neck, and he be sunk in the depth of the sea.” He asked, “is this meant as a warning to us? He did say, who believes in Me. We believe in Jesus.” This made the disciples think, but no one offered an explanation. They all knew the answer was in humbling themselves like the little child.

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