March 5, 2023 - Matthew 18:1-9
It is good to remember that the disciples of Jesus were ordinary men. When we read about them in the gospels and the Book of Acts, we see they were slow to learn, thick-headed, and argumentative. The disciples struggled with pride, jealousy, anxiety, doubts, quick tempers, lack of knowledge, and self-promoting ambition.
Matthew 18 begins with the disciples asking Jesus: "So who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" The question betrayed their struggles with identity and importance. The question was worthy of scorn from Jesus, but that wasn't what he dispensed. Instead, Jesus gave them a positive example of what "greatness" looked like to him.
Jesus called a small child to himself and said, "Truly I tell you, unless you turn and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." So what are we to turn from? First, let's consider what it means to be a child. Children are in dependent relationships with their parents. They depend on their parents for love, belonging, physical necessities, protection, instruction, correction, opportunities to test new abilities and interests, and challenges to contribute to the family and society. True disciples of Jesus live in a dependent relationship with their Heavenly Father. They see themselves as lifetime learners ad participants in God's house. So what are we to turn from? Pride in being independent, "done with growth," and self-absorbed. The "Greatest" in the Kingdom of Heaven know they depend on God to mature and become responsible contributors to his kingdom's work on earth.
The Greatest become like little children to God and live responsibly before people who are young in their faith. Jesus warned his disciples about tempting young children and new believers to sin. True disciples know that their lives are lessons in how to be a child of God. True disciples are thoughtful about their speech, behavior, and attitudes because they know they are being watched. As a follower of Jesus, what example are you offering to new believers, your children or grandchildren? Is your life a demonstration of your Heavenly Father's command to love him, your neighbor, and the members of his family?
Matthew 18 begins an extended teaching about our life together, so there is more! For now, know this: Being together to worship, learn, lovingly correct and encourage one another, and to serve God's purposes brings our Heavenly Father great joy! We will hear about his joy this coming Sunday. Today, let us decide to meet and continue our journey to follow Jesus, grow together, and make disciples!