MDB 11: Matthew 18

Nathan Shurden

"See that you do not despise one of these little ones."--Matthew 18:10

The parable of the lost sheep and the verse above arise from a question posed by the disciples at the beginning of this great chapter, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" (Matt.18:1)

More than a curious question, the disciples wanted to know where they stood in the pecking order of the Kingdom. "What's our rank, Jesus? At the top? Near the bottom? Somewhere in the middle?" Jesus heard the question and he saw right through it! His answer exposes the disciples' motivations and misunderstandings and sets forth the wholly unique standard of the Kingdom of Heaven. "Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt.18:3-4). 

This answer almost certainly left the disciples scratching their heads. "We are to become like children?" Not the answer they expected, but if we pay close attention to the corpus of Jesus' teaching, we quickly realize that it's the answer he always gives. You can almost hear the interchange with Nicodemus in the background of Jesus' answer, can't you? Jesus reminded the Teacher of Israel, that in order to enter the Kingdom one must be "born again" (John 3:3).

Infant-like humility is what fits us for the Kingdom that God is building, which means we must abandon the worldly standards and priorities through which we normally measure our lives. Upon reflection, this is hardly surprising, for it was through the slender thread of a child's life that the Kingdom of God arrived one starry night in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. Though much time has passed, the truth remains the same: unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

So let us ask the Spirit of God to open the eyes of our heart; that we may behold and embrace by faith the upside down standard of the Kingdom, a place where the last will be first, and the first last (Matt.20:16).