Matthew 18:1-3 - At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a little child to Him, and placed the child among them. And He said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."
The greatest. Who's the greatest? That question always seems to be around in this world. We want heroes, powerful men and women who can overcome the odds, do great and mighty things. So, what is it about such bravado that seems to attract us to our heroes? Why do we elevate their status to such heights when it always becomes apparent that even our heroes -- they have feet of clay? Why do we have scores of magazines whose only concern is "Who is the greatest? Who is the most powerful? Who makes the most money? Who are the most beautiful?" -- when all those things are temporal and fleeting? Why do we all want to know what Bill Gates thinks or hang on every word of Bono? Or why do we so eagerly desire all the information about our favorite box office movie star, or the boy or girl wonder of Wall Street?
Well, for many of us, that bravado attracts us because we hope that if we can glean a nugget of wisdom from folks like them, if we can mimic their successful actions, maybe, just maybe we can have some control over our lives just like them. With the honor of being the greatest in our society or even among our family and friends -- with that comes power, prestige, and status. With that honor comes control. And isn't that what life is all about?
That's what Jesus' disciples were looking from Him that day. I think they were sure they had attached themselves to the next big thing in their society. They had seen Jesus do miracles of healing and feeding. They had experienced the Mount of Transfiguration glow of His godliness. Peter, in front of the others, had even for a moment walked on water with Him. This Jesus was something special, and they had an inside track into His new kingdom, so they were the chosen ones, and now they want to know what that might mean for them.
So they asked Jesus a very modern question: "Who is the greatest?" But why? Did they really want to know if Jesus was proud of them? Did they really want to know if they have met His high standards for leadership and service? I don't think so. I don't think their concern is about excellence or holiness or faithfulness from God's point of view. No, they, like many of us, just want to know who's in charge!
The problem then is not excellence in leadership, no, it's bravado. To that Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
So who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? It's the one who is totally dependent on God for his source of life and strength -- like a little child. A child, for all their sins and selfishness, generally knows who to depend on. That's Jesus point. The child knows to look to mom and dad, to look to the one who loves and cares for them. That's why He calls a little child to Him in their presence. He's trying to show these disciples that their greatness and strength with God comes from knowing your dependency on Him and trusting for all things. Yes, like a child. If you want to see what greatness is in the kingdom of God, just look around. Be like this child!
That's one reason that Christians often call themselves "children of God." It's not because we are young and naïve. It's not because we are trying to avoid the tough questions and issues of adulthood. No, it's so that we never forget the ultimate source of our strength, our wisdom, our life, even our peace in this tense world. It comes from a simple trust in God who provides all things for us. So think about your spiritual life with God in Christ this week. That's the power to face the tough decisions in your job, your personal life, your family life. Be powerful like a child who trusts a Savior who really loves them!
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, give me the faith of a child to trust in You in all things! Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz
Speaker of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries