About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”
Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
“And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me. But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.
“What sorrow awaits the world, because it tempts people to sin. Temptations are inevitable, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting. So if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand or one foot than to be thrown into eternal fire with both of your hands and feet. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
“Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father.
“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.
“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.
“I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.
“I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”
Last issue, the operative words were “converted and become.“
Transformation comes because we are “converted“ and we “become“ as a child by humbling ourselves. Let’s look at the whole section, verses 1-20, with our eye on “whoever humbles himself.“ How does that look”
Humility includes a correct, honest view of self. Start from the Cornerstone, Jesus. Placing Jesus at the base of any understanding we want to build is real wisdom.
The first thing that I am forced to acknowledge is that His thoughts are different from mine and that He has come to live in me so that He can do His work, though I may have no idea what He is doing. My ideas, perceptions and expectations are challenged and must be laid aside. By turning to Him and asking for His wisdom and insight, I open myself for Him to reveal Himself to me. That’s the picture He gives by standing the child there in the middle of them. Then He demands, “As an adult, you have the power to decide what you do. Decide right now to become as this child, ready to be a student. Humble yourself and learn to serve My interests in those around you.“
The kid is standing there and the disciples are looking at the child and listening to what Jesus is saying. They go from being rebuked for their competitive, self-promoting attitudes to being given a very powerful incentive for carrying out His command to, “humble yourself.“
What was going through Peter’s, James’ and John’s little pea-brains as Jesus described what would happen to anyone who caused one of these little ones to be cut off from Him. “You can’t stop God’s children from having troubles in this world. But you’d better not be the one who causes it! Being strapped to a millstone and thrown into the sea would be better than what will happen to you.“
Big contrast isn’t it? Either become the “greatest in the Kingdom“ by humbling yourself -OR- Push your way around and get your rights and you’ll wish you could be thrown in the river wearing cement boots! Overly dramatic? I don’t think Jesus would agree. Why do I think that? Because He immediately describes what you should do if you suddenly discover that a part of your nature is actually defying this command. The action is to be swift and violent or lose your place in the Kingdom.
The action we are to take to stop ourselves from dealing wrongly with these “little ones“ is based on insight into God’s feelings about a child who goes astray. Allow me to paraphrase what Jesus says, “God doesn’t want any of His kids to be lead astray and perish. He’ll leave the rest and go after that kid and when He gets back, there’s going to be hell to pay for the one who is responsible. So, if your brother does something against you, go and tell him. Don’t just cut him off and start telling people what he did. Go give him a chance to hear your side so your relationship can be restored. Don’t be afraid. If you can get together, I’ll be right there with you. Only take it beyond the two of you if he won’t listen. You need 2 witnesses in that case. Only then does it become a public matter. If the two of you are able to bind that thing up, then it’s bound in heaven. But if all you can do just won’t patch it up anywhere in that process, then the relationship is broken, here and in heaven.“
Can you sense the great pain of our Creator when relationship is broken? He is more serious about that than we are. We can’t be flippant about our dealings with the people God puts around us. Don’t easily write someone off and justify it with some reference to a Biblical rule that was broken. Resist the self-deifying spirit of the antichrist. Hear the Father’s heart! “Restore such a brother.“ They’ve had enough troubles without you adding to them. “Reconcile the broken relationship.“ Repent of your unyielding defense of your right to your own rights. Look for reason to say, “I’m sorry. Please, forgive me.” Those words are the best medicine for the woes of this life. Humble yourself. Restore. Reconcile. Love.
“Where two or three are gathered together, there I am in the midst of them.“