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.“
The “Who then,” may be because of what Peter had just done. I don’t know, but isn’t our question always, “Who’s the greatest?” And when we ask it, aren’t we usually a bit puzzled because Jesus doesn’t seem to answer? Before talking about what makes us great, He talks about just qualifying for the competition.
The operative words are “unless you are converted and become…“ and “whoever humbles himself…“ It is clear that the transformation comes because we are “converted” and become as little children by humbling ourselves. Converted, brings to mind a very specific picture.
If you travel internationally you will have to carry a “power converter” to be able to use your electrical appliances. Not only is the plug different, the power is different. AC, DC, 100 volt, 110 volt, 220 volt, 50 cycles, 60 cycles, etc. The point is that what you want to use must be converted to match the power you are going to plug it into and that takes another totally separate device. If not for this device, the result can be very surprising and usually very destructive. Sometimes I feel it would be helpful if the results were more obvious when we try to plug into the kingdom of God without being converted. It can’t be done.
There’s only one way to plug in. Our converter is Jesus. Whatever you do, you must do by Him if you expect it to be in sync enough with eternity to have eternal value. We can’t manufacture the converter or do His work but it is clear that plugging in and actually entering the kingdom of Heaven takes some effort and determination on our part. We must see that “entering into the kingdom of Heaven” means the domain of Heaven; the rulership of Jesus. “In the kingdom“ means that my body is now annexed as territory under Jesus’ dominion.
Entry into the kingdom of Heaven is accomplished by the same action as becoming the greatest in that kingdom. Just as running fast is the way I get into a race AND it is also how I win that race. Paul, called this life a race. If I want to run a race I must first qualify by running — fast enough. Once we are in the race, Paul says we must run to win. We win by the same means as we qualify. We run — fast enough.
We may have used all the power we possessed to just qualify but once qualified, we must train and learn how to increase and focus our strength so we can run, not just fast enough — but fastest. Effort must be exerted, loyalty to and sacrifice for the goal must become all consuming. No cost is too great, winning is all there is. The power is coming through the converter but the determination is ours.
“Be converted and BECOME..“ Become what? Become as a little child. How? There’s only one way — “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” “Humbles himself as THIS little child.“ Look at the child. He has just been called over by Jesus. Then Jesus “set him in the midst of them.” Did the child know what was going on or why Jesus called him or put him in the middle of these men? Of course not. He just came when Jesus called and was willing to be put into any position Jesus’ hands would desire.
The child is – Surprised, without fearful unwillingness. Moved, without need of gaining personal control. Raptured in the sound of the Shepherd’s call. Giggling with glee at yielding to His strong hand, His purpose — whatever it is! That is the greatest! And if the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven, then the greatest in all kingdoms.
Does a child have to exert effort to be as a child? No. But a man does. We’re obviously not talking about being childish. We’re talking about being willing to have no identity except Jesus. Being Jesus-with-skin-on in each conversation, each response, each point of identification. Not “trying” to be like Jesus or trying to Do-What-Jesus-Would-Do. Why do that, when the real Jesus can do whatever He wants in each moment we call “now?” Does it sound like arrogance to say that to receive you is to receive Jesus? It is, unless you’re converted. And you didn’t say it. He did. He and we are one.
Humble is a word that some have said includes a correct or honest view of self. That has sent millions of people on a quest to “know themselves”. But the correct view of self is hardly a glance, neither putting down nor defending self. Jesus’ way has nothing to do with “self realization.” Just as our eastern and pagan friends have said, there’s a blissful nothingness at the end of the realization of self. There’s nothingness alright, but it’s not blissful.
So, we’re in a humility-race? Yes, outdo each other in acts of kindness and sacrificing yourself for those you have been set in the midst of. Run to win! Not only does that qualify you but it marks you as the winner!