While Jesus and his disciples were in Capernaum, some of his disciples approached Jesus and asked him who was going to be the most important person in heaven. It's possible that they wanted to understand how people would be ranked in heaven, or maybe they wanted to hear some kind of self-conformation because they were early, devoted followers of Jesus, or maybe they were feeling insecure because Jesus had recently asked Simon Peter to go fishing for the miraculous fish with a shekel in its mouth. Measuring their motives resides mostly in the realm of speculation, but it's not much of a stretch to see where they were going with a question like this.
The disciples might have thought that Jesus would think about it and then point at one of them, maybe Peter, maybe John, maybe the person who brought forward the question. Instead, Jesus sees a child nearby and calls him or her over. The disciples were probably confused. "This child is going to be the most important person in heaven?" they might have murmured to one another, "What!?!"
And Jesus says to them, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt 18:3). He was not telling them they needed to turn around the aging process or that only little kids go to heaven. No, Jesus wasn't talking about anything physical; he was calling them to change (or turn around) their thinking or not only would they not be the greatest in heaven, they wouldn't even get in. This must have been a little shocking for the disciples, maybe a little humiliating. They were probably thinking, what do you me like a little child; what traits of a child should I try to emulate?
Then Jesus told them, "Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt 18:4). Humility, a common theme of Jesus' ministry and preaching, comes forward again. Here the disciples are desiring to be the greatest in heaven and again, Jesus calls them to humility.
I have two boys and at times I don't see humility in my 4-year-old. However, when I take a few minutes, it's there and it's amazing. When we think of a humble adult, we have a picture in our mind; but if that picture is not the same as a humble child, than the picture is not the humility Jesus calls us to.
In the video, I take a few moments to reflect on Matthew 18:1-4 through the examples of my sons.
Are you striving for the humility of a child?
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