Who is the greatest person you know?
You can’t answer “Jesus” on this one, even though that’s probably the right answer. Seriously, if I were to ask you to name the greatest person you know or the greatest public figure in your mind, who would you name? What criteria would you use to determine “greatness” in your way of thinking?
In Matthew 18, Jesus’ disciples asked him a question about greatness, inquiring of him, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” They likely had religious champions like Moses, David, Jeremiah, and Isaiah in mind. Maybe they wanted to know which one of them was the greatest in Jesus’ estimation.
In response to this question Jesus called a little child over to him and placed the child in the midst of the disciples. Jesus responds by saying that the person who takes a humble position, like this child, is the greatest in the Kingdom and then he says something remarkable, “Whoever takes in just one such little child into one’s life, out of devotion to me, actually takes me in.”
The disciples were so fundamentally on the wrong track in their quest for greatness. Jesus questions here if they really understand the Kingdom. The status of the disciples before God was like that of dependent little children, and their corresponding attitude was to be a childlike humility. So he teaches them to be “great” means to learn all over again what it is to be reliant upon their Heavenly Father and then to accept as infinitely valuable these children whom Jesus here champions.
If you want to receive Jesus into your home, receive these little children into your home. If you want to welcome Jesus into your life, welcome these little children into your life.
Jesus is showing the disciples and us that these children have value not because one day they will become adults, but because they are already persons whom Jesus loves. To be the church of Jesus Christ is to follow Jesus’ lead in caring for children.
And not just our own children.
As we studied this passage on Sunday morning (you can listen to the sermon here if you missed it) we recognized that Jesus teaches the disciples about what they do for kids purely because they are devoted to Jesus. We saw the sacred opportunity we have to teach young people about Jesus, to provide for the needs of young people around the world who are in need of help, and the value Jesus places on ministry to children.
If you are a follower of Jesus, there should be children in your life whom you are loving simply because you are committed to Jesus Christ. That could be a child whom you tutor at Outreach Community Ministries, it could be children that you teach in Sunday School or at SPARK, it could be a child that you sponsor through an organization, or even a child down the street whom you are loving and teaching about the Lord.
To be great in Jesus’ mind is to commit ourselves to little tasks and to little people.
Grateful to be teaching, caring for, and loving children alongside you all,