Text: Matthew 18:1-5
Proposition: Jesus sees in children a humility that enables the kind of faith that we need to stand against the pull of our sin nature that mars the greatness of God.
Introduction: It was what teachers and parents alike call a ‘teachable moment’. The disciples had been talking about greatness, about authority and the question of who would be best suited to do that. So they come to Jesus assuming that He too had been thinking about which disciple would be the best choice for leader. After all they had heard Jesus talk about His kingdom and how it was soon to be so these were times of opportunity. At any rate they approach Jesus and ask, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” I suppose what they were asking was if greatness came from the ability to make quick decisions or to speak in front of crowds, like Peter. Perhaps they wondered if greatness came from being the financial controller, like Judas or being the class favorite like John or the first on the scene like Andrew or a professional health care worker like Luke. It was a teachable moment and Jesus responds in a way that people are still talking about today. I mean the obvious answer Jesus could have replied with was, “It’s Me, I am the Son of God”, obviously when it comes to humanity none is even close to Jesus. But He doesn’t do that, God rarely does what we would expect when it comes to greatness. Jesus calls a small child to Himself and begins to teach them what greatness looks like. Turn with me to Matthew 18: 1-5.
I. Greatness Has a Trusting Faith In Jesus.
It’s a simple observation that this child was standing not far from where the disciples were talking with Jesus. Maybe he too heard the question about who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven, maybe he wondered what the kingdom of heaven was, even where it was but it never crossed his mind for a moment that Jesus was going to point to him as an example of that. So when Jesus called him forward it was a surprise. His only response was to trust Jesus with a faith that believed Jesus safe, good and wanted Him for something. So he comes to Jesus side but Jesus moves him into the middle of the group. Twelve disciples, others beyond them and here he is looking up at these people looking down. Perhaps just for a moment there was silence, that kind of awkward silence when someone has been caught with their hand in the cookie jar. So Jesus begins to speak about greatness and about what it takes to enter the kingdom of heaven and about how childlike faith is a very precious thing to God. Faith, it’s the faith that believes that God is safe, that especially Jesus is the safest person to be next to. It’s a faith that believes He is good and that there is something that He wants from you. He wants you to come to Him, to trust Him with your life and to allow Him to use you to teach others about eternity. It’s a faith that began with believing Jesus is good and ends up believing that He is a great, great Savior.
II. Greatness Has a Flexibility That Enables You To Do U Turns.
Jesus speaks and He says, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” That word ‘converted’ simply means, ‘to turn around’. You all know how hard it is for a man to admit that he is lost and needs to ask for directions. He’ll take five left turns before he’ll go into a gas station and ask for help. That is not an example of being flexible. So what’s the U Turn that Jesus had in mind? Well it must have had something to do with the disciples asking who is the greatest. In fact in the very next verse he gives us the clue, “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” The U Turn He speaks of is turning from pride to humility. In that day and culture children were regarded as property. They had no rights, they were to do what they were told, come when they were called. Was the child offended that Jesus was cutting into his play time, did he resent having to obey Jesus? Not at all and that was the point. For one who has no rights there is no pride at having those rights overruled. There is a humility in children that comes from them being dependents, it’s that act of dependency that Jesus values as the core of what humility is built upon. Neil Anderson once defined humility as ‘Confidence properly placed.’ The U Turn that Jesus requires of us is to place our confidence in Him and not in ourselves, our work, others opinions or our possessions. All those will evoke pride. Greatness says Jesus, begins with a confidence that is properly placed in Him. He is the One who knows us, who came to us, living as a man and yet as God. He is the One who was willing to die for our sin, taking our place that our confidence in Him as our only Savior is the entry point to eternity with Him. Greatness begins when we convert to that truth.
III. Greatness Is What Jesus Invites Us To Everyday.
In verse 5 Jesus makes this enigmatic statement, “Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.” I’m not sure if the phrase. ‘whoever receives one little child like this’, refers to the way Jesus gently received the child and honored that child or whether it refers to the child themselves, small, helpless, poor and without safety. Perhaps both are meant but inherent in the wording is the understanding it is something any disciple would be able to do. Not only could you do it but should you do it you will in effect be receiving Jesus. Who could ever imagine that they would one day be a position to do a great kindness to God, to lift Him up in the presence of others and honor Him when all others consider Him to have no rights. What would it look like to give care, help, love to God? Amazingly Jesus says that when you do that to a little child it will be the same as if you did that to Him. Today you can do just that, you can make a difference in a little child’s life, you can surprise them like God surprised you. Today you can receive Jesus, as He was God’s gift to you to bring life to your spirit now let Him use you to reach another little child.