Note: Devotion based on last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 18:1-10.
Matthew 18:2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, 3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
The original disciples asked the Lord, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matthew 18:1). Most of us were born with a desire to be noticed, to stand out in the crowd, to be recognized as the best or the greatest. We soon learn, however, just how ordinary or average, if not below average (!), we actually are.
How does Christ respond to their question? He begins not with his words, but with a symbolic or spiritual and prophetic action.
This is the sort of thing that prophets do. Isaiah walked naked and barefoot for three years to show how Egypt and Ethiopia would be humbled by the Assyrians (see Isa 20—just six verses!). Jeremiah wore a filthy girdle about his waist to show how sinful Israel would cling to a holy God (Jer 13). Hosea married the harlot Gomer (Hosea 1).
Christ brings forward a “little child” and he sets the child “in the midst of them” (18:2). The word here rendered as “little child” is paidion, and it means a very young child, even an infant. The same word is used in Matthew 2:11 to describe the wise men coming to Bethlehem to see “the young child with Mary his mother.”
A young child is a perfect symbol of weakness, helplessness, dependency, and vulnerability. Such a child depends on others to do absolutely everything for them. They need others to feed them, to give them to drink, to clothe them, to change them, to carry them.
After providing this striking visual illustration, Christ then adds his powerful words, beginning, “Verily [Amen] I say unto you, except ye be converted [strepho, meaning turn or turn around, or change]….” (v. 3).
Most of the disciples, save Judas, were believers, true followers of Christ, but they were headed in the wrong direction, by trying to vie with one another to be the greatest in the kingdom as the world defines such things.
Christ says they must do a 180 and instead of seeking greatness for themselves, they had to become “as little children.” Otherwise, they could not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Spurgeon observed: “A little child has no ambitious dreams; he is satisfied with little things; he trusts; he aims not at greatness; he yields to command” (Matt, 254).
We are reminded here of what really makes a man’s life great. It is following the Lord Jesus Christ. How can we be great in the kingdom? We must become like little children. We must acknowledge our total dependence upon him in all things.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle