If you're following the New Testament reading plan Pastor Duttry presented to our church on Vision Sunday, then, like our family, you're probably on week four. Today many people in our church have read, or will read, Matthew 18 before the end of the day.
In the first verse of this chapter, Jesus asked His disciples an incredible question. Think about the weight of this question: "... Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" Wow! Many of us wouldn't even think of making such a comparison; probably because, on another occasion, Jesus rebuked His followers for sizing each other up. But in this moment, Jesus asked His followers a legitimate question. Here's three concepts from Matthew 18 that must be true of each of us if we are to have a heavenly opportunity like this earthly child.
First, in order to be great in heaven, you must be there. You must be present in heaven. Here's what Jesus said: "... Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3.
Here was Jesus' point: It will be impossible to be considered great in heaven if you are not there to begin with. If you have never believed the gospel message of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection, why not take that step of faith today?
Second, in order to be great in heaven, you must be humble. Jesus made quite the example out of this child sitting among the group. He even told His disciples that they should be like this child. Yet, for all of this attention on the young child, we have no idea what the child's name was. See Matthew 18:4.
However, many of God's servants are trying to make a name for themselves. This is precisely the attitude that Jesus rebuked when several of His disciples were debating who would be the greatest in heaven. Another difficulty with Jesus' question in verse 1 is that it contains a paradox: Humility is elusive. Once I believe I have humility, I have lost it. And if I pursue smallness for the sake of greatness, then I have missed Jesus' point. In other words, if I push my way to the back of the line just so I can be first in line in heaven, I have misunderstood what Jesus was saying.
The final item I noticed in answer to Jesus' question is this: In order to be great in heaven, you must be a servant on earth. In context, Jesus' emphasis on serving others in this chapter has to do with seeking out opportunities to remove offences from my life. If I have offended someone, I should apologize. If someone has offended me, I should seek to explain the situation to the offender. And God forbid that I should offend a little one! A few months later, here is what Jesus said to the group of people surrounding Him in Matthew 23:11: "But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant." My problem is that I am okay with being a servant up until someone treats me like one.
How about you? Do you see humility as a key theme in answering Jesus' question? What other thoughts do you notice in Matthew 18 that answer Jesus' question?
Written by Edward Barclay