INTRODUCTION – Our ongoing series on the kingdom of God This morning – The kingdom of God & children from Matthew 18:1-6 Going to need help – – Nathanael, Rachel, Aidan or Emmanuel come down front Context – Grown adult male disciples burning question – – how can we know who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven….how can I know if I am? (Read vs. 1) Greatness in the culture of that day among men – – camel races; rating of fishing businesses in the Jerusalem Times newspaper; getting the greatest amount of fish in the shortest amount of time and quickest to the fish buyers; Pharisees and Scribes always concerned about status and importance in the eyes of others – – had led this way for years… So they assumed/hoped things would operate similarly in the kingdom of God
Jesus’s response – – show and tell. He asked a small boy to come to Him and sit beside Him in the midst of all these grown men – – a move that would have been totally irrelevant to them and to their burning question. (read vs. 2) Their burning question wasn’t Jesus’s burning question. Getting in is required before greatness can be considered. Jesus wasn’t ignoring their question. He was just helping them put the cart before the horse. Perhaps they assumed they were automatically in the kingdom of God since Jesus was allowing them to follow Him.
But Jesus wanted them to know with utter certainty that conversion – a supernatural act of God – always precedes greatness in His kingdom. (read vs. 3). 2 things necessary to even be able to enter the kingdom of God. Conversion and childlikeness. Conversion: To be converted is to be turned if you look at the literal translation of the greek word “strepho” in this passage. Conversion is the supernatural act of God wherein He from the inside out – makes a man or woman or young person or child into a new creature (II Cor. 5:17) with new appetites, new priorities, a new capacity to love God and people, new passions, and a growing holy distaste for the things that used to drive us and characterize us. Our part in conversion Now for most adult men, their hero or role model in life is not a child. And yet Jesus says in vs. 3 that disciples in Jesus’s kingdom must become like children. What it doesn’t mean: eating with no restraint or concern for manners To become like a child is to reject the cynicism and skepticism and jadedness that often accompanies adulthood, …. And instead to fully believe and trust everything God says. Children are quick to trust, (ex. of throwing Josh in the pool; bill throwing caroline in the leaves). Children are quick to believe, slow to doubt and become skeptical and suspicious. In a child’s mind – everyone is innocent until proven guilty. By the time we become adults – – often because of bad experiences – – usually with authority figures of some kind – – we like Nathanael in John ch. 1 cannot believe that anything good can come out of Nazareth. In our adult world everyone is guilty until proven innocent. Everyone has something up their sleeve; some ulterior motive. And that affects our relationship with God – big time. So Jesus says – – to enter the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God – – to enter that unseen realm wherein He rules and reigns, and where peace and righteousness and joy and power are in an infinite supply – – we must have the heart and mind and perspective of an innocent simple, quick to trust, non cynical and non skeptical child. Interesting that Jesus does not rebuke these men for aspiring to greatness in the kingdom of God. He is now ready to answer their question – starting in vs. 4. Where He speaks to them about one of the most crucial characteristics in the kingdom of God and that is the characteristic of humility. (read vs. 4) Think about this child. Here he was probably off to the side – – watching Jesus from a safe distance as all these grown men crowded around Him; and Jesus – in a crowd of grown men asks him to come and sit in their midst so they can all stare at him and eventually learn from him. Most of them are not child focused. For most of them – children were not even on their radar screen. But this little boy gladly and unhesitatingly followed Jesus’s instructions, ….. didn’t give a flip about what anyone else thought or how anyone else felt about him, and just delighted in doing what Jesus asked. Kingdom greatness starts with humility. That’s why when Jesus began to paint a picture of what kingdom culture would look like – in the sermon on the mount – He started with , “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” To be humble or to be poor in spirit is to live in a constant awareness of your own great need for God’s mercy and help. It is to be so God focused and so desirous of pleasing God that you just don’t give much notice to what others say or do. Listen folks, humility can never be separated from simple obedience. This young boy gladly and immediately obeyed Jesus’s command – even though it meant being stared at by a bunch of gruff older men. Jesus Himself “humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:8 So now Jesus has answered their question about kingdom greatness, but He is not done about the importance of children in His kingdom. First He makes a statement about the reward for those who receive and embrace children in His name in vs. 5, “And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me;” Finally He made a statement about the judgment that comes to those who stumble children or who cause them to stumble in vs. 6, “but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Nothing causes a child to stumble more than an adult who claims to be striving for greatness in the kingdom of God – who claims to be living his life for the kingdom of God – – to ignore children and treat them as if they were impositions; and less thans.
Transition to Communion: First – Conversion and childlikeness to enter Second – Humility to become useful and even great in the kingdom – – look upon Jesus – – “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart…” Matthew 11:29 Third – Adjusting our feelings towards children in the everyday trenches of life. Are they on your radar screen?….