Yep...you guessed it...STILL in Matthew...SURPRISE! Today we’re continuing this section of scripture dealing with people's’ views and perceptions of Jesus. Our story paints this picture of people coming to Jesus asking who is the greatest in the kingdom, and him again giving an answer that most probably were not expecting.I want us to start off by thinking about positive and negative memories from your childhood. Think about your mindset and how you viewed the world as a child.There are so many factors that play into how we experience/experienced life as children:
Parents (both at home, divorced, single parent)
School attendance/activity participation
Interaction with other people on a daily basis
Early age trauma
One thing that is unique in childhood is how easily kids seem to make friends with other kids and even with adults. Have you ever seen the way children make friends? There is something drastically different the way children interact with others than adults.
What changes from being a child to becoming an adult?
We will jump right into the text this morning:
The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
Pause… What is going on here? This is another great moment in text that I feel like people ask a pointed question, hoping for a specific answer, and getting something completely different. They asked, “Jesus, who is the greatest in the Kingdom?” They were expecting Jesus to say something like: “Well, let me tell you, there’s a sliding scale based on:
and a few other things.
You don’t really have to do that much to get in, but the greatest in the kingdom are the best performers. So...get to work! You’ve got a lot to catch up on!”
But instead, once again, Jesus flips the disciples’ question on its head and gives them an answer that seemingly goes against all human reasoning, experience and logic. “You want to be greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?
Okay. You must become as a child is.
You have to get rid of all of your adult conceptions of it
You can’t just try and think like a child, you have to become like a child.”
What is meant by “the lowly position of a child?”
So Jesus is answering this questions the disciples ask about who is the greatest, He says they must be like a child, then he continues:
Causing to Stumble
6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! 8 If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
If you have grown up in the Church or have been attending Church for a while you have probably heard these verses before. They are often used to talk about “Stumbling blocks” which is often defined as the list of sins
It’s easy to view this “stumbling block” language as sins in our life, and while I believe that to be true, we must take a larger macro view of what sin is. The very definition of sin is something that separates us from relationship with God and others. So, when Jesus says stumbling block, he is saying something that disconnects. These can be sin issues like lying, stealing, killing, sure, but when I think about the things in my life that are stumbling blocks to relationship they often involved things:
Thinking too highly of myself (I don’t need God)
Thinking too lowly of myself (I am not good enough for God)
Issues with self esteem and self value
Being stuck on past experiences
Using Christianity as a measuring rod against other people (I’m better or worse)
Trying to fit neatly Christianity into our boxes of how we do life
What is a stumbling block people often have in relationship with Christ?
A lot of stumbling blocks to relationship with Christ, and relationship with each other, can be summed up in two words: pride and shame. Think about it like a spectrum from shame to pride. I can often feel or see moments of my life where I have bounced from one end of the extreme to the other. Moments of immense pride, where I am my own hero, my own God. Moments of immense shame, where I don’t feel like I deserve anyone or anything. Both of these moments have tremendous impact on my relationships. Let’s talk about that.
What is it like to be friends with someone who thinks they are better than you?
What is it like to be friends with someone who thinks they don't deserve your friendship?
The Little Children and Jesus
13 Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.
14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.
The kingdom of heaven belongs:
Not to those that think they have everything figure out
Not to those that fake it until they make it
Not those who demand that everyone conform to their perspective of faith
Not to those who are educated
It belongs to those who enter into relationship with Jesus as a child. Remember our conversation about how things change from child to adult. Remember our conversations about pride and shame and how they affect our relationships. Jesus says come like a child. What does that look like?
How do you view your identity in Christ?
In what ways does your perspective need to change?
Take it deeper questions
Read Matthew 18-19
What does is mean to “become like little children?”
Does “becoming like children” require some kind of hard work or preparation?
Why is it hard to see our own value through God’s eyes?
What things are causing barriers in your relationship with Christ?
What things are causing barriers in your relationship with others?
What does God say about me when I'm at my best?
What does he say when I'm at my worst?