Matt. 18:1-The disciples ask Jesus who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. He responds with 5 examples where Greatness (evidence that a person is a member of God’s kingdom) in the Kingdom is seen:
Matt. 18:2-4-Greatness in the Kingdom is seen in submission to the King
Don’t miss the first words of verse 2, “He called a child to Himself…” Jesus gives a Demonstration and then an Explanation. Demonstration: when He called, the child responded and was submissive to Him. It was almost as if Jesus was saying to His disciples, “Did you see how that child responded when I called? That is what it means to be great in My Kingdom.” Explanation: they must be "converted" (the Greek word “strepho” means “to turn, turn around; here it is in the passive voice which means that someone else is converting them, meaning…”to be turned, to be turned around”). Then, Jesus says that they must “become like children”. The word “become” is in the middle voice, meaning that it is something that they have to participate in, be a part of. Put those thoughts together and Jesus is saying that the evidence that a person is a member of the Kingdom of Heaven is that he has deliberately submitted his life to the will of God. As a child submits to the will of his father, so a member of the Kingdom of Heaven submits to the will of the Father.
Matt. 18:5-6-Greatness in the Kingdom is seen in caring for the children of the King
Jesus then gives a very intense warning…”whoever receives one such child receives Me”. The word “receives” means “to take by the hand”…suggesting the idea of helping, or assisting someone. When we help a member of the Kingdom of Heaven, we are helping Jesus to accomplish His work in them. However, He then says, “whoever causes one of these little ones to stumble”. The word “stumble” comes from the Greek word “scandalon” (from which we get our English word “scandal”)…and it means to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey. For the person who hinders a follower of Jesus…the judgment will be so severe, that it would be better to just get it over quickly…that a “heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea”…the word “hung” comes from the word for “crucify”.
Matt. 18:7-9-Greateness in the Kingdom is seen in living for the King
Jesus then speaks of the "world", those who have not believed in Him...and says that we shouldn’t expect them to live by the principles of God’s Kingdom. However, believers should live by those principles. And if we don’t…whatever is causing us to “stumble” (same word as in v. 6), whatever is leading us away from following Him, should be stopped immediately! Jesus is not literally telling us to cut off body parts, or to gouge out eyes. He is making a point through exaggeration. He is showing us how important it is that those that claim to follow Him, really do follow Him…by using an extreme example. But the point should be well taken. It is that serious and should be taken with that much thoughtfulness.
Matt. 18:10-14-Greatness in the Kingdom is seen in having the love of the King
He then warns them to not "despise" (look at with scorn, or ridicule) the “little ones” (the Greek word is “micron”…meaning those who are little, or young in their faith). We should not judge those who are new in their faith…they may not always act right…but that is no reason for us to show them any disrespect. This might have a negative influence on them and cause them to stumble. Then He gives a warning...angels are keeping watch over them and will report your actions to the Father...be aware that you are not getting away with anything that you might do to them. Jesus then expands on this idea of the Father's watchfulness by telling a parable about a shepherd watching over his sheep...one has "strayed" (this is a passive verb and suggests that someone, or something has caused them to stray) and the shepherd leaves everything else and goes after it. If the Father has such love and care for his sheep, shouldn’t we have the same?
Prayer: Lord, please help me to worship You in and with the entire fabric of my life...from the simplest, most mundane aspects to the most important, life-changing decisions I will ever make. Help me to serve, You…as a member of Your Kingdom.