1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
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.
It’s amazing, having been so long with Jesus, the disciples are in discussion about their own importance. They didn’t even understand the basics yet. It seems that they fully believed that Jesus came to deliver them from the Romans and establish His earthly kingdom, as was their understanding of the Old Testament. But they were on a completely different wavelength to their Lord. They thought that since they were the chosen few, close to Jesus, they would have some importance in this new establishment.
It could be that you are in church, having heard the Gospel for so many years and yet you still don’t get it. You still don’t understand how a Christian ought to live and serve. You still don’t yet know the life of a true child of God.
Jesus doesn’t even answer their question, but comes from a completely different angle, calls a child to Him and starts to explain to them the exact opposite to what they assumed to be true.
Imagine the picture. Here are these strong men, fishermen, who talk about being the greatest and strongest, yet Jesus places a little defenseless child in their midst, and tells them, unless you become like this child you won’t even enter heaven, let alone be in a position of authority and leadership.
Even after this discussion with His disciples it’s still as if they don’t understand fully for we find them later having a similar private discussion among themselves and Jesus had to rebuke them again and expose it.
To be humble as a child is not a new message found only in the New Testament. We also find it in the Old Testament. When God asked Solomon what he wanted, he acknowledged, “I am but a child knowing not even to go out and come in” (1Kings 3:7).
All examples fall short when taken to the extreme and also in this example Jesus wants us to look at certain attributes of a child, specifically the humility of a child (Matthew 18:4).
It strikes at the heart of the matter for this was the central problem of these disciples. They thought themselves important. Pride was engrained in their character.
A little child never tries to be important, in fact it doesn’t even try to be humble, it simply is humble, before it learns pride from older people. It has no dreams or aspirations, but is simply content and happy in whatever family it finds itself. Abuse or mistreatment by its parents doesn’t even enter its mind. It is completely trusting.
That’s why Jesus reserves severe judgment for anyone hurting this trust of a child, “that it’s better if a millstone be hanged about the neck of such a person and he be thrown into the sea”. (Matthew 18:6)
As you start to realize the full implication of what Jesus was saying you will realize that it’s humanly impossible and you will exclaim with Nicodemus, “must I be born again?” (John 3:4)
A little child is trusting, it doesn’t even know what it means to lie or be false. That’s why Paul says, “in malice be like little children, but be men in understanding” (1Cor 14:20).
A little child, before it has leant to be dishonest, doesn’t even know what it is to deceive.
Think of the small, little child on Jesus’ lap. It’s so transparent, it doesn’t even know what transparency means.
Just this last week, was there anything where you have tried to cover your tracks, where you have tried to deceive someone so that your actions won’t be revealed? Then you’re not like this little child that will enter heaven.
The first problem of the Prodigal son was that he wanted to be independent, like many teenagers. (Many children these days don’t know the love of a father because he is not there, having left for other lovers. And maybe even the mother is busy bringing other children into the world from different men and so she neglects her children. Satan is busy trying to destroy the image of loving parents so that we won’t understand a loving Heavenly Father.)
Think back when you gave your life to God and the Word of God was sweet to you and you believed every word God spoke to you. But how is it today? Are you skeptical of God’s Word? You need to repent and get back to your first love as a little child.
A certain lady of nobility in England lay dying, and she called for her minister. As she lay there, she asked the minister if her maid, Emma, who had passed away a few months before, would be in heaven and if so, if God would at least be sensitive to classes of nobility and their servants. She argued that they couldn’t possibly be treated equally and that there should be some `separation’. The minister was a man of God and he answered her with wisdom that God would indeed have separation, for with such an attitude as she had, although her servant would be in heaven, she herself would certainly end up in hell!
Maybe you recognize by now that you are not trusting as a child, then Jesus word is clear to you,
3 “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Come to Him in humility and ask Him to change your attitude. Humble yourself, don’t wait until He humbles you.
When we read in John 3 those questions Nicodemus asked we don’t know if he got converted that night, but we find a while later when Jesus was crucified, that he was converted and had become like a child in humility.
The change in the life of the prodigal son came when he remembered that he had a father, and he remembered his home and what that home was like, the love and care he had experienced. And the more he thought on that he hated himself for what he had done. When he got to his father he didn’t give any excuse but just said it as it was, “father I have sinned against heaven and against you and am not worthy to be called your child” (Luke 15:21) .
When you turn to God in true repentance, like the prodigal son, you will find that God is more willing to help you and save you than you are to be saved!
Heaven only has little children in it. Even the seraphim and angels have the attributes of a child, trusting in God with great simplicity.
Make the decision today to become like a little child. God’s grace can convert and change you!