Formations Lesson for March 20- The Greatest in the Kingdom
March 7 2011 by John Pond, associational missionary, West Chowan Baptist Association

Focal Passage: Matthew 18:1-7

They were going the wrong way. The disciples had followed Him from the early days to this present moment.

And now, most likely in Peter’s home with his family around them, they are concerned with positions of greatness. Previously, Jesus had affirmed Peter’s confession and even included him personally in paying the temple tax. Maybe the others were not as agreeable to this apparent turn of events, thus they needed to know “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” (18:1).

Ignoring the call to self-denial and cross-bearing, they needed affirmation about their self-defined way.

They truly were going the wrong way.

So Jesus called a young toddler (probably Peter’s young child or a relative of his) and lovingly placed the child in their midst — “Except you turn (You’re heading in the wrong direction with your selfish ambition) and become like children, you otherwise not get into the kingdom of heaven at all, let alone have big places in it!” (A.T. Robertson). F.F. Bruce has suggested that Jesus’ “tone at this time is markedly severe, as much as when He denounces the Pharisaism in the bud He had to deal with.” Pointing to the little child by His side Jesus stuns the disciples with the reality that true greatness comes from humbling oneself; i.e., to literally make oneself low. This statement is a powerful blow to any who would exalt themselves to the point of imagining that God would be pleased with them for their individual goodness. Bruce writes that to humble oneself is “the most difficult thing in the world for saint or for sinner.”

Further, not only must one humble his or herself, but they must be humble enough to receive others as children. Later the Apostle Paul will make much of how we must regard that individual who may be the weaker brother or sister.

He will stress in his letters and actions how we should treat not only those within the community of faith, but also those outside that are truly the weaker one (cf. Acts 17:16ff; 1 Cor. 11; Rom. 13, etc.). We must not be a stumbling stone to anyone.

The story is told of a man who was an alcoholic. One cold winter evening he snuck out of the house to go to the local pub for drinks with his buddies. He had not walked too far when he suddenly heard the soft crunching sound in the deep snow behind him. When he turned around he saw his five-year old son a few yards behind him. When he asked his son what he was doing, the small child replied, “I’m trying to walk in your footsteps, Daddy.” With those words this dad turned around and never drank again. 

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3/7/2011 3:56:00 AM by John Pond, associational missionary, West Chowan Baptist Association | with 0 comments

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