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. 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. 10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. 11 12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.
There is a lot of great wisdom in this passage, it’s almost hard to know where to begin. One of the many things I can observe here is the emphasis and importance Jesus is placing on humility. We all know about humility and we talk about it as something we desire. Humility does not tend to come naturally; I think for most of us it is a daily and active choice to choose to be humble.
As Jesus’ disciples begin to ask which is the greatest among them, Jesus is quick to answer, but perhaps not as they expected. He does not rank them, based on their skills or personality. Instead, He goes on to talk about how important the small, vulnerable and lost are to Him, using the illustration of children and sheep.
The great thing about this is that although most of us have probably dreamt of being lauded and applauded at some stage like the disciples in this passage, the reality is that all of us can relate to feeling small, vulnerable and lost in one way or another. While we may be humans sometimes full of pride and our own grandeur, we are also all like sheep who have gone astray, in need of a Good Shepherd who can seek after us and care for us, as Jesus does. I love that Jesus doesn’t try to suppress us or keep us small and insignificant, but rather conveys that we are so important to Him that He will continue to seek us – all of us – that we may know Him. It’s not about our greatness, it’s about His great desire to be in relationship with us.
Jesus, thank you that you are so interested in and want the best for us. You love to provide for us, not seeking to make us small, but longing for us to recognise our own need for you that cannot be filled any other way, no matter how great we are on our own. Help us to approach you with humble hearts, knowing you are always eager to hear from us. Amen.
Written by Madelaine Tarasenko