Monday after the Twenty-Second Sunday after Trinity Sunday
Scripture: St. Matthew 18:1-22 (NKJV)
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, 3 and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.
6 “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes! 8 If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.
10 “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. 11 For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. 12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? 13 And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. 14 Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
15 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. 18 Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” 21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”
“Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
Jesus answers the question for us, and what an answer it is! “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” But what does the answer mean? So many get it wrong. They think “Aw, cute little child. Sweet, innocent, and adorable. If I want to be great in the kingdom of heaven, I have to be like that.”
Well, for a lot of us, if being that cute is the requirement, it’s hopeless! More to the point, Jesus doesn’t say this because the child is “innocent.” No, the child is stricken with original sin (and particular sins) just like all the rest of us. But he has nothing to bargain with. Jesus receives him by grace, not because of what the child can do or give. So too we must receive the kingdom, humbly, as a gift of God’s grace; not proudly imagining that our salvation is a work or accomplishment of our own.
And in answering this way, we see that we have really asked the wrong question. The quest for greatness, even in the kingdom of heaven, is an egotistical quest. Christ has died on the cross for our sins, and risen again to procure eternal life for us. God grant us grace to receive these gifts, and to be content with them.
We pray: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on us. Grant us Your forgiveness, salvation, and grace that we would be content with this, and long for nothing else. Amen.