Lauantai 22.9.2018
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Tomuun vaipuneet, herätkää ja riemuitkaa! Sinun kimaltava aamukasteesi virvoittaa maan, ja niin maa palauttaa kuolleet elämään. Jes. 26:19

The greatest in the kingdom of heaven

in English 20.11.2013 15:21 | Siionin Lähetyslehti
Jesus had told his disciples for the first time about the great suffering that was awaiting him. He would have to go to Jerusalem and suffer horribly in the hands of the elders, high priests, and lawyers. He would be killed, but on the third day he would rise from the dead. Jesus’ words made the disciples sad. It seems strange that, soon after this, the disciples asked Jesus: ”Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
Man is ambitious and conceited. He would like to be something, to show himself off as better than the others. This tendency was clearly visible even in the twelve disciples chosen by Jesus. Of them, Peter, Jacob, and John were closest to Jesus. Only a short time previously they had been on the Mount of Transfiguration together with Jesus. But not even that was enough to convince the others that those three would be the greatest and most important disciples. They therefore asked Jesus directly.

Child as an example

Jesus answered the disciples’ question by teaching them a good and memorable lesson. He called to himself a child, placed him in the middle of the disciples and said: ”I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

The disciples were discussing the highest positions in the kingdom of God and had completely forgotten how a person is able to remain in this kingdom and reach heaven one day. We probably also suffer from similar forgetfulness. It is therefore necessary always to remind people that the kingdom of God is only for those who walk the narrow road with the help of God’s grace.

Jesus does not mean that believers should be childish, but that they should have the kind of mind that children have. Children trust and rely on their parents, readily accepting the care, love, warmth, and protection that they get from their parents and other people close to them. According to Jesus, the child is an example of faith even in our time. He said:  ”Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:14).

Child is greatest in the kingdom of heaven

Jesus continued to teach: ”Whoever humbles himself like a child is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” To be great in the kingdom of heaven, one must be small and humble.

Jews in Jesus’ time were known to be proud and to make their virtues publicly known. Greek people downright despised humbleness. Jesus was teaching a completely new doctrine: man should not try to be great, but rather strive to be small! The child-like mind of adult people is a mystery of God’s kingdom. Even in this matter, God’s thoughts are as much higher than human thoughts as the heaven is higher than earth.

”Whoever receives one little child like this in my name receives me” (Matt. 18:5). We do not always realize how important it is to take care of a little child. When we receive a child in Jesus’ name, we thereby receive the Lord Jesus, the children’s best friend.

Millstone judgment

The enticement of an innocent person into sin is a serious matter. Jesus said: ”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” (Matt. 18:6). This is to prevent such enticement of children and child-like people to stray away from the kingdom of God.

Even now children of God can be safe and secure. God will take care of his children even at this time, which is full of temptations. Each of us has a guardian angel that will protect us every day of our lives (Ps. 34:7). We are still preached the gospel of the forgiveness of all sins from God’s kingdom. Whoever humbles himself like a child will be greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Text: Osvald Carslon
Published: Siionin Lähetyslehti 10/2001
Translation: S.-L. L.

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