Today’s message considers a surprising priority of the Lord’s heart and intentions. Do we know how God thinks and what’s important to Him? We find all of that in the Scripture, so today’s study tells us something of what’s important to God Himself.
Jesus: His Surprising Priority
From Matthew 18.1-14
Some of the most vivid memories I have are from when I was a boy.I remember one day, my Dad took me outdoors to fly a kite in our front yard driveway. It was a box kite, Dad’s favorite kind, and he let me hold the string. It was way up there. And I kept letting the string out, letting the string out. Until I let out all the string. So I freaked out. But Dad scooped me up somehow and we went searching for it. Sure enough we found it, in a farmer’s field, quite a ways away from home. So vividly I can remember that incident. And others from when I was a child. And those events, like the ones you remember, shaped your adult life.
No wonder Jesus was so clear on children and their importance.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, 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. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.
I want you to see the context of some rather famous parts of Jesus’ teaching.
In arguing over who would be the greatest, the disciples asked a question.
To answer that question, Jesus called a little child over to Himself.
Children were important to their parents in the ancient world, but they distanced themselves from them. Maybe it was the high infant mortality rate. Half of kids born then wouldn’t live to see their 3rd birthday. Maybe it was the hard work it took just to live and they couldn’t pay as much attention to them.
No wonder Jesus used a child to illustrate humility.
But then He gives us a priority.
Whoever receives one little child like this in My Name receives Me.
In other words, God takes it as ministering to Him when we minister to a child.
And even further.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.
And on the other hand, if you don’t minister to, receive a child in His Name, but instead, causes harm to a little one? They would be better off with the millstone thing.
And then verse 10-14.10:
“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. For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. “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? 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. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”
I don’t know about you, but I don’t associate leaving the 99 and going and finding the one, with children, little ones. But He does.
In our world, children fare pretty well in the West and not so well in the developing world. Did you know that about 15 children die, every minute, from mostly preventable or treatable diseases? So if I talk up here for 30 minutes, 438 kids, 5 and under, will have died. Poverty and poverty related conditions only exacerbate that. If 3000 people died on 911, every two hours an equivalent amount of people die in childhood deaths, 5 and under.
Take heed, Jesus said, 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.
So what do we do?
Put children on the front burner of your life.
If you have your own, spend time, be close, give them your attention and a good example.
If you don’t have your own biological children, find some and bless them somehow. You’re not excused because you don’t have bio children of your own. Grandchildren. Nieces and nephews. Neighbors.
Takes steps to improve the life of a needy child.
Foster care, relief care for foster parents
Youth sports, school programs
Child sponsorship through Compassion
It starts with you asking the Lord to focus you on some children, even if it’s just in your giving.
Because pushing children aside makes Him upset and angry.
Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.”
“Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.”
“Greatly displeased” is a nice way of saying that the Son of God was outwardly and inwardly angry. Only three times in the Bible do we see Jesus get angry. Once when the man with the withered hand was healed and the rulers scoffed. Another when He came across the money changers in the Temple. And here.
He was torqued at ministry being withheld from children by people who were serious about serving Him.
On the other hand, imagine how pleased He is when we give priority to children.
Father, we pray for children. Newborns to almost adults. And we pray that Your Spirit would direct us to our part in bringing children to you.