“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” — Matthew 18:1–4 (NIV84)
Who can blame them? The disciples I mean. They were finally getting the concept that there are two kingdoms, as Jesus had been saying, and that the kingdom of heaven is the one they were now residence of. So, some obvious questions. “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” There is always a hierarchy. We see it in Jewish and Roman cultures. Matter of fact, we see it everywhere we look in the kingdom of this world. So, in the heavenly kingdom, who is the greatest? What puts someone at the top? I have heard teachers and preachers criticize the disciples for asking such a question. I cannot. I would be asking the very same thing. To me, the question is an obvious one. It is Jesus’ answer that is deeply profound.
Jesus called a little child to come to Him. Using the child as a physical object lesson, Jesus went on to say that one must humble himself like a child to even enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus told the disciples that the child’s relationship to the kingdom of heaven is the minimum standard by which to enter it. The disciples were wondering which one of them might be the greatest in the kingdom and Jesus went to the bottom of the standard and spoke about the minimum requirement for even getting in. And then Jesus said the most remarkable thing. Not only is childlike faith and humility the minimum standard, it is also the standard for greatness in the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus was telling us that all are great in the kingdom of heaven because all enter into the kingdom from the same vantage point. We are all lost and condemned creatures worthy of death and separation from God. But through God’s Word, and the power of the Holy Spirit, He has moved us through the process of repentance of our sinfulness and to faith in Jesus as our Savior. The kingdom of heaven is not at all like the kingdom in which we currently live. Heaven’s residents are all great. They have been made great by the God they believe in and have put their trust in.
Today, and every day, may we see ourselves equally childlike in faith and great in God’s eyes.