Chapter 18 is the fourth of the five long sermons of Jesus in Matthew. He was in Capernaum (Matt 17:24) in a house (Mark 9:33) when He preached this sermon, immediately after He taught Peter the lesson of temple tax (Matt 17:26).
Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven (v1-5)
Also recorded in Mark 9:33-37, Luke 9:46-48
v1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
Mark and Luke told us the the disciples were arguing whom was the greatest. Mark told us when the Lord asked them what were they arguing, they kept quiet. Luke told us that the Lord knows their thoughts (Luke 9:47).
Matthew told us the disciples came to ask the Lord: “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”. This may have happened after they had kept quiet to the Lord’s question.
Since only three of the twelve were called by the Lord to the mountain to witness His transfiguration, the rest of the apostles maybe wondering theirs position in the kingdom of heaven. Maybe each one of them hoped the Lord would name them as the greatest. We often fall into the same condition, let’s be honest, don’t we often have the desire in our heart to be the greatest among a group of people, even among a believers?
v2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them,
The Lord frequently uses physical world to teach us spiritual lessons. In this case, He called a child.
v3 and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Children have good and bad characters.
Scriptures that teach us to be like children in the following areas:
1 Cor 14:20 teaches us to be an infant regarding evil for infants do not plan to do evil deeds like adults.
1 Peter 2:2 teaches us to crave the word of God like an infant craving for milk
Scriptures that teach us not to be like children in the following areas:
Eph 4:14 teaches us not to be ignorant like infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching.
1 Cor 13:11 teaches us not to be childish, not to talk, think and reason like a child, Not to emphasize only on prophecies and tongues while didn’t show the love of Christ.
1 Cor 14:20 teaches us to stop thinking like children
The disciples were arguing who was the greatest, which show the pride of their heart. The Lord knew their heart, thus the Lord reminded that the requirement to enter the kingdom of heaven is to like children. When we first believe and accept the Lord and our Savior, our heart was humble like a child’s heart. However as we gain more knowledge as Christians, we would become prideful.
v4 "Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
God desires us to humble like Christ (Phi 2:5, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5). The degrees of our greatness in the kingdom is directly proportional to the degrees of our humbleness.
v5 "And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me;
such child: believers who are humble
in my name: receive other believers not for selfish reason but for the glory of the Lord
receives Me: When we receive other believers in our home who are humble in spirit it is as if we are accepting the Lord in our home.
The Severity of Sin (v6-9)
This event is also recorded by Mark (Mark 9:42-50)
Sins is the theme in this sermon. The focus is the severity of causing someone else to sin.
What is the meaning of “to enter life”? It is contrast with eternal fire and the fire of hell.
Jesus thought a similar lesson in sermon of the mount (Matt 5:29-30).
“skandalizo” (G4624) is the key word in this lesson. It is often translated as “offended”, “stumble”, “fall”, “sin”.
v8: “If your hand or your foot causes (skandalizo) you to stumble (skandalizo), cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire.
v9: “If your eye causes (skandalizo) you to stumble (skandalizo), pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.
v10: but whoever causes (skandalizo) one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble (skandalizo), it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
Jesus used this word right before He spoke this sermon, when He was teaching Peter about the lesson of temple tax:
Matt 17:26 “However, so that we do not offend (skandalizo) them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.”
Paul said the same word, we should not do anything that could cause other Christians to stumble in their spiritual life. (Rom 14:13, 21).
The Lord warns us not to cause other believers to stumble, and the number one reason we cause others to stumble is we ourselves sinned and stumbled. Thus the Lord warns us not to commit sins in our life.