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(Part 145)


January 19, 2020
Today’s gospel: Matthew 18:1-14

The disciples asked Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (v.1). They were not just asking in order to understand more of the workings of the Kingdom of God, but they were seeking to be affirmed as to their own position of glory, as they had followed Jesus and belonged to his core.

Now we too have been chosen and called, and we have responded. We know we are destined for greatness, as we follow and do the work of a great God. Many have gone on to positions of leadership. We might also wonder about our position in the Kingdom of God. What distinguishes us so that we can be considered greatest in the Kingdom?

First has to do with our personal posture. Those who are great are called to be humble.

To his disciples then and to us his disciples now, Jesus basically says that greatness in the Kingdom is measured not by rank or power but by childlikeness. “He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, ‘Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” (v.2-4).

Very young children are helpless on their own, older children have no accomplishments as yet in life, and children in the time of Jesus had low social standing. In other words, they have nothing to be proud about. We in turn are helpless without God, are unable to do the work of the Kingdom apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, and are lowly slaves of our Master Jesus. Only as we understand this can God truly use us and make us great.

Second has to do with our personal witness. Those who do the work of the Kingdom and who care for the flock as leaders are to show the way to others. They lead the way, and they model the way. To witness is to imitate Christ, to be holy. People look to their leaders for guidance, direction, counsel. Leaders have a big impact on the lives of those who follow them. So Jesus warns them not to cause them to sin. Jesus proclaims a harsh penalty for such a leader. “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (v.6).

How do leaders cause brethren to sin, that is, to fall short of what God expects of them?

  • By being a bad witness as a follower of Christ and leader in the community. This can happen in different ways­having a bad relationship with his wife or children, negative speech, uncontrolled vices, wrong use of power and position, lording it over his subordinates, questionable use of financial resources, and so on.
  • By failing to correct brethren and instruct them in the right ways of God.
  • By not fully instructing them in the ways of God and the Kingdom
  • By false teaching, often taking on the mindset of a modernist world.

Third has to do with our personal care for the flock. Specifically, leaders are to seek out those who are lost or have gone astray. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who cares for his sheep. God desires no one to be lost (v.14). Now Jesus has entrusted the care of the flock to his servant leaders. Thus they are to have the same concern for no one to be lost. “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?” (v.12).

Today it is not the one but the 99 who are the lost sheep. Many pastors in the Church continue to care for those who are in the churches but are failing to search for and bring back those who have strayed away. Thus for us, it is not just caring for those who are still with us, but helping bring back the lost sheep of the Church. This entails massive re-evangelization.

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