Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023 – Matthew 18

In the last several chapters we see the pattern of Jesus reaching out to heal, teach, and bless, but every time, his actions create conflict and confusion. In Matthew 8, Jesus delivers two demon-possessed men and casts the demons into a herd of pigs. The pig herders beg him to leave town. Just before that, some people seek to be his disciples, but he asks too much because, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head” (8:20). The Pharisees say he casts out demons by the power of the prince of demons (9:34); they are watching suspiciously at every turn denouncing his actions.

Even those who are on his side fail to understand Jesus. John the Baptist hears about the things he is doing but doesn’t take the reports as evidence that Jesus is the Messiah—he asks him if they should be waiting for someone else (11:3). When he goes to Nazareth, his hometown, “…they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him” (11:57). Peter gets the right answer when asked who Jesus is, he says, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (16:16). But immediately after that, he rebukes Jesus as he describes what being the Messiah is all about!

Jesus confuses everyone because they all have expectations that have nothing to do with him, but everything to do with them. Jesus’ priorities are night and day different from theirs, and ours too, if we are honest. This is all a setup for the real shocker in Matthew 18 when the disciples ask, “Who is the greatest?” Jesus’ answer is more shocking than we could immediately understand because our culture is so different from the first century… it’s kids. We admire kids for their innocence, but that wasn’t the way they saw them in Jesus’ day. Everyone put children at the bottom of the caste, least deserving of consideration, let alone praise. Just like every other story, Jesus gives the answer that no one expected. He always challenges, and if we don’t feel challenged, maybe it is because we are missing the point.

Heavenly Father, you use the humble things of this world to put to shame the things that are powerful, wise, and admirable. Open my eyes to see what you see and change my priorities. Shatter the expectations I have of you that don’t align with your will, in Jesus’ name, Amen

Questions for reflection:

  1. Why does Jesus associate turning from sin with becoming like a child?
  2. How does the world measure greatness, and what are we missing when we use the same measure?
  3. Why do you think the disciples wanted to know who the greatest was? Using Jesus’ measure, who is greatest in your life?