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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Unless You Become...

Matthew 11:25-30 and Matthew 18:1-6

Matthew 11:

25 At that time Jesus said, "I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.
 26 "Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.
 27 "All things have been handed over to Me by My Father ; and no one knows the Son except the Father ; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

28 "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
29 "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and You will find rest for your souls..
30 "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

Matthew 18:

1 At that time, the disciples came to Jesus and said, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"
2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them,
3 and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
4 "Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 "And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me;
6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, 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 often speaks of children. He speaks of their innocence. He speaks of their dependence upon others. He speaks of them being great in His kingdom. Why does He speak so often about children? He does it so that He can give a living example of what people should be like who follow Him and what their characteristics are. In two passages, Matthew 11:25-30 and Matthew 18:1-6, Jesus is speaking of children as those who need to be fed, taken care of, and taught, and who are humble because they know they do not know much, especially of religious matters. Jesus holds them up as a standard to which all must become to be able to follow Him. He compares them with religious leaders and civil leaders in Israel and Judah. What can we learn from this? 

In the Matthew 11 passage, Jesus has been talking to John the Baptist’s disciples who were sent to ask if He is the one who was prophesied to come. After that, he spoke to the crowd around Him telling them that they would not accept Him and He knows this because they did not accept John’s message of repentance. He goes on further and laments the people of Bethsaida, Capernaum, and Chorizon. He says that if the people of Sodom, Gomorrah, Tyre, and Sidon had seen the miracles He had performed in Chorizon, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, those people would still be alive today because they would have believed in Him and repented. At that time, Jesus prayed to the Father, in the midst of the crowd, and thanked Him for hiding the miracles from those who consider themselves wise and intelligent (expert and learned) and for giving it to infants, those who are not highly educated and learned. Does this explain, then, why it seems that the humble and unlearned, based on society’s standards, are more apt to believe in Jesus than the religious and civic leaders? Is that possibly why we have not believed? 

In Matthew 18, the context in which Jesus speaks of children is when those who believed in Jesus and followed Him began jostling for status in regards to Jesus. Children often want to be given a compliment to be assured that their teacher/parent esteems them highly. Here the disciples not only wanted to know that, but their question asks Jesus to use a human measurement in categorizing His followers, those who will be in the kingdom of heaven. First, we must remember that our criterion for labeling people is not the same as God’s. God considers us all equals because He made all of us. There will not be one greater than another. The rewards He will hand to us are based on the work we have done, not on who we are. Jesus’ reply to the disciples calls them back to the here and now because He knows there is no distinction between persons in the kingdom. They asked a human question, and He will answer the question within a human framework. He takes a child and says to the disciples that, unless they are converted to belief in Him and come as a little child, they cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Status is only a consideration as it affects your belief on earth not in your being in heaven, though it is never status to which God and Jesus look to determine our merit. Whoever then is humble like this little child is greatest in heaven. Only by conversion, because of your realizing you are nothing and God is greater than you and has provided the way to Him, can you be received into heaven as a believer and follower of Jesus. Not only does Jesus show the way to heaven by comparing people to a humble child but also He states that when a person receives a brother or sister in Christ into his home, he is receiving Christ into his home. Additionally, He states that whoever causes one of His children to stumble, would have been better to have drowned in the deepest sea. In saying people need to become like children in this passage, Jesus is stating that people must know that they are not the most learned, they cannot think their way to salvation, they must realize there is One who is greater than they are; this person is Yahweh God. When they realize they cannot win their own salvation, when they quit trying to “beat the system” by their learning, and realize there is nothing they can do to attain their own immortality or be good 100% of the time, then they are on their way to being humble. It is at this point of humility, when one realizes He needs to be fed daily by the bread of God and needs to be taught how to live, that Christ can be recognized, seen, accepted, and glorified in a person’s life. 

In these passages, Jesus is saying that we must become children to accept Him. If we think we can get to Him by following rules and laws or by learning all about Him, but do not accept Him within our hearts as supreme, then we cannot become His followers. We must be like children who know from where their food comes. Children know they are not strong enough so they rely upon their father and mother for protection. They know they do not know everything, so trust their parents to teach and lead them. God wants to be that parent, that Father for us. If we stop and realize that all we are, have, and will be comes from God the Father and Creator, we will recognize our 100% dependence upon Him. At that point, we will recognize the gift He is offering us; the gifts of guidance, protection, provision, and eternal life. We will recognize the love of the Father. We will desire to go to Him and give our lives back to Him. This is why in Matthew 11 Jesus says at the end of the chapter, “Come to Me all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.” Once we realize that God loves us and will take care of everything, we can hang up our yoke from the burden we have been pulling and let God carry the burden of food provision, life protection, life guidance, and eternal life.  

What keeps us from becoming like children? Does it seem that this offer by God is unreal? Pray and ask Him to reveal Himself to your mind and heart. Does it seem too simple? Remember it is said in the Bible that the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:25). Does it seem unbelievable to believe in a being Who is unseen? Consider there are many hundreds of thousands that have believed to the point of giving up their lives for this unseen God. Consider, the writer of Hebrews says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things unseen” (Hebrews 11:1). Each of Jesus’ apostles believed and began a world revolution with their words of God’s love and testimony of what they had seen in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. For what do you hope most? Is it not that like would have meaning and purpose and that this is not all there is? Let me tell you again, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, loves you and gave His life up to die for you so that you can be holy enough to be in God’s presence, in His heaven, when you die. This life here on earth is not all there is. This is just the beginning of our eternity. Whether you choose to believe in Jesus or not, there is more life after our bodily death. We get to choose that life. We can choose eternal judgment and estrangement from God or eternal joy and happiness in our Father’s presence in heaven. We must each choose to believe. We must each ask the Father for faith so that we can believe. What do you choose to do, ask for faith or go on in ignorance to judgment? It really is up to you. Unless you become as a child and in humility believe, you will not see God.