Matthewby Mike Raiter
A friend of mine began to attend our church about 15 years ago. She had no church background, and simply walked into our inner-city church. The church was full of people: professionals as well as the poor and unemployed, families and singles, students and retirees, and those from many different cultures. Yet for all its diversity and its imperfections, my friend was profoundly impressed by the church. ″You people go on and on about love″, she said. She is still an active member of this remarkable community.
We have seen that Jesus came to bring in a new order, and to gather around himself a new community. This chapter describes the character of this new community.
The disciples continue to display their worldliness by seeking greatness. Jesus takes a child and gives them-and us-a symbol of true greatness in God's eyes. His focus here is not about children being saved because of their simple faith and innocence. Rather, in Jesus' world, a child had no status; they were the least. Jesus described His disciples in similar terms earlier: they are the poor, the meek, the hungry and thirsty (Matthew 5:1-12). They imitate Jesus himself, who assumed a similar position in becoming a slave for us (Philippians 2:1-11).
These children, Jesus' people, are so precious to Him that He warns, in the strongest terms, anyone who causes them serious spiritual harm: better that such a person die first than face God's eternal wrath for ruining one of His beloved children (vv. 6-9).
Rather than cause such a little one to go astray, a true disciple mirrors the love the Father has for them (vv. 10-14). In Ezekiel 34, God castigates Israel's spiritual leaders for their failure to strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bandage the wounded, and bring back the strays. God then promises to restore them himself. The implication is that we should reflect the Father's love in our care for the weak.
This is the mark of the new community of God's people. They don't just talk about love, but practise it, especially in their care of those most in need.
What does it mean practically to see oneself as having the status of a child?
If we are not meant to take Jesus' words in verses 8 to 9 literally, then how are we to interpret and apply our Lord's warning in these verses?