At the same time came the disciples to Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
Jesus Christ not only resorted to parables in order to make his teaching vivid; sometimes he made use of object lessons. Thus he answered the question as to who was greatest in the kingdom of heaven by pointing to the little child whom he had called to himself, and set up in the midst of his disciples. The child himself was a visible embodiment of the reply our Lord wished his questioners to receive.
I. THE TYPE OF THE KINGDOM. The kingdom of heaven is the kingdom of the childlike. When we look on a little child we see a typical citizen of that glorious kingdom. Let us consider what there is in childlikeness to be thus representative. We must approach this subject from the ground from which Christ and his disciples came to it. The question of primacy being in the minds of the disciples some contrast to their feelings and dispositions is vividly suggested by the sight of the simple, unconscious, unworldly child.
1. Unambitious simplicity. This would be the first impression produced by the sight of the child, when suddenly he was called by Jesus to confront self-seeking ambition. Even if we may believe that there was no self-seeking in the minds of the disciples, and that their inquiry was general, not personal, still the spirit of ambition was roused by it. But the little child does not possess ambition. The subtle calculations by which men scheme for pre-eminence are all unknown to him. He is pre-eminent without knowing it. They are the least of their own sanctity.
2. Unworldliness highest saints who think The little child is quite unconventional. He knows nothing of the ways of the world. Of course, it is not desirable to imitate his defects, to go back to childish ignorance. But knowledge is dearly bought when it is acquired at the cost of spirituality. Wordsworth tells us that heaven lies about us in our childhood.
3. Trustfulness. The child came to Jesus as soon as he was called. A look of the Saviour was enough to dispel fear. We need the innocent confidence of the child to come into right relations with Christ.
II. THE DOOR TO THE KINGDOM.
1. The entrance. The disciples had forgotten this. Busying themselves about the rank of those who were in the kingdom, they neglected to consider how to enter it. Yet this is the first question, and all else is unpractical till this step has been taken. But when it has been taken, all else becomes unimportant. It is everything to be privileged to enter the kingdom, even though in its lowest region. Moreover, the true citizen of the kingdom will have lost the ambition that busies itself about questions of pre-eminence.
2. The turning. We are all selfish and self-seeking until we learn to repent and take a better course. No one can enter the kingdom of lleaven while he remains worldly and ambitious. The very spirit which seeks a first place in the kingdom excludes from the kingdom. We need grace to turn back to childlikeness. We must be converted into little children. The greed and ambition must be taken out of our hearts, and the simplicity, unworldliness, and trust of the child received in place of those ugly attributes. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?