In Matthew 17 Jesus answers the disciple’s question – a loaded question, about who was the greatest. They obviously imagined that one of them, jostling for position, or maybe one of the great prophets, would get the vote/nod. Jesus answer was both surprising and shocking, and entailed a stern warning.
Many of our questions are loaded with presuppositions and preferential answers. Theirs certainly was. So imagine the jaw dropping surprise when he installed a child amongst them. His answer, initially but not eventually, didn’t even address their question.
He stated that unless you become like a child, and enter with repentance and trust you won’t even get into the Kingdom, let alone be seen as being great in that kingdom. Personal ambition and adult reasoning don’t open this door. On the contrary, they double padlock the door.
Greatness is not a position, an attainment, an office, something earned, something grasped for, something you get by reason of seniority/longevity – it is an attitude of simple trust like that of a child, when the proper object of trust is in front of them – such a parent or a family member.
The paradox is that greatness is never the goal and only ever an outcome. If you look for it alludes you; if you don’t seek it, it comes to you.
So once again the way up is the way down.
But as a warning about how we may treat a child, Jesus issues a severe warning about the better option for those who cause, “one of these little ones who believe in me to sin.”
Not only is a child an example of how to enter and be great in the Kingdom, but also a believing child is a precious person to the Lord, and it is best to treat them with respect and grace, unless you wish to incur his protective wrath.
Guess they wished they didn’t asked – but best that they did.