In order to understand this text well we will deal with the entire pericope starting from verse 1 -14. We are now in the fourth of the five great discourses of Matthew. Chapter 18 is the community discourse addressed to Peter and the disciples and broadly deals with community relations.

The text opens with the disciples asking Jesus who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. The entire pericope must now be seen on the basis of this question and not through a modern day application of issues or our own interpretation.

This question asked by the disciples is a bit of an oddity. You won’t be asking this question when twice before this; in rapid succession (Matthew 16:21-23 and 17:22-23) Jesus has declared his passion death and resurrection.  Perhaps what was bogging the minds of the disciples was the primacy of Peter, for Jesus in Chapter 16: 16- 19 had declared him to be ‘the rock’ and now the others wanted to know where they stood on the charts of power.

Jesus places a child in their presence as an answer to their question. They were driven by the desire to be given status and Jesus clearly demands that they change their mindset. Using a double negative he insists they will never enter the kingdom of heaven if they are driven by such earthly titles and honours.

Children, in first century Palestine were considered the lowest on the social strata. While they were loved and cared for they certainly had no rights. Jesus was not asking the disciples to emulate the faith of child but rather become like a child who has no rights. In verse five, Jesus humbles himself  identifying with a child who has no power and wants the disciples to do the same.

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