Matthew 18:1-4 (The Greatest In God’s Kingdom)

In light of the disciples’ perceptions of the imminence of Christ’s kingdom appearing after the manner of the kingdoms of the world, what would their thoughts have been about the privilege and prestige of its chief officers and leaders?  Who would they have supposed those leaders to be?  What had recently happened that would seem to three of His disciples, and to one in particular, to elevate them above the rest?  See Mat 17:1-2, 16:15-19.  What happened along the way as they were returning to Capernaum from the regions of Caesarea Philippi and the Mount of Transfiguration?  See Mar 9:33-34.  How does Luke refer to their discussion?  See Luk 9:46.  Why do you suppose they kept silent about it (Mar 9:34) when Jesus asked them what they had been arguing about?  What does this teach us about our human nature that inherently knows what is right even when we fail to do what is right?  Cf. Rom 1:19-20.  In spite of the disciples’ proximity to Jesus and their benefit and advantage of being personally present for His teaching, were they much different from us in being able to carry out and do from the heart what they knew to be right, even after Jesus had made it clear?  See Mat 20:20-28, Luk 22:24-27.  While sound teaching is essential so that we may clearly understand what is right, is it just knowing what is right that truly saves us, even when what we know and understand is the truth?  Cf. Rom 7:14-24.  Is it our knowledge of the truth that sets us free from our wretched sin nature?  What does set us free from our bondage to sin?  See Rom 6:1-11.  What does this teach us about the central importance to our salvation not only of Christ’s death and resurrection, but of our being joined to Him in a covenant relationship by which means we also die to sin and are raised up to a newness of life?  I.e., is it any more possible for us to walk in newness of life apart from the cross and the resurrection than it was for Christ’s first disciples?

What does Luke say that helps us understand why Jesus had asked the disciples what they were arguing about on the way to Capernaum?  See Luk 9:47.  What does this verse teach us about our ability to hide even our innermost thoughts from the Lord?  Cf. Rom 2:16, 1Co 4:5, Heb 4:12.  In response to Jesus’ prodding what did the disciples finally ask Jesus?  See Mat 18:1.  In answering their question, what position does Jesus say makes one great in His kingdom, and how does that contrast with the kingdoms of this world?  See Mar 9:35.  What role does He say those who are greatest in His kingdom will fulfill?  How is this the exact opposite of the kingdoms of this world and what the disciples were expecting their position and role would be in His kingdom?  Cf. Mat 20:25-28, 23:11.  How is this contrary to the expectations of many Christians today of what their position and role will be in His kingdom—including our own?  I.e., in our imagination of Christ’s heavenly kingdom, do we typically envision ourselves there as being last and a servant to others because that is what exalts us to the most rapturous heights of joy?  What might His words indicate will be our own position in His heavenly kingdom based on the roles we seek in this world?  By what means are we able even in this life to begin ascending the rapturous heights of joy we imagine heaven to be?

What object lesson did Jesus give to the disciples to illustrate His point about the least being the greatest?  See Mat 18:2-3.  Whose child may it have been that He called to Himself?  See Mar 9:33 and observe that they were inside the house where presumably Jesus was staying, probably one of the disciple’s, and most probably Peter’s.  Was the child a boy or a girl?  Note that all three gospels use the neuter gender and give no indication of whether it was a boy or girl; cf. Mat 22:30, Gal 3:28.  The disciples had argued over who among them would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, assuming that they would of course be part of Christ’s kingdom; what does Jesus say in Mat 18:3 to correct their understanding?  Cf. Luk 18:17.  What does this teach us about the importance of the point He is making that is absolutely contrary to our human nature?  Cf. Mat 7:21-23.  What does it mean to be converted and become like children?  See Psa 131:1-2, 1Co 14:20.  Who does Jesus then say is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?  See Mat 18:4.

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