After proclaiming the nature of the kingdom of God in parables (Matthew 13) and surrounding the building of the church with the twin truths of his identity and mission (Matthew 16), Jesus now turns to its essence in chapter 18.
Whoever then humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a child like this in my name welcomes me.
Matthew 18.4-5 NET
Pikaza says this chapter treats the “structure of the church,”* and he is not far from right. Its nature is made up of “little ones” (1-4). Disrespect for them and for this essential nature of the church brings eternal woe (6-9). The Father’s concern for any lost little ones ought to keep the church from disdain of them (10-14). His concern will cause the church to be pro-active and take the initiative to restore them (15-21), because his interest is forgiveness (23-35).
This truth of the church of the little ones should keep us from putting preachers on pedestals, over-valuing theological education, kowtowing to the rich among us, and launching building programs to impress the community.
O great God, you look down from your throne upon the poor, the barren, the bereaved, the beaten, to lift them up. Make me your hand that deposits them in the kingdom of your church.
Hold this thought: The kingdom has no room for the great and mighty, but the church was made for the small and humble.
*Javier Pikaza, A teologia de Mateus, 2nd ed. Transl. José Raimundo Vidigal (Paulinas 1984): 94ss.