Andy McCarthy is a conservative writer and former federal prosecutor.
During a recent appearance on FOX News, he explained why he believes Michael Flynn was targeted by the deep state. It was all about getting to Trump.
In the early days of the Trump administration, Flynn was one of the few people who would have been able to see what was actually happening. Therefore, they had to get rid of him.
From FOX News:
Explosive internal FBI documents unsealed Wednesday show bureau officials executed a “meticulously planned-out scheme” in January 2017 to set up then-national security adviser Michael Flynn, former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy told Fox News Wednesday.
“What we are seeing is a meticulously planned-out scheme to try to get a 33-year combat veteran of the United States to say something that was inaccurate so that they would have a basis to try to charge him with false statements or otherwise get him fired,” McCarthy told “The Story.”..
“For years, a number of us have been arguing that this looked like a perjury trap,” McCarthy said. “That was common sense for a long time.”
“They did the interview outside of the established protocols of how the FBI is supposed to interview someone on the White House staff. They are supposed to go through the Justice Department and the White House counsel’s office. They obviously purposely did not do that and they were clearly trying to make a case on this.”
McCarthy repeated this on the Tucker Carlson show. Watch below:
McCarthy broke it all down in an article at National Review:
The FBI Set Flynn Up to Preserve the Trump–Russia Probe
Michael Flynn was not the objective. He was the obstacle.
Once you grasp that fundamental fact, it becomes easier to understand the latest disclosures the Justice Department made in the Flynn case on Thursday. They are the most important revelations to date about the FBI’s Trump–Russia investigation, code-named Crossfire Hurricane.
The new disclosures, in conjunction with all we have learned in the last week, answer the all-important why question: Why was Flynn set up?
The answer to the what question has been clear for a long time: The FBI set a perjury trap for Flynn, hoping to lure him into misstatements that the bureau could portray as lies. In the frenzied political climate of the time, that would have been enough to get him removed from his new position as national security adviser (NSA), perhaps even to prosecute him. On that score, the new disclosures, startling as they are to read, just elucidate what was already obvious.
People will be talking about this for years to come.
What was done to Michael Flynn was despicable.
Former New York City Mayor and Trump Attorney Rudy Giuliani joined Jesse Watters on Saturday night to discuss the sexual abuse allegations by Tara Reade against Joe Biden.
During the interview Rudy reminded Jesse Watters of Joe Biden’s numerous pay-for-play scandals with Ukraine, China, Romania, etc as US Senator and Vice President.
Joe Biden’s crackhead son Hunter Biden nailed down a $1.5 billion contract with a Chinese firm while traveling with dad to China on Air Force Two.
Rudy ended his takedown of Joe Biden with this, “What is he doing smelling little girls’ hair? Who does that?”
Joe Biden does that.
Via Watters’ World:
It is high time to awake out of sleep.—Romans 13:11.
AS I have said, there are a great many in the church who make one profession, and that is about all you hear of them; and when they come to die you have to go and hunt up some musty old church records to know whether they were Christians or not. God won’t do that. What we want is men with a little courage to stand up for Christ. When Christianity wakes up, and every child that belongs to the Lord is willing to speak for Him, is willing to work for Him, and, if need be, willing to die for Him, then Christianity will advance, and we shall see the work of the Lord prosper.
 Moody, D. L. (1900). The D. L. Moody Year Book: A Living Daily Message from the Words of D. L. Moody. (E. M. Fitt, Ed.) (p. 82). East Northfield, MA: The Bookstore.
As more and more confusion swirls over “death numbers” the Daily Wire tried to explain what they think might be going on:
The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) website for the coronavirus lists the total deaths from COVID-19 – the disease caused by the virus – as 37,308 in the United States. That’s a much lower number than what has been reported in the media or by other coronavirus trackers. For example, the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker, lists the number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. at 65,645.
Even more confusing, a separate CDC website – dedicated exclusively to the novel coronavirus – lists the total COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. as 64,283. The NCHS website was updated on May 1, while the CDC’s coronavirus-specific website says it was updated on May 2.
The discrepancy seems to be an issue of how the data relating to deaths was coded at the state level, that is, what the cause of death on a death certificate says. The NCHS website lists 37,308 total deaths from death certificates listing COVID-19 as the cause, which includes COVID-19 as the presumed cause of death. The CDC gives some explanation why the NCHS data may be different from other reported numbers (emphasis original).
They go on to say that provisional death counts may not match counts from other sources, such as media reports or numbers from county health departments. Our counts often track 1–2 weeks behind other data for a number of reasons: Death certificates take time to be completed. There are many steps involved in completing and submitting a death certificate. Waiting for test results can create additional delays. States report at different rates. Currently, 63% of all U.S. deaths are reported within 10 days of the date of death, but there is significant variation among jurisdictions. It takes extra time to code COVID-19 deaths. While 80% of deaths are electronically processed and coded by NCHS within minutes, most deaths from COVID-19 must be coded manually, which takes an average of 7 days. Other reporting systems use different definitions or methods for counting deaths.
‘Our community is unable to adequately address the outbreak without the imposition of certain restrictions necessary to regulate social distancing.’
The Ministry of Covid Compliance is reminding us this week how the virus has a genetic targeting mechanism able to differentiate between essential cans of vegetables, bottles of liquor, lottery tickets and non-essential products like sneakers and paint. Thus the Ministry is able to help us better understand the lock-down policy.
We’ve been piling into crowded supermarkets for seven weeks buying food, and we are allowed to purchase liquor and lottery tickets. Those purchases are deemed safe by the state; however, it is critical for viral control that we not purchase sneakers or other hazardous items which pose a greater threat of proximity transmission.
Similarly the COVID-19 virus seems incapable of keeping up with the speed of passenger vehicles, buses, airplanes and trains. However, once you exit your COVID compliant transportation, the virus can swoop down and attack you if you are in the proximity of a open-space park or beach.
The Ministry appreciates our compliance in avoiding the dangerous virus freedom zones; and is thankful for compliant citizens who do not question the complex data analysis that goes into regional scientific tracking systems.
To avoid an increased infection rate it is critical for American citizens to only visit Home Depot, Lowes, Costco, WalMart & other large institutional retail systems with influential lobbying offices near the Covid Mitigation Ministry.
Effective compliance and mitigation requires that everyone must avoid the small business operations where the virus is more prone to hide out and attack consumers. The scientific data-hubs in/around K-Street in Washington DC must lead our careful decision-making.
Remember, the Ministry is working closely with regional governors to outline the greatest threat. Walking on a golf course in Massachusetts is safe-behavior; however, if you carry a particularly shaped stick and swing it at a ball, the virus will immediately target you.
These granular distinctions are very important to understand.
In the Ministry of Delaware food trucks are now permitted to operate; however, if you attempt to purchase a dress for Mothers Day, you are putting society at risk.
Currently in most regions the virus is allowing dogs and cats to have their fur trimmed. However, if a human attempts to commercially reduce the length of your sideburns it will create a viral hot-spot potentially putting the health of our planet at risk.
The rebel alliance has noted that specifically random viral targeting appears much more prevalent in the regions where people formerly wore genitalia on their heads. There is a possibility this could be propaganda because there is not enough conclusive scientific data assembled to quantify the merit of this claim. Confirmation efforts remain ongoing.
In almost all regions of ministry control, furniture purchasing seems like one of the most potentially dangerous activities. Out of an abundance of caution these consumer hubs of activity have been shut-down; however, the Ministry is evaluating how the virus would respond if cans of vegetables were placed within the building.
According to the most extensive study conducted so far, commercial buildings with cans of vegetables appear to be the safest venue allowing congregation and proximity. It is unknown if moving canned foods and sandwiches into the furniture stores, or other less traveled venues, would transfer the benefits of virus mitigation. The Ministry has a teleconference with scientists and industry experts scheduled later this week to analyze this question.
In the interim, the Ministry would like to remind you the greatest danger is the type of purchasing you make. Large box retailers with dense populations are safe-spaces. Smaller business with less density are hazards; and houses of religious worship are death traps due to their propensity to promote the most critically dangerous activity of all, fellowship.
Because the literal health of our nations’ citizens are at risk, we must remain steadfast and resolved to keep all hospitals and patient facilities closed and at precipice of financial ruin.
Remember, we are all in this together; and to prove how critical this is to our society we must all stay apart.
“We encourage you to go outside…but you must not gather…and you must not barbecue…”
As shell-shocked New Yorkers venture outside to try and enjoy a little time in the sun, the NYPD is dispatching 1,000 officers whose sole responsibility on Saturday will be enforcing the city’s social-distancing rules, even as surveillance data released by the governor on Saturday suggested that 1/5th of New Yorkers have already been exposed and developed antibodies.
The move comes after Mayor de Blasio threatened to sic the NYPD on ultra-orthodox Jews in Williamsburg, who gathered for the funeral of a rabbi late last month. De Blasio was slammed by community advocates for what they said was unfair targeting of the Jews.
And how to we solve issues of alleged discrimination in 21st Century America? That’s right – we ensure the entire population is subjected to that same discriminatory behavior, however ridiculous that might be.
NYPD officers – many of whom have already contracted the virus themselves – have the power to issue summonses and even make arrests if they encounter individuals who flagrantly or repeatedly flout the social distancing rules.
Monahan said the NYPD would have bike teams and mounted units on horseback throughout the parks, as well as aviation units working to spot “problem areas” (i.e. the Jews in Brooklyn and New Yorkers across the 5 boroughs who rush to gather an impromptu barbecue on a nice day).
Officers won’t issue summonses to those who aren’t wearing masks; instead, they will carry packs of clothe masks to distribute.
Monahan said he hopes his officers won’t need to issue summonses, but the NYPD has encountered no shortage of stubborn noncompliant individuals.
Lt. Adam Mellusi, a patrol commander in the Bronx, said his squad – consisting of a dozen officers on bikes – will be issuing summonses if they find “large-scale barbecues and drinking.”
He added that most New Yorkers support the patrols and “have actually thanked us for being out here.”
Somehow, we doubt most communities of native New Yorkers, who take the tradition of springtime barbecuing more seriously than Brooklyn hipster transplants, will be thanking the officers who write them a $300 ticket, or a court summons, for standing too close to their brother-in-law.
Sometimes the headlines tell a story all by themselves…. That’s the case in Sacramento California where a group of frustrated and rebellious citizens sought to petition their home confinement order by using the first amendment.
Apparently protesting a governor for redress of grievances, during a time of arbitrary suspension of the first amendment to the U.S. constitution, is grounds for arrest.
Their failure of citizens to keep distant from each-other made them scofflaws to the dictates of the state government.
Video from the scene shows California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered fully armored riot police to surround the capitol building; and face down a group of rebellious moms and business owners.
The subversives who did not remain socially distant, during their protest about having to be socially distant, were promptly arrested.
CALIFORNIA – Hundreds of people — likely more than 1,000 — crowded around the California State Capitol on Friday to protest Gov. Gavin Newsom’s social distancing orders amid a pandemic that has now killed more than 2,000 Californians.
With nary a mask in sight, protesters called Newsom a tyrant and showed their support for President Trump, evidenced by Trump 2020 gear everywhere, including for sale. But despite the president’s back-and-forth support of social distancing, most were quick to absolve him of their anger over current conditions in the Golden State.
Susan Dorrity, a retired mortgage broker from Modesto, said the president was smart to leave decisions about closures to governors.
“Not opening up as of May 1 is on the governor, not on him,” she said. “God is behind Trump.”
The demonstration was unauthorized and not permitted by the California Highway Patrol, but CHP officers did not disperse protesters until late in the afternoon when tense moments led to a handful of arrests.
A woman who identified herself only as Michelle expressed outrage as multiple California Highway Patrol officers secured her wrists with plastic ties.
“We were peacefully assembling and I am getting arrested,” she fumed as her 14-year-old daughter stood by, separated from other family members. The young girl fled past the line of officers in tactical gear with batons out, into a press of protesters, searching for her sister. (read more)
At the conclusion of the Sacramento protest the California Highway Patrol assembled to discuss the successful arrests of 33 non-compliant individuals who stood too close to each-other violating the governor’s social distancing rules. [pictured below]
Governors and mayors across the nation have claimed that their emergency powers allow them to ban large groups during the coronavirus pandemic. They don’t want groups gathering in malls, movie theaters or even churches, despite the constitutional protection of religious rights.
Now one official is moving into extreme territory, demanding churches provide him with the names, addresses and telephone numbers of anyone who shows up to worship.
Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver noted Kansas City is requiring that churches “submit list of members and attendees along with their names, addresses and telephone numbers to city officials for tracking and surveillance purposes.“
“I am running out of adjectives to describe how completely insane the tyrannical abuses launched by state governors and local officials against pastors and churches are becoming,” he said in his newsletter. “It is as if these leaders never bothered to so much as glance at the Constitution they swore to uphold and defend. They seem to be governing from some make-believe, dystopian viewpoint.”
He said the order also applies to businesses, but that doesn’t make it any more constitutional.
“The new order states that by recording names and contact information, the health department will be able ‘to more quickly trace, test, and isolate individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19,'” he explains.
“The Germans did this very thing to Jews – collecting the names and locations of all known synagogue attendees – in the early days of the Nazi regime,” he points out.
A WND message left with the office of the mayor did not generate a response.
Online, the city makes clear its “10/10/10” plan.
“Businesses” are allowed to reopen with 10% of their occupancy or a maximum of 10 people. And and they must “take down contact information for anyone in their building more than 10 minutes in order to conduct contact tracing if there were an outbreak.”
“Religious gatherings” are allowed under the same restrictions. The city specifically states it wants to “quickly trace, test, and isolate individuals.”
Staver told WND the requirements will make people not want to go to church.
That’s because 10 days later, they could “get a phone call that someone in that vicinity may have COVID-19. Then they get summoned to quarantine,” he said.
That requirement chills constitutional rights to free speech, religion and assembly.
Further, he warned it’s just the low-tech version of what several states are trying to do. Some plan to utilize smartphone technology to monitor people who test positive.
Anyone who, through Bluetooth, is identified as having been in proximity to an infected person would be contacted by the government and could be ordered quarantined.
Staver has received complaints from several churches in Kansas City and is awaiting word on whether his organization should take action.
“Never in our wildest dreams could we have imagined Nazi-like measures designed to surveil, track and spy upon what was once a FREE American people. Yet that is exactly what Kansas City’s misguided government officials are now demanding,” he said in his newsletter.
U.S.—With many Americans eager to get back to work, state governors across the country are responding with their plans for giving everyone permission to be normal human beings again. One state governor is enjoying universal acclaim after unveiling his own innovative plan for getting his state reopened.
The new plan is called ‘Our Vision for Health, Safety, Virtue, and Eternal Peace’ and is a 37-step, 10-year plan for slowly opening up sections of the state economy. It reads as follows:
- Form an exploratory committee to consult various experts on reopening things
- Set date to hear recommendations from the exploratory committee
- Create a panel of experts to explore the recommendations recommended by the exploratory committee
- Build a brand new website to post exploratory committee recommendations for public comment
- Discuss feedback from health experts over catered seafood lunch
- Wait 4 weeks to see if catered seafood lunch led to any additional COVID infections
- Hire commission to gauge the effectiveness of collaboration over catered seafood lunches
- Take away all the guns
- Announce a 12-phase reopening of the economy, starting with the businesses with the best lobbyists
- Begin Phase 1
- Form a new committee to review the effectiveness of Phase 1 before moving on to Phase 2
- Order more drones from China and post them in front of every hair salon
- Draft new legislation to allow voting by show of hands over Facebook live
- Announce reopening of all golf courses in close proximity to the statehouse
- Hold public hearings on the effectiveness of the implementation of Phase 1
- Repeat parts 1-15 until all 12 phases are completed
- Form an exploratory committee to research alternate food sources now that catered seafood no longer available
- Draft legislation allowing people to eat squirrels and possums
- Overturn squirrels and possums legislation after animal rights groups protest
- Hire animal rights groups to enforce the overturning of the legislation in order to protect squirrels and possums
- Introduce tax bill to fund arming all police officers with harpoon guns and spears
- Strengthen the security of governors mansion with sniper towers and tiger pits
- …Maybe also a moat around the governor’s mansion
- More drones from China, maybe bigger ones
- Pass new legislation to fund hiring more enforcers to enforce things
- Build checkpoints across the state to distribute milk and guzzoline
- Create jobs by hiring welders to install armor plating on police cars
- (Super-secret surprise to be determined later)
- Open the rest of the economy
- Gladiator games anyone?
Other states have announced they will wait 10-15 years to judge the effectiveness of this 37 part plan before releasing their own plans. The only exception is Texas, whose governor simply said, “We’re open, y’all!”
Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet, that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. And the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.—Daniel 2:34, 35.
Ponder well, my soul, this wonderful vision of the heathen king, and mark its several features. If the Lord be about to bless and comfort his people, how often is it done by ways the most opposite and unlikely, according to our apprehension of things! It shall be accomplished even by their enemies, and they who wish most to afflict them shall not unfrequently be made the unconscious instruments of doing the very reverse of what they intend; as in the instance before us, to which these words in the writings of the prophet Daniel refer. The Church was now in captivity; oppressed and brought very low: the king, in whose dominions they were in their vassalage, a despotic tyrant, whose word became the chief law. The Lord visits this monarch’s mind with a vision of the night; he is troubled with what he had seen in his vision; but when he awakes, the remembrance of what he had seen vanished. Daniel is blessed of the Lord, both to bring to his recollection his thoughts in the night, and to give the interpretation of them. The king’s heart is for the time subdued, and Daniel honoured with favour. But the most eminent point of this vision was for the Church’s comfort, and the Lord caused his people to rejoice in the discovery of it. The image to be destroyed represented the several monarchies of the world, before the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the order in which they should succeed each other. The Chaldean took the lead, and the Persian followed, to which succeeded the Grecian; and during the fourth, which was the Roman power, the Lord Jesus Christ, “the stone cut out without hands,” was to arise, which should destroy the image, become “a mountain, and fill the earth.” What a wonderful coincidence of circumstances must it have been, that made every minute point in this representation to answer so exactly to Jesus, and to him only! The birth of Christ, produced without the intervention of a human father, nothing could more strikingly set forth than the figure of “a stone cut out without hands.” And the conquest of his spiritual kingdom was equally beautiful, in the similitude of breaking in pieces “the image which stood on his feet.” And when what is said of Christ is considered, which must finally be fulfilled in him, that “the kingdoms of the world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever;” who doth not, or will not see the striking representation of “a mountain” springing up from slender beginnings, “and filling the whole earth?” My soul! wilt thou not learn, this evening, from this very precious scripture, to appreciate thy Jesus, and to behold how sweetly scripture testimony confirms every thing concerning him? Teach me, thou dear Lord, to view thee under those delightful characters; and while trace back the history of thine incarnation, low, humble, and despised, as “a stone cut out without hands;” oh! give me to contemplate thy glory in what most assuredly shall be accomplished, when “like a mountain established on the tops of the mountains, all nations shall flow to thee, and thou shalt fill the earth.” Divine Master! fill my soul with thyself, and let this our land, and our people, be filled with the knowledge of Jesus and his great salvation, “as the waters cover the sea!”
Entering the Kingdom
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (18:1–4)
Scripture describes and identifies the people of God by many names. But more frequently than anything else we are called children—children of promise, children of the day, children of the light, beloved children, dear children, and children of God.
As believers we can rejoice in the wonderful truth that, through Christ, we have become God’s own children, adopted through grace. Consequently, we bear the image of God’s family and are joint heirs with Jesus Christ of everything God possesses. We enjoy God’s love, care, protection, power, and other resources in abundance for all eternity.
But there is another side to our being children, and in Scripture believers are also referred to as children in the sense that we are incomplete, weak, dependent, undeveloped, unskilled, vulnerable, and immature.
Matthew 18 focuses on those immature, unperfected, childlike qualities that believers demonstrate as they mutually develop into conformity to the fullness of the stature of Jesus Christ.
This chapter is a single discourse or sermon by our Lord on the specific theme of the childlikeness of the believer, speaking directly to the reality that we are spiritual children with all the weaknesses that childhood implies. It is also essential to see that the chapter teaches the church, as a group of spiritually unperfected children, how to get along with each other. It is no exaggeration to say that this is the single greatest discourse our Lord ever gave on life among the redeemed people in His church. Sadly, because it has been largely misinterpreted, its profound riches often have been lost. We shall attempt to recover these truths that are so vital, powerful, and needed by the church in every age and place.
The first lesson in this masterful sermon is that everyone who enters the kingdom does so as a child (vv. 1–4). Jesus then teaches that all of us in the kingdom must be treated as children (vv. 5–9), cared for as children (vv. 10–14), disciplined as children (vv. 15–20), and forgiven as children (vv. 21–35).
The setting for the sermon is indicated by the phrase at that time, which refers to a period soon after Jesus told Peter to go to the Sea of Galilee and retrieve the coin from the fish’s mouth (17:27). While Peter was paying the tax with the coin or, more likely, just after he returned, the rest of the disciples came to Jesus, possibly at Peter’s house in Capernaum.
The two scenes are closely connected in time and in thought. On the same day the disciples received the lesson on being citizens of the world they were given a series of lessons on the issues related to being children of God.
The Lord’s teaching was prompted by the disciples themselves, who asked Him a very selfish question that betrayed their sinful ambitions. We learn from Mark and Luke that the question, Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven? resulted from an argument the Twelve had been having among themselves “as to which of them might be the greatest” (Luke 9:46; cf. Mark 9:34). Although He omnisciently knew what had happened, Jesus asked, “What were you discussing on the way?” They were so ashamed of their attitude and conversation that “they kept silent” (Mark 9:33–34).
Their embarrassed reticence shows they knew that what they had been doing was inconsistent with what their Master had been teaching on humility. But the fact that they nevertheless were arguing about their relative ranks in the kingdom shows they were making little effort to apply what they had been taught. They were as proud, self-seeking, self-sufficient, and ambitious as ever. In light of what they had been discussing and the way they phrased the question to Jesus, it is obvious they expected Him to name one of them as the greatest.
Just as they had heard but not really accepted what Jesus had been teaching about humility, they also had heard but not really accepted what He had been teaching about the kingdom. Much like those to whom Isaiah was sent to preach (Isa. 6:9), the disciples listened but did not perceive and looked but did not understand. They obviously still expected Jesus soon to set up an earthly kingdom, and each of them was hoping to have a high rank in that dominion. They were especially competitive about being number one.
Perhaps it was earlier that same day (see 17:22–23) that Jesus had told them (for the third time) about His impending suffering and death. Although they did not fully understand what He was saying to them (Mark 9:32), they should have sensed its gravity. And even though they were afraid to ask Jesus what He meant (v. 32b), it would seem they would have been discussing that issue rather than which of them was to be the greatest. They were so caught up in their own desire for prestige, glory, and personal aggrandizement that they were impervious to much of what Jesus said—even about His suffering, death, and resurrection. They demonstrated no concept of humility, very little compassion, and certainly no willingness to take up their own crosses and follow Christ to death as they had been taught (Matt. 10:38–39; 16:24–26).
Several months after this lesson in Capernaum, their selfish ambition was still very much evident. Probably at her sons’ instigation, the mother of James and John asked Jesus, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left” (Matt. 20:20–21). The other disciples were indignant at the two brothers, but their indignation was not righteous but envious (v. 24).
It must have been especially painful to Jesus that, just as on the occasion recorded in chapter 18, this self-seeking request came immediately after He had predicted His suffering and death (20:19). There is no indication of sympathy, consolation, or grief concerning what their Lord was about to endure on their behalf and on the behalf of all the world. And on the night before He died, while He was eating the Last Supper with them, they were still arguing about their own greatness (Luke 22:24). Their insensitivity and selfishness is thus demonstrated as all the more sinful because it occurred at times when Jesus was speaking of His own suffering and death.
The rest of the disciples may have been jealous of Peter, knowing that he was the most intimate with Jesus and was always their chief spokesman. Peter was one of the three privileged to witness Jesus’ transfiguration, and only Peter had walked on the water or had his Temple tax miraculously provided. But it was also only Peter who had been told by Jesus, “Get behind Me, Satan” (Matt. 16:23), and perhaps the other disciples thought the number one position was not yet finalized.
The teaching here is desperately needed in the church today, where selfish ambition is widespread and obligation to perform our duty to fellow children of God is routinely ignored.
Like all of us, the disciples needed repeated lessons in humility, and here Jesus used a child as His illustration. And He called a child to Himself and set him before them.
Paidion identifies a very young child, sometimes even an infant. This particular child was perhaps a toddler, just old enough to run to Jesus when He called him to Himself. Because the group was likely in Peter’s house, the child may have belonged to Peter’s family and already been well known to Jesus. In any case, he readily responded and allowed himself to be taken up into Jesus’ arms (Mark 9:36). Jesus loved children and they loved Him, and as He sat before the disciples holding this small child in His arms, He had a beautiful setting in which to teach them profound lessons about the childlikeness of believers.
The essence of the first lesson is in verse three: Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. That is an absolute and far-reaching requirement of ultimate importance. Entrance into Christ’s kingdom demands childlikeness. There is no other way to receive the grace of salvation than as a child.
The kingdom of heaven, a phrase Matthew uses some 32 times, is synonymous with the kingdom of God. It had become common for Jews at the end of the Old Testament era, and especially during the intertestamental period, to substitute out of reverence the word heaven for the Hebrew tetragrammaton (YHWH), God’s covenant name (often rendered as Yahweh, or Jehovah). Used in that way, heaven was simply another way of saying God. Both phrases refer to the rule of God, kingdom of heaven emphasizing the sphere and character of His rule, and kingdom of God emphatically pointing to the ruler Himself. God rules His kingdom with heavenly principles and heavenly blessings and in heavenly power, majesty, and glory. Entering the kingdom means coming under the sovereign rule of God.
Our Lord is talking directly about entering God’s kingdom by faith, through salvation that will result in future millennial blessing and eternal glory. The phrase “enter the kingdom of heaven” is used three times in the book of Matthew (see also 7:21; 19:23–24) and in each case refers to personal salvation. It is the same experience as entering into life (18:8) and entering into the joy of the Lord (25:21).
The fact that a person must enter the kingdom assumes he is born outside of it under the rule of Satan and that he is not naturally a heavenly citizen under the rule of God. The purpose of the gospel is to show men how they may enter the kingdom and become its citizens, moving from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Col. 1:13). It is God’s desire to have men come into His kingdom, and He does not wish “for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). The purpose of Christ’s ministry and the ministries of John the Baptist and the apostles was to call people to the kingdom. That is still the supreme task of the church.
The central focus of Matthew’s gospel is to draw men and women into the kingdom through faith in Jesus Christ, and that is doubtlessly one of the reasons the Holy Spirit placed this book at the beginning of the New Testament. Throughout his gospel, Matthew carefully and systematically presents the components of genuine belief.
The first component presented for entering the kingdom is repentance. The message of John the Baptist was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (3:2), and it was with that identical message that the Lord began His own ministry (4:17). The initial call for entering the kingdom was a call for people to recognize and repent of their sin, which involves genuine desire to turn away from it. This repentance is not a human work but a divine gift that only God can grant (see 2 Tim. 2:25).
A second component of the faith that grants entrance to the kingdom is the recognition of spiritual bankruptcy. That, too, is a work of God, not man, because it is the Holy Spirit who convicts of sin (John 16:8–11). The Beatitudes begin with a call to humility, expressed there as poverty of spirit (Matt. 5:3). The person who genuinely wants to enter God’s kingdom sees himself as utterly unworthy and undeserving. His awareness of his sin brings guilt and frustration over his inadequacy to remove it. He knows that he cannot himself cleanse his sin and that he has nothing to offer God that could merit forgiveness for it. The Greek term behind “poor in spirit” refers to a beggar who has absolutely no resources of his own. Because the repentant and bankrupt person is deeply aware of his sin, he mourns over it (v. 4); because he has no righteousness of his own, he hungers and thirsts for God’s righteousness (v. 6); and because he cannot himself cleanse his sin, he longs for the purity of heart (v. 8) that only God can provide.
A third component of the faith that allows entering the kingdom is meekness, which is closely related to the sense of having nothing of value to offer God. Because of his sense of personal unworthiness, the humble and meek person neither claims nor demands anything of glory for himself. He is committed to fight for God’s causes, not his own.
The one who enters God’s kingdom also will have a desire and capacity to be obedient. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus declared, “but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Entering God’s kingdom is more than simply expressing the wish to be in it and having the conviction that Jesus is its Lord. The sovereign, saving God will produce in the soul a personal submission to Jesus as Lord and a new heart longing to obey His commands. The person who is unwilling to leave the things of the world for the things of the Lord has no genuine desire for salvation (8:19–22). Coming into the kingdom assumes by the very term that one comes under the rule of the Lord of that kingdom.
When Jesus called people to follow Him, He was calling them to salvation (cf. Matt. 19:21). The new birth makes people followers of Jesus. It would be more consistent with the method of our Lord if, instead of asking people to “make a decision for Christ,” modern evangelists would call them to turn from sin to follow the Lord’s leadership and turn over to Him the rule of their lives.
The one who enters God’s kingdom also is willing to make public confession of his desire to follow the Lord. “Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men,” Jesus said, “I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven” (10:32–33).
The one who enters God’s kingdom is aware of his need to be self-denying. Jesus said, “He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it” (10:38–39).
Further in Matthew’s presentation of the faith that saves is the component of persistence. The Canaanite woman with the demon-possessed daughter did not give up when Jesus at first ignored her, when the disciples wanted to send her away, or even when Jesus reminded her that she was not an Israelite, one of God’s chosen people. She was willing to take even the Lord’s leftovers and would not give up until He had met her need. In response to her childlike persistence, Jesus said, “O woman, your faith is great; be it done for you as you wish” (15:28).
All of these components of the faith that God grants for salvation can be summed up in the first lesson Jesus teaches-the lesson of humility.
It is impossible to miss the fact that this teaching is directed at the disciples and implies they needed to hear and accept it. And from the argument among them that prompted this lesson from Jesus, it is obvious they were not living according to His standard of humility. They were manifesting pride and self-seeking. It may be that some of them were not yet in the kingdom (certainly this invitation was pertinent to the power-hungry, money-hungry Judas), and those who were in the kingdom had allowed their fallen flesh to dominate their attitudes. This makes the important statement that even though our hearts are in line with these principles of genuine saving faith at the time God graciously grants it to us, we fall often and easily to the power of sin that is still in us.
As He took the young child in His arms and held him up before the disciples, the Lord gathered up all those elements of salvation: “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
The phrase are converted translates an aorist passive of strephō, which elsewhere in the New Testament is always translated with an idea of “turning” or “turning around.” It means to make an about face and go in the opposite direction. Peter used a form of the term twice in his message shortly after Pentecost, as he called his hearers to “repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away” and declared of Jesus that “God raised up His Servant, and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways” (Acts 3:19, 26). The term is used repeatedly in the book of Acts to speak of conversion (11:21; 15:19; 26:18, 20). Paul used the word when speaking of the Thessalonian believers, who had turned “to God from idols to serve a living and true God” (1 Thess. 1:9).
Conversion is the other half of repentance. Repentance is being sorry for sin and turning away from it; conversion is the expression of will that fully turns from sin to the Lord. Psalm 51:13 alludes to these two halves of the turning when it declares, “and sinners will be converted to Thee.” Jesus’ use here of the passive voice indicates that the disciples could not be converted from sin to righteousness by their own efforts but needed someone else to turn them around. Although the response of a person’s will is required, only God has the power to convert.
To be converted requires people to become like children, Jesus explained. A little child is simple, dependent, helpless, unaffected, unpretentious, unambitious. Children are not sinless or naturally unselfish, and they display their fallen nature from the earliest age. But they are nevertheless naive and unassuming, trusting of others and without ambition for grandeur and greatness.
“It is the person who humbles himself as this child,” Jesus declared, “who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” The verb behind humbles is tapeinoō, which has the literal meaning of making low. In God’s eyes, the one who lowers himself is the one who is elevated; the one who genuinely considers himself to be the least is the one God considers to be the greatest. “The greatest among you shall be your servant,” Jesus told the self-righteous Pharisees. “And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” (Matt. 23:11–12). The person who is not willing to humble himself as Jesus “humbled Himself” (Phil. 2:8) will have no place in Jesus’ kingdom. For self-righteous Jews who exalted themselves so highly as to think God was pleased with them for their own goodness, this was a shattering blow.
But Jesus makes clear that you rise higher in His kingdom as you go lower. The great Lutheran commentator R. C. H. Lenski has written, “He who thinks of making no claims shall have all that others claim and by claiming cannot obtain.… Only an empty vessel can God fill with his gifts. And the emptier we are of anything that is due to ourselves, the more can God pour into these vessels his eternal riches, honors, and glories” (The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel [Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1943], 683).
A little child makes no claims of worthiness or greatness. He simply submits to the care of his parents and others who love him, relying on them for all that he needs. He knows he cannot meet his own needs and has no resources to stay alive. That is the kind of humble submissiveness that results in greatness in God’s eyes and in His kingdom.
A number of years ago I ministered to a group of black schools in the south. At one rural elementary school, I presented a simple message about God’s love and the unique and lovely person of Jesus Christ, who especially loved children and died as a sacrifice for them on the cross to pay the punishment for all our sins. At the end of the message I asked, “How many of you would like to have Jesus live in your heart and forgive all your sin and desire to follow such a wonderful Lord and Savior and have Him take you to heaven some day?” To my amazement, every one of the one hundred or so hands in the room immediately went up. There was no skepticism, no doubting, no hesitation, no looking around to see how their friends would react. When the invitation was asked for, the heart of each one of those children was ready to respond positively to the claims of Jesus Christ. To be sure that they understood the commitment they were making, I asked, “Now how many of you are willing to let Jesus control your life and to obey whatever He says?” Again, every hand went up.
God knew the intent of their hearts and what that simple affirmation meant as a step toward Him. But what I saw was the illustration of saving faith. None of those children felt adequate in himself or so perfect as not to recognize sin and the need of forgiveness. None was reluctant to give his life to One who was so lovely and gracious and could provide all they would need in time and eternity. Nor were they reluctant to do what He asked them in obedience.
That is the kind of unpretentious, nonhypocritical, humble, childlike faith Jesus was talking about. That sort of response to His Son is the greatest in God’s sight. The greatest in the kingdom of heaven is the one who is humble, unaffected, genuinely sincere, undemanding, nonself-centered, receptive to whatever God offers, and eagerly obedient to whatever He commands.
The popular “gospels” that propagate self-fulfillment and personal success are the antithesis of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They are a mockery of New Testament Christianity and strike at the heart of salvation and of Christian living. The Lord made no provision for the elevation of self, but rather declared unequivocally that the person who, on his own terms, “has found his life shall lose it” (Matt. 10:39). The way of self is the way of disqualification from the kingdom. Those who glorify self not only will not be great in the kingdom but will never enter it.
James presents an invitation to salvation that unarguably reiterates what our Lord demands in this passage of Matthew:
But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. (James 4:6–10)
4 The way has now been prepared for a direct answer to the disciples’ question. The tapeinos word-group is traditionally translated by “humble,” which in English normally has a strongly ethical implication denoting a mental attitude. The Greek adjective tapeinos can carry the same connotation (as in 11:29), but the verb tapeinoō which is used here regularly denotes status, often in direct opposition to hypsoō, “to lift up” (as in 23:12); its meaning is thus closer to “humiliate”, so that to “make oneself tapeinos like this child” (the literal translation of the expression here) does not mean to attempt to gain the mental virtue of humility15 which is supposed (by whom?—not by most parents or teachers!) to be characteristic of children, but rather to accept the low social status which is symbolized by the child, who in an adult world has no self-determination and must submit to the will of adults who “know best.” The paradox expressed in this verse is therefore stark: the least are the greatest, as in 19:30, “the first last and the last first.”
18:4 whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest. Jesus answers the disciples’ question about kingdom greatness by pointing to a child who has little status. The NIV’s “lowly position” reflects the Greek word tapeinoō, which can indicate internal disposition or external situation (BDAG 990). In this context, the latter is most likely. Jesus uses a child to demonstrate that the disciples are misguided in seeking greatness in the kingdom. They should instead assume the position of those who are lowest in status within the kingdom community (also 20:26–27).
THE MIND OF A CHILD
On that day the disciples came to Jesus. ‘Who, then,’ they said, ‘is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ Jesus called a little child and made him stand in the middle of them, and said: ‘This is the truth I tell you—unless you turn and become as children, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself as this little child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’
Here is a very revealing question, followed by a very revealing answer. The disciples asked who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus took a child and said that unless they turned and became as this little child, they would not get into the kingdom at all.
The question of the disciples was: ‘Who will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’—and the very fact that they asked that question showed that they had no idea at all what the kingdom of heaven was. Jesus said: ‘Unless you turn.’ He was warning them that they were going in completely the wrong direction, away from the kingdom of heaven and not towards it. In life, it is all a question of what people are aiming at; if they are aiming at the fulfilment of personal ambition, the acquisition of personal power, the enjoyment of personal prestige and the exaltation of self, they are aiming at precisely the opposite of the kingdom of heaven; for to be a citizen of the kingdom means the complete forgetting of self, the obliteration of self, the spending of self in a life which aims at service and not at power. As long as people consider themselves to be the most important thing in the world, they have turned their backs on the kingdom; if they want ever to reach the kingdom, they must turn round and face in the opposite direction.
Jesus took a child. There is a tradition that the child grew to be Ignatius of Antioch, who in later days became a great servant of the Church, a great writer, and finally a martyr for Christ. Ignatius was surnamed Theophoros, which means God–carried, and the tradition grew up that he had received that name because Jesus carried him on his knee. It may be so. Maybe it is more likely that it was Peter who asked the question, and that it was Peter’s little boy whom Jesus took and set in front of everyone, because we know that Peter was married (Matthew 8:14; 1 Corinthians 9:5).
So Jesus said that in a child we see the characteristics which should mark out men and women of the kingdom. There are many lovely characteristics in children—the power to wonder, before they have become deadeningly used to the wonder of the world; the power to forgive and to forget, even when adults and parents treat them unjustly as they so often do; the innocence which, as Richard Glover beautifully says, brings it about that children have only to learn, not to unlearn; only to do, not to undo. No doubt Jesus was thinking of these things; but, wonderful as they are, they are not the main things in his mind. Children have three great qualities which make them the symbol of those who are citizens of the kingdom.
(1) First and foremost, there is the quality which is the keynote of the whole passage, the child’s humility. Children do not wish to push themselves forward; rather, they wish to fade into the background. They do not wish for prominence; they would rather be left in obscurity. It is only as they grow up, and begin to be initiated into a competitive world, with its fierce struggle and scramble for prizes and for first places, that this instinctive humility is left behind.
(2) There is the child’s dependence. To children, a state of dependence is perfectly natural. They never think that they can face life by themselves. They are perfectly content to be utterly dependent on those who love them and care for them. If men and women would accept the fact of their dependence on God, a new strength and a new peace would enter their lives.
(3) There is the child’s trust. Children are instinctively dependent, and just as instinctively they trust their parents that their needs will be met. When we are children, we cannot buy our own food or our own clothes, or maintain our own home; yet we never doubt that we will be clothed and fed, and that there will be shelter and warmth and comfort waiting for us when we come home. When we are children, we set out on a journey with no means of paying the fare, and with no idea of how to get to our journey’s end, and yet it never enters our heads to doubt that our parents will bring us safely there.
The child’s humility is the pattern of the behaviour of Christians to their neighbours, and the child’s dependence and trust are the pattern of the Christian attitude towards God, the Father of all.
Ver. 4.—Whosoever therefore. This verse gives a direct application of the principle just enunciated, and supplies an answer to the apostles’ question. Shall humble himself. Not that a child consciously humbles itself, but is humble by nature. The disciple must become that by deliberate choice which the child is by reason of his constitution and natural disposition. The same is greatest; rather, greater (μείζων), Christ using the same term as the questioners in ver. 1. The more a man annihilates self and casts away pride, conceit, obstinacy, the fitter is he to become a living member of Christ’s kingdom. “Quanto humilior, tanto altior,” says Thomas Aquinas. But this is a joint work. St. Gregory says well, “The good which a man doeth is both the work of God and the work of man: of God, as being the Author, in giving grace; of man, as being actor, in using grace, yet so that he co-operate with grace by grace” (quoted by Ford, in loc.).
4. Whosoever shall humble himself like this little child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. This is intended to guard us against supposing that we degrade ourselves in any measure by freely surrendering every kind of distinction. And hence we may obtain a short definition of humility. That man is truly humble who neither claims any personal merit in the sight of God, nor proudly despises brethren, or aims at being thought superior to them, but reckons it enough that he is one of the members of Christ, and desires nothing more than that the Head alone should be exalted.
4. The emphasis we have seen in vv. 2–3 is here made explicit. True greatness is to be found in being little, true importance in being unimpressive. That is what the kingdom of heaven does to the world’s scale of values. Humbles himself does not refer to an arbitrary asceticism or a phoney false modesty; it does not describe a character-trait (ICC says children are ‘untempted to self-advancement’—really?), but the acceptance of an inferior position (as Jesus did, Phil. 2:8, where the same phrase is used).
18:3–4 unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom. Matthew contains many statements about entering into the Kingdom (see 5:20; 7:21; 19:23–24; 23:13; cf. 19:17; 25:21, 23).
as humble as this little child. The character trait that appears to be foremost in the simile of becoming like a child is humility (11:29; 23:12; Luke 1:52; 3:5; Eph 4:2; Phil 2:3; Jas 1:9; 4:6, 10; 1 Pet 5:5–6; cf. “meekness” in 5:5; 21:5). In this sense conversion amounts to a renunciation of all one’s human prestige or status and an acceptance of the values of the Kingdom. It is not that children are innocent of selfishness or that they consistently model humility, but that children have no status in society. As they are at the mercy of adults, so disciples acknowledge in repentance that they have no status before God and that they depend solely on the love and mercy of the heavenly Father. (It is not at all clear that John 3:3 is another version of this saying of Jesus, as advocated by Davies and Allison 1991:758.)
Vers. 2–5. And Jesus called a little child unto Him.—
Christian humility:—The question of the disciples brings them very distinctly before us, and makes them very real to us, as men like unto ourselves. Nothing can be more artless, and evidently truthful, than their representation in these Gospels of their own thoughts and conduct. How beautifully does Jesus rebuke all this. What a profound and original idea of greatness does this unfold!
- The commendation of humility. That humility is not set forth as the sole condition of the heavenly estate. The Saviour’s words do not limit the entire range of Christian character to this one quality. It is its secret fountain. What humility is not. 1. Humility is not a weak and timid quality. It must be distinguished from a grovelling spirit. We should think something of our humanity, and not cast it under men’s feet. Servants to all; servile to none. 2. It is not to be confounded with that morbid self-abasement which grows out of certain religious views. We may well be humble when we see the infinite love against which we have sinned. 3. Genuine humility is not incompatible with a consciousness of merit; for a secret persuasion of power is the spring of noble enterprise. The consciousness of possessing something is essential to the sense of deficiency which makes us truly humble. 1. Now see how humility lies at the base of all true greatness. We instinctively associate humility with greatness. We always suspect ostentation. 2. The weakness which pride covers, but does not obviate, in the matter of dress and show. It is a great thing for a man to know and feel that he is a man; it is a great thing for him to understand where he is, and to profess what he is. Humility is the spring of all intellectual greatness; also of religious. The man who is convinced that he is perfect, the farthest from being perfect. “God be merciful to me, a sinner,” is the spring of all real acquisition in religious things. The child’s humility is unconscious; man’s humility is reached by experience. 3. The child-like relation in all who in any degree enter into the sphere of Christian faith and feeling. Christ would bring all men to filial dependence upon God. There is no humility without love and confidence; subjection to a tyrant is not humility; but the reverence which I give to a father. (E. H. Chapin, D.D.)
Greatness determined by use, not extent:—When you take the loftiest standards in comparison, who is filling a great sphere in God’s universe? What king, what president, what statesman, what man of pride and renown, is filling a great sphere? But the moment you come down and take the ordinary earthly standards, the true test of any man’s condition is the uses to which he puts it—and to which the Almighty Himself puts it. The uses of a thing make it great, not its extent. The uses of the wayside spring, that refreshes the traveller’s march; or the flower that grows at the foot of awful ice-peaks and battlemented crags, unfolding all the summer long its beautiful parable of Providence and love—who can limit the usefulness of that? and who can say that it is nothing, because its sphere is little? (Ibid.)
Humility the spring of intellectual greatness:—The humbler men are, the greater they are. What are the proudest triumphs of our day, intellectually speaking? They are in little things. The great men of our day do not construct cosmologies; do not sit down and build up great theories of the universe. We laugh at such things; we suspect their soundness at once. When a man comes to us and tells us that he has a new theory of creation, we begin to think whether he had not better have a theory of his own sanity. The things which occupy the greatest minds of our day are the little sparks of electricity, the little wayside shells, the blossoms, the infusoriæ myriad-fold that hang in a single drop of water. Down in the little lowly things men find the great secret of the world; away down they begin to find the spring and sources of things, and the profoundest books of science are founded on these little ordinary, unobserved affairs. Humility is the spring of all intellectual greatness. (Ibid.)
The unconscious humility of a child combined with the experience of a man:—But we have—and let us thank God that we have—something better than childhood’s innocence, if we have lived truly and Christ-like. We have strength to overcome evil which the child must learn; we have a power to trample sin underneath us that the child must undergo much to gain; we have not the innocence of Eden, but by God’s help and Christ’s example we may have the victory of Gethsemane. It is a great thing to have the humbleness of a child. But it is to be joined with the consciousness and the effort of the man. (Ibid.)
The spiritual worth of childhood:—But, moreover, there is testimony in Christianity, not only for the love of God to the child, but to the spiritual worth of the child. The child illustrates the value of the soul as Christ brings it before us here. Now, observe, there is no materialistic theory that would be consistent with the way in which Christ treats the child, because, on the materialistic theory, everything grows upward, grows wider and better. But the doctrine of the text is not the doctrine of development; we must go back to childhood again; we don’t develop humility. We may develop physical strength; we may develop intellectual splendour; we may develop imagination or reason, but we do not develop humility. In that the child has the advantage of us. If it were merely material, why should not the child have less humility than the man? No; we come back to the child’s condition, in some respects; and that illustrates the child’s share of our common spiritual nature. And here is the reason why we find the element of greatness set forth as it is by Jesus Christ. Greatness is in spiritual power; it is not an outward attainment that the man can attain and the child can not. It is not any outside clothing; it is not in crowns; it is not in the world’s fame; it is a spiritual quality, and the child has that spiritual quality which is the condition of all greatness. (Ibid.)
The nature and necessity of conversion:—
- The nature of conversion. A change of character (Psa. 51:13; Acts 13:19; James 5:20) implies—1. A change of mind. 2. A change of heart. 3. Followed by a change of conduct. Regulated by the word of God.
- The effect of conversion. Its subjects become as little children, not, indeed, in every respect—ignorance, idleness, &c. But, 1. In the affectionate dispositions of their hearts towards each other. 2. In simplicity and sincerity. 3. In humility and lowliness of mind.
III. The necessity of conversion. 1. What we are to understand by the kingdom of heaven. 2. The necessity of conversion in order to enter into this kingdom. The unconverted have no right to, and no meetness for, this kingdom. Were it possible for them to enter they would still be unhappy. (R. Treffrey.)
The necessity of conversion:—
- The nature of the kingdom of Christ, and what is implied in entering into it. 1. The kingdom of Christ is, His reign in and over mankind. It must be considered in two states and periods—(1) In a state of imprefection, warfare, and suffering on earth. (2) In a state of perfection, triumph and joy in heaven. 2. We enter this kingdom by becoming members of Christ’s true Church—militant, triumphant.
- The nature of this conversion, or in what sense we must be converted and made like little children, in order to our entering into this kingdom. 1. It implies being turned from self to Christ; from the world, and sin, &c. 2. It implies being inwardly changed, understanding enlightened, &c. 3. Conversion makes us like little children—sincere, humble, &c. 4. The works of conversion. Light in the understanding; love to the godly; obedience to all God’s commands; hatred to, and victory overall known sin; avoiding temptation, &c.
III. The absolute necessity of this conversion. Unconverted persons are unfit for heaven. (Joseph Benson.)
Conversion:—The occasion of this remark was like the manifestation of a desire for pre-eminence.
- The nature of conversion.
- The evidence of it is the disposition of a child. 1. A disposition which is the opposite of an ambitious spirit. 2. A child is confiding. It trusts its parents. 3. A child is submissive.
III. Why this change is necessary. Because the disposition of a child is the only one that agrees with our relation to God. This will apply—1. To our ignorance. 2. To our weakness. 3. To our guilt and pollution.
- The blessedness of this disposition. 1. The peace it gives. 2. The security it affords. God cares for us. 3. It places us in our normal relation to God. 4. It secures our admission into the kingdom of God, of which Christ is the head and centre. (C. Hodge, D.D.) This teaches us all—I. The necessity of humility in order to salvation. II. That even converted souls have need of a daily conversion. III. How abominable in the eyes of God ambition and pride are in any, especially in ministers of the gospel. IV. That in the Church the way to be great is to be humble. V. That true humility consists in a mean opinion of ourselves, not minding high things, not being wise in our own conceits, in honour preferring one another. (M. Pool.)
Conversion:—Let us see what “turn” is necessary before we can be Christians. I. It is evident that we are all too much men and women, else it would not have been said, “Turn and be children.” 1. We as men fancy ourselves independent and self-sufficient; we must get back to simplicities, self-renunciation, to a babyhood of trust. 2. To be a little child is to be in a state to receive. Be a little child in the lowest form and receive discipline. 3. This image does not convey the idea of a perfectly new being, but of an old being begun again, that it may do better. 4. There is another beautiful trait of childhood, purity. (J. Vaughan, M.A.)
Conversion; its nature, effects, and importance:—
- Its nature.
- The evidences of conversion. 1. A child is inquisitive. 2. Teachable in his disposition. 3. A child believes the testimony of his parents.
III. Its necessity. (J. Williams, M.A.)
- The temper that distinguishes the subjects of Divine grace. “As little children.” Not like them in ignorance, not in fickleness, not in waywardness. Little children are teachable and ready of belief; are devoid of malignity; are characterized by humility.
- The way in which we are to attain it. We must be “converted” and “become as little children.” 1. The temper we are required to possess is not in us naturally, but is the consequence of a Divine change. 2. The change is to be judged of by its effect.
III. The importance of possessing this temper. “Ye shall not enter,” &c. This exclusion—1. The most awful. 2. The most unavoidable. “Without holiness man shall see the Lord.” 3. The most universal. 4. What a difference there is between the opinion of the world and the judgment of God. (W. Jay.)
- Childlikeness is the test of greatness in the kingdom of heaven. Resemblance to children, not in ignorance or in fickleness, but—1. In a teachable spirit (Acts 9:6; 10:33; 16:30). 2. In a consciousness of weakness (2 Cor. 12:9; Phil. 4:13). 3. In a dependent spirit (Matt. 6:31; Phil. 4:18, 19). 4. In freedom from ambition (Rom. 12:16). 5. In a forgiving temper (1 Cor. 14:20; Eph. 4:32).
- The degree of childlikeness is the measure of greatness. 1. Because it raises its possessor in the scale of our excellence. 2. Because it qualifies its possessor for higher usefulness. 3. Because it assimilates its possessor more nearly to the Redeemer. 4. Because it secures for its possessor a more exalted position in the heavenly world. (1) The necessity of conversion. (2) The beauty of humility. (3) The attraction of heaven. (Various.)
Humility:—1. Some are naturally more humble than others; there is a natural humility. 2. Still lower than this, there is a humility of word, love, and manner, which is a mere worldly ornament to be put off and on. How shall we cultivate humility? 1. Be sure that you are loved. We are all inclined to be proud to those whom we think do not like us. 2. Realize yourself the object of great mercy. 3. Seek to be reverent in worship, for if humble before God, you will be before men. 4. Always try to re-live the life of childhood, to think and feel as when you were a child. 5. Deal often with your real self in some of the humbling parts of your history. 6. Exercise inward discipline to meet the first buddings of pride. 7. Do acts of humility. 8. God always empties before He fills; He will humble before He will use a person. 9. It is a great thing to have much intercourse with little children. (J. Vaughan, M.A.)
A lesson of humility:—The question of the disciples reveals the appearance and the nature of the kingdom of heaven. To these disciples it was the most natural question in the world.
- The ambition to be greatest is a very common weakness in our nature. But there are very many considerations which wonderfully qualify this desire to be first. 1. It is a thing of great responsibility. 2. You may be first and be very miserable. 3. It is utterly inconsistent with the religion of Jesus Christ.
- How our Lord taught the lesson of humility to his disciples. He not only spoke about it to them, but He showed it to them. What is the ground of comparison between that beautiful boy and a true disciple—a disciple in the right spirit? 1. The perfect non-resistance of a child. Christ called the child, and the child came, &c. There was no resistance. The very reverse of this was the case with the disciples. Give instances. They did not, like the little child, yield and come the moment the Master called. They resisted the Spirit of Christ; the darkness in them opposed the light that came from Him. There is very much in the best of us that resists Christ. 2. Perfect trust and the absence of all fear. It was so with this child. To be a Christian is to trust Christ perfectly, and to cast all fear to the wind. In our darkness and ignorance, &c. In our sin and weakness. In our trials and perplexities. And when death comes. 3. Humility. Observe what Christian humility is—Coming when Christ calls, &c., without endeavouring to appear to be anything that we are not. Conclusion. The dignity and glory of true humility. (Thomas Jones.)
The nature of humility:—It is not at all the thing that people suppose it to be. Take Christ’s exposition of it. The child humbles himself. How did the child humble himself? He came when Christ called, he suffered himself to be embraced, and he stood where Christ put him, without pretending to be anything more than he was, an honest, fine, healthy-looking boy. Christ calls that humility. People think that going and moping about the world and saying, “I am very imperfect,” is humility. Protect me from such humility. Some of the proudest creatures I ever met in the world were the most humble, if that be humility—people who complained about themselves; but if you were ever to say to them, “Yes, sir,” or “Yes, madam, I know you really are bad,” they would turn round and say, “Who told you so? What do you know about me?” That is not Christian humility. Humility is that of the boy coming when Christ called, suffering himself to be embraced, standing there as long as Christ wanted him to stand, without endeavouring to appear to be anything that he was not. That is Christian humility. There is a real charm in this child, if you will only think of it, in his unconsciousness. He never thought he was doing anything praiseworthy; it never entered into his little head that there was anything beautiful in his little actions. That is the essence of the thing. He came quickly when the Master called, he looked happy in His arms, he stood where Christ put him, and he never thought for one moment that there was any praise due to him for that. He was moved to confidence; the instincts of the boy were moved by the tenderness of Christ’s voice and the expression of His face. The little man went under his natural instincts and never thought for a moment that there was any virtue or beauty in his actions. What is that? That is Christian humility—to yield ourselves to Christ, to serve Him, to serve our brothers and our sisters, going about doing good, beautiful as lamps in the darkness, sweet and fragrant as the breeze from the south. Go and do this, live this beautiful life, yet never showing that we are conscious of its beauty, never letting it escape the lip that we know we are doing anything grand. What is the most beautiful thing in the world? A man or a woman living a high Christian life without ever letting it escape the lip or the expression that they consider there is anything beautiful or grand in it. It is the unconsciousness of the child that constitutes the highest climax of the Christian life. To be great, to be greatest in the kingdom of heaven is to excel in that direction. I have looked lately at some large fruit trees covered with fruit; and a rich fruit tree is a very beautiful object; it has a massive trunk and far-stretching boughs; the foliage is rich, the dew of the morning is wet upon its leaves, and the sun plays in the little crystal drops, and the branches bending under their fruit barely move in the very gentle movement of the wind. There are very few things in nature more beautiful than a tree like that, and a man of sensibility, a man with a right state of heart, looking upon such a thing cannot but admire it. But if (which of course it is folly to suppose) that tree for one moment could be self-conscious, if it had the power of speech for one instant and let out the secret that it thought itself very beautiful, it would be a different thing to us the moment it had spoken. It is the unconsciousness, the absence of the knowledge of self, that is one charm of the vegetable world. So in character. It is very difficult to be this, my brethren; it is very difficult for me to stand here Sunday after Sunday and speak to you without revealing some little bit of vanity, some little bit of self-consciousness; but if I have not got it I cannot show it. Two great preachers in Wales met at a public meeting. It was usual then, I am sorry to say, as it is now, for men of different denominations to justify their appearing before each other. One of them was a very eloquent man, one of the greatest preachers in the Principality, and he said he had left his party zeal at home before he started. Another as great as he got up and said, “Well, I thank God I had none to leave, and I came here just as I was at home.” Let a man be free from vanity and self-consciousness, and it will not appear. This is Christian humility as taught by the Saviour. (Ibid.)
The desire to be great natural:—Now this ambition to be the greatest is a very common weakness in our nature,—to be great, to be first, to be the greatest anywhere, however small the little kingdom may be, to be the first minister in the kingdom, or, if you can, to be the king of the little kingdom. Better reign anywhere than serve in high positions. To have power, to see our own thoughts carried out, to make men, and things, and circumstances, do as we like,—it is very delightful, exceedingly fascinating, and it has a great charm for our minds. I believe somewhat of it is natural, and I do not think it is altogether sinful. The natural is not sinful. Whatever God has put in us is right. A lad has fine powers, and God has put ambition into the lad to use his powers, so that if he is at school he desires to take the first place. Do not blame him; it is quite natural; the ambition is in him. But, on the other hand, I must say what is true about this. There are very many considerations which wonderfully qualify this desire to be first. (Ibid.)
The responsibility of greatness overlooked:—To be first in the world is a thing of great responsibility. To be first is very pleasant. Yes, but it has a burden of responsibility. To be the first poet—the fierce rays of criticism beat upon you; to be the first preacher, the first minister—it is a most solemn responsibility. Nothing is expected of a delicate flower but that it should be beautiful and just give a little fragrance. Everybody is satisfied with the flower if it will do these two things. But a large tree upon which nature has expended years of time and care, and made the trunk massive, and the boughs wide, and the foliage thick and rich, a tree that nature has taken years of trouble with, much is expected from that. Oh, delicate flower, if thou art beautiful and hast a little fragrance nobody will blame thee; but oh, great, massive tree, everybody will blame thee, and thy foliage, and thy massiveness, except thou bringest forth much fruit. Like the delicate flower is the man with one talent, the humble Christian man, doing his duty, walking humbly with God. I think myself that is the finest life in the whole world, incomparably the most blessed life in the world—not to be rich, not to be very poor, to have a little home of your own, surrounded by those you love and by whom you are loved, unobserved by the world around, like the delicate flower, just being beautiful and giving forth fragrance. The world never criticises you, never says anything about you; you pass on doing your duty, you lay your throbbing head down in death, you shall rest and go home and be with God, and the report of your doings shall be read in another world than this. The responsibility of being first is very great, and the criticism upon those who are first is very fierce. Plant the sapling in the valley, it shall have shelter,—put the same sapling on the mountain top, and the fury of every element shall be expended upon it. There are men in England, authors, statesmen, and preachers, upon whom every element, good, bad, and indifferent, at the command of criticism comes in all its fury, expending its strength upon them. I would not be one of them for any earthly consideration. I would not be first in England for the possession of a nobleman’s estate. To be in such a position, especially as Tennyson says, “in the fierce light of the throne,” is to be in a position of solemn responsibility. My friend, if God has not called you to be very prominent you have reason to thank God that He has consented you should live a quiet, reverent, honest, generous, Christian life, uncriticised, unpraised, and unabused. (Ibid.)
Child-like non-resistance:—There is very much in the best of us that resists Christ. We are not like that little child. Christ calls (it is all the better for you if I am not speaking truth), but there is no answer; Christ commands, but we do not obey; Christ stands at the door, and we do not open; He has been there long, He is there now, and will be there to-morrow, and many of you keep Him out. The comparison in the Bible to express this want of child-likeness, this want of non-resistance, is a rock. The rain comes, the rock is not softened; the winds blow, the rock makes no response; the sun shines, the rock is not made fertile; summer comes, autumn comes, winter comes, spring comes—spring, summer, autumn, winter find and leave the rock the same cold, hard, insensate thing as it ever was. I do not know you, but I am describing exactly the state of many hearts even in the Church of God. The gospel comes like rain showers upon the rock, but it has not softened you; breezes from the eternal mountains blow upon you—they are not vivifying; God’s eternal love shines upon you—it has not changed you; life with its wonderful lessons comes—you grow very little better. Do you not know men in the circle of your acquaintance who are not at all better than they were ten years ago? Success came—they were no better; disappointment came; the marriage morning came, they were the same; the funeral day—they were the same. All the elements of the gospel, all the influence of the Divine Spirit, all the wonderful events of life, all its friendships, all its love, left them where they were. They resist God, they resist His influences. Brethren, I ought to be a better man, having enjoyed the friendship of many of you for many years; I should be unworthy of that friendship, if I were not wiser and better, and more humble and more reverent. You ought, as day after day carries you nearer to eternity, to resist God less. Oh, my friends, be as little children; lean to Christ, resist not the Holy Spirit of God. (Ibid.)
The mission and ministry of infants in the family and in the world:—
- Some of the doctrinal lessons taught us by the mission of infants. 1. By man’s original transgression temporal death ensued to infants as a part of the race. 2. Universal atonement. 3. Their immortality. 4. Their resurrection.
- Some of the practical lessons. 1. The duty of parental watchfulness and tender care over the helplessness of infancy. 2. The duty of self-sacrifice is taught by the mission of infants. 3. The solemn responsibility of a most important trust. 4. The duty of resignation to the work of God, in the dispensations of His Providence. 5. The ministry of infants in the family is intended to teach patience. 6. It teaches the highest Christian virtues, such as innocency, dependence. 7. God’s providential care over childhood. 8. That the path of true greatness lies through the vale of humility. (J. E. Edwards, D.D.)
God’s care of little children:—A poor little boy was found standing in the streets by a kind-hearted man. The child was lean and thinly clad, bearing the marks of hunger and poverty. “What are you doing here?” inquired the man. The boy replied: “I am waiting for God to come.” “What do you mean?” inquired the man, touched by the novelty of his reply. The poor little boy responded: “Mother and father, and my little brother died, and my mother said God would come and take care of me. Won’t He come?” “Yes,” replied the man, “I have come.” “Mother never told me a lie,” said the little boy; “I knew you would come; but you have been so long on the way.”
Childhood educates man on the best side of his nature:—It is probable that every one of the traits of higher manhood in adults springs from the drill and the training which little children require and inspire. I doubt whether preceptual teaching could ever have brought into this world any considerable degree of disinterested affection. I doubt if Self-denial and heroism in that direction could ever have been propagated in this world as a matter of duty. Conscience never brings forth love. Intellectual reasoning never produces rich and warm caresses. It is the economy of God’s providence to set men and women together in the household, and give them little children, and draw them toward these little children by the instinct of love (instinct in the early day, and companionable love in a later day), and out of this love to develope all the character, forethought, and industry which are necessary for the good of these children. There are men who are very selfish toward their neighbours, very selfish in their business, very selfish in their pleasures; there are men who, as citizens, are not true to the laws under which they live, not true to commonwealth, but who, if you go into their households, and see how they deal with their children, seem to have an entirely different nature. They lay aside their selfishness. The pride and greediness which characterize them out-of-doors are gone when they are indoors. Indeed, the faults which they exhibit outside are often faults which they take on for the sake of being able to take care of the little children that are inside. (H. W. Beecher.)
Christ in a child:—There is an old story, a kind of Sunday fairy tale, which you may sometimes have seen represented in pictures and statues in ancient churches, of a great heathen giant who wished to find out some master that he should think worthy of his services—some one stronger than himself. He went about the world, but could find no one stronger. And, besides this, he was anxious to pray to God, but did not know how to do it. At last he met with a good old man by the side of a deep river, where poor wayfaring people wanted to get across and had no one to help them. And the good old man said to the giant, “Here is a place where you can be of some use, and if you do not know how to pray, you will, at any rate, know how to work, and perhaps God will give you what you ask, and perhaps also you will at last find a master stronger than you.” So the giant went and sat by the river-side, and many a time he carried poor wayfarers across. One night he heard a little child crying to be carried over; so he put the child on his shoulder and strode across the stream. Presently the wind blew, the rain fell, and as the river beat against his knees, he felt the weight of the little child almost more than he could bear, and he looked up with his great patient eyes, and he saw that it was a child glorious and shining, and the child said, “Thou art labouring under this heavy burden because thou art carrying one who bears the sins of all the world.” And then, as the story goes on, the giant felt that it was the child Jesus, and when he reached the other side of the river, he fell down before Him. Now he had found some one stronger than he was, some one so good, so worthy of loving, as to be a master whom he could serve. (Dean Stanley.)
Nature of countersign:—Converting grace makes persons become like little children; both like those just born, and those who are a little grown.
- Converts resemble little children newly born. 1. Children enter the world with much difficulty and hazard. So God’s children have a difficult entrance into a state of grace. 2. An infant has always a principle of life and motion; so converts have a principle of spiritual life infused into their souls. 3. The child bears the image of the father; so converts bear a likeness to God; they have His image. 4. A child comes weeping into the world; so God’s children are crying children. 5. There is a natural instinct in children, as soon as born, to seek the mother’s breast; so a gracious soul, when newly converted, desires “the sincere milk of the word, that he may grow thereby.” 6. Converts resemble little children in their weakness and dependence. 7. There is a resemblance between little children and converts in their harmlessness.
- Converts represent children a little grown. 1. In their guileless disposition. Little children are generally plain and downright, what they seem to be, and do not dissemble. 2. They are of a gall-less disposition; they may be angry, but bear no malice. 3. They are submissive to correction. 4. They are full of jealousies and fears. 5. They are very affectionate. 6. They are very inquisitive. 7. They are generally tractable. 8. They do all for their parents, and acknowledge them in all they have; so the child of God does nothing for himself but for God’s glory. 9. Converts resemble little children in their growth. 10. They are mostly of an humble and condescending disposition. Application—(1) If converting grace makes persons become like little children, then conversion is no half work; (2) If true conversion makes men become like little children, then there is reason to fear few people go to heaven. (Oliver Heywood.)
Marks of a true conversion:—I. What are we to understand by our Lord’s saying? The words imply—1. That before you or I can have any well-grounded, scriptural hope, of being happy in a future state, there must be some great, some notable and amazing change pass upon our souls. 2. That little children are not perfectly innocent, but in a comparative and rational sense. 3. That, as to ambition and lust after the world, we must in this sense become as little children; we must be as loose to the world, comparatively speaking, as a little child. 4. That we must be sensible of our weakness, as a little child. 5. That, as little children look upon themselves to be ignorant creatures, so those that are converted, do look upon themselves as ignorant too. 6. That, as a little child is looked upon as a harmless creature, and generally speaks true, so, if we are converted, we shall be guileless as well as harmless. (George Whitefield.)
Humility aids spiritual vision:—He that is in the low pits and caves of the earth, sees the stars in the firmament, when they who are on the tops of the mountains discern them not. He that is most humble, sees most of heaven, and shall have most of it; for the lower the ebb, the higher the tide; and the lower the foundation of virtue is laid, the higher shall the roof of glory be over-laid. (John Trapp.)
2–4. So he called to himself a little child, had him stand in the midst of them.… What Jesus did at this occasion revealed not only his thorough understanding of the nature of the kingdom and of the way of entering it, but also his tenderness toward the little ones. What he said deserved all the praise that has ever been ascribed to it, and far more than that. But was not the amazing glory of the Mediator’s soul revealed also in his restraint, that is, in what he did not do and did not say? He did not even scold his disciples for their callousness, their insensibility with respect to his approaching agony, the non-lasting character of their grief, their quickness in turning the mind away from him to themselves, their selfishness. All this he passed by, and addressed himself directly to their question.
It is pleasing to note the frequency with which the presence of children around Jesus and/or his love for them is mentioned in the Gospels. See Matt. 14:21; 15:38; 18:3; 19:13, 14 (cf. Mark 10:13, 14; Luke 18:15, 16); 21:15, 16; 23:37 (cf. Luke 13:34). Undoubtedly children felt attracted to Jesus, wanted to be with him. Whenever he wanted a child there was always one present, ready to do his bidding, to come when he called him. So also here. To speculate who this child was is useless. The point is that this was indeed a child, endowed with all the favorable and amiable qualities generally associated with childhood in any clime and at any time.
The Lord calls this little one to his side, and places him “in the midst of” all these “big” men, perhaps in such a position that the child faced them while they were arranged in a crescent before him. The child was not afraid, for it stood by the Lord’s very side (Luke 9:47), and was then taken up in his arms (Mark 9:36), where he would feel perfectly at ease and able to look up into the face of Jesus.
The Master looked at his disciples and said, I solemnly declare to you, unless you turn and become like the little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. What he meant was this: “You have been arguing about the question who will be greatest in the kingdom of heaven, as if you were sure of already being in it and of being destined for its future manifestation in glory. But if you continue in your present state of mind and heart, each of you being eager to be higher than his fellows and to lord it over them, you will be excluded; you will then most certainly not even enter it.”
Jesus demands that the disciples turn, that is, that they be converted from their worldly ambition, their coarse selfishness. Of course, they cannot do this in their own power. They must pray the prayer found in Jer. 31:18, “Turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art Jehovah my God.” Only when the divine act of causing a person to be reborn (born “from above”) has taken place, is conversion, as an act in which man himself takes part, even possible (John 3:3, 5).
That this turning—from self to God; from sin to grace—implies “becoming like the little children” is clear from the juxtaposition of the words, for Jesus said, “unless you turn and become like the little children, etc.” This poses the question, “Exactly what did he mean when he solemnly declared (see on 5:18) that with a view to entrance into the kingdom of heaven (see on 4:23; 13:43) the disciples must become like the little children?”
Among the favorable qualities which we generally associate with the little ones the following are perhaps the most outstanding: simplicity, frankness, obedience, unpretentiousness, humility, trustfulness. The fact that they are weak, very limited in strength and knowledge, and that they do not deny this, endears them to us. All of these traits may well have been in the mind of the Savior when he told the disciples that if they wanted to enter the kingdom of heaven they must become like the little children. Nevertheless, it is especially humility or, if one prefers, humble trustfulness (see verse 6: “who believe in me”) which the Savior emphasizes in the present passage. This is evident first of all from the preceding context, which requires that the disciples’ striving to be the greatest make place for willingness to be the least; then also from the immediately following passage (verse 4); note the words: “whoever becomes humble like this little child”; and finally, from such parallels as 20:20–28; 23:11, 12; Mark 9:35, 42; Luke 18:14; 22:24–30. See also John 13:1–20 and 1 Peter 5:5, 6. Salvation, whether in its initial, continuing, or final stage, must always be accepted as an undeserved gift, even the faith by means of which it is accepted being also a gift. See N.T.C. on Eph. 2:8. Thus all human boasting is excluded (Rom. 3:27). God alone receives the glory.
Christ’s negative statement (verse 3) implies the positive: Therefore whoever becomes humble like this little child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. It was a reaffirmation of a lesson Jesus had been teaching right along. He had taught it by means of the first four beatitudes (see on 5:3–6). He had stressed it in connection with the praise which he had heaped upon the centurion (8:5–13) and upon the Canaanite woman (15:27, 28). He was constantly teaching it by means of his own example (Matt. 12:15–21; 20:28; 21:5; Luke 22:27; John 13:1–20; cf. 2 Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:5–8). And now there was this humble little child, still looking trustfully into the eyes of the Master! Let the disciples—yes, let everyone (note “whoever”)—then become like this child. Let them learn that the only way to ascend is to descend. Do they wish to become great? Then let them become little! Do they wish to rise? Then let them sink! Do they wish to rule? Then let them serve! Or, as a Dutch poem (Te worden als een kindeke), of which I here offer my free translation, has it:
Make me, O Lord, a child again,
So tender, frail, and small,
In self possessing nothing, and
In thee possessing all.
O Savior, make me small once more,
That downward I may grow,
And in this heart of mine restore
The faith of long ago.
With thee may I be crucified—
No longer I that lives—
O Savior, crush my sinful pride
By grace which pardon gives.
Make me, O Lord, a child again,
Obedient to thy call,
In self possessing nothing, and
In thee possessing all.
18:4. This second statement served as a poetic restatement of the first (18:3), but it also clarified the specific childlike quality believers are to imitate—humility. All the complicated mental gymnastics adults use to avoid facing the truth take us farther from the kingdom. The person who comes to Jesus in simple humility, recognizing Jesus’ greatness and his own lowliness, is the greatest in God’s kingdom. This person enters the kingdom by grace and serves in such a way as to inherit reward. A person like this warms the heart of the Almighty. He will be used by God to accomplish the greatest good for the kingdom.
The child Jesus called was standing in their midst even as Jesus spoke (this child). He was so simple in his trust of Jesus that he came when called, not knowing what Jesus wanted him for. He simply obeyed. He had not yet learned the art of self-assertion, pride, self-deception, and disobedience.
Ver. 4. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child.—Whoso will appear humble and small, like this child; not, humble himself like this child. Valla: iste parvulus non se humiliat, sed humilis est. The use of the future tense shows that something of this kind was now again to take place in the disciples as the condition of their future greatness. The expressions of the Saviour prove that the point of the comparison lay in the modesty of the child, in its want of pretension, which enabled it to enjoy whatever came before it, without seeking or claiming more as its due. The real greatness of the child consists in its perfect contentment with its littleness and dependence. By our outward demands and our claims upon the future, we only lose the present, and with it, both life and reality; while the want of pretension and care in the child secures to it, with each passing moment, the enjoyment of life. And this constitutes also the condition of its future greatness. If the child aimed at anything beyond the limits of its capacity, such a claim would of itself ensure disappointment. This absence of pretension in the disciple of Christ constitutes true humility, to which, even after our conversion, we must ever and again revert. Only by thus reverting to our littleness before God and the brethren, can we hope to realize the life of the kingdom of God, or to enter upon the path of development and future greatness. The use of the simple future (ταπεινώσει) seems to indicate that this conversion would take place at a later period in the history of the disciples, and especially in that of Peter. In this connection, the reader will also recall the last hours of Jesus.—The greatest.—According to the measure of humility, and each one according to his own idiosyncrasy.
4 To become like a little child means to humble oneself. Thus this verse builds directly on the preceding statements (note the οὖν, “therefore”) as well as supplying the direct answer to the question asked in v. 1. τὸ παιδίον τούτο, “this little child,” points to the concrete example before their eyes (cf. v. 2). Jesus here reverses the perspective of the world by his statement of a fundamental paradox: greatness in the kingdom is a matter of humility, not power or position. The child’s humility is its lack of status, not its actions or feelings of humbleness. This paradox is articulated dramatically in 23:11–12, the only other place in Matthew where the verb ταπεινοῦν, “humble,” is used (cf. 5:5 and Jas 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6; and for the example of Jesus, Phil 2:8–9; the adjective ταπεινός is applied to Jesus in 11:29; for rabbinic background, cf. b. B. Meṣ. 85b). To become humble, i.e., to be without status and in this sense unself-conscious like a little child (cf. the description of the disciples as “infants” in 11:25 and as “little ones” in 10:42), is to be great by the standards of the kingdom of God. Any further stipulation of the symbolism of a child’s humility leads to unwarranted allegorizing (cf. the review of options in Davies-Allison and even their own suggestion that the point of comparison lies in the need to see one’s life “as being in need of a new beginning” [2:758]).
 Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 2, p. 333). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 Turner, D., & Bock, D. L. (2005). Cornerstone biblical commentary, Vol 11: Matthew and Mark (p. 236). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
“The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.” (Psa. 103:19)
SOME time since, in the early spring, I was going out at my door when round the corner came a blast of east wind—defiant and pitiless, fierce and withering—sending a cloud of dust before it.
I was just taking the latchkey from the door as I said, half impatiently, “I wish the wind would”—I was going to say change; but the word was checked, and the sentence was never finished.
As I went on my way, the incident became a parable to me. There came an angel holding out a key; and he said:
“My Master sends thee His love, and bids me give you this.”
“What is it?” I asked, wondering. “The key of the winds,” said the angel, and disappeared.
Now indeed should I be happy. I hurried away up into the heights whence the winds came, and stood amongst the caves. “I will have done with the east wind at any rate—and that shall plague us no more,” I cried; and calling in that friendless wind, I closed the door, and heard the echoes ringing in the hollow places. I turned the key triumphantly. “There,” I said, “now we have done with that.”
“What shall I choose in its place?” I asked myself, looking about me. “The south wind is pleasant”; and I thought of the lambs, and the young life on every hand, and the flowers that had begun to deck the hedgerows. But as I set the key within the door, it began to burn my hand.
“What am I doing?” I cried; “who knows what mischief I may bring about? How do I know what the fields want! Ten thousand things of ill may come of this foolish wish of mine.”
Bewildered and ashamed, I looked up and prayed that the Lord would send His angel yet again to take the key; and for my part I promised that I would never want to have it any more.
But lo, the Lord Himself stood by me. He reached His hand to take the key; and as I laid it down, I saw that it rested against the sacred wound-print.
It hurt me indeed that I could ever have murmured against anything wrought by Him who bare such sacred tokens of His love. Then He took the key and hung it on His girdle.
“Dost THOU keep the key of the winds?” I asked.
“I do, my child,” He answered graciously.
And lo, I looked again and there hung all the keys of all my life. He saw my look of amazement, and asked, “Didst thou not know, my child, that my kingdom ruleth over all?”
“Over all, my Lord!” I answered; “then it is not safe for me to murmur at anything?” Then did He lay His hand upon me tenderly. “My child,” He said, “thy only safety is, in everything, to love and trust and praise.”—Mark Guy Pearse.
Take advantage of the quarantine to learn more about the case for God’s existence, the reliability of the Bible and the nature of the Christian worldview
J. Warner Wallace, author of God’s Crime Scene, discusses the nature of the universe and the evidence for God’s existence. Did the universe have a beginning? If so, what is the best explanation? Can the beginning of the universe be explained from “inside the room” of the natural universe, or does the best explanation for the universe lie “outside the room”?
Unless we are willing to accept the irrational premise that the cause of the universe is itself only as old as the universe itself, we are going to have to admit that this cause cannot be an impersonal force. The cause of the universe had the ability to decide to bring the universe into existence, and the ability to decide is an attribute of personhood.
1. Why does the fact that the universe had a beginning present a problem for atheism?
2. List some of the evidences that demonstrate the universe had a beginning:
3. In your own words, why does the expansion of the universe point most reasonably to a universe that had a beginning?
4. From the article, describe in your own words why the first cause of the universe possesses the attribute of personhood:
5. Also from the article, why is God the most reasonable inference from the evidence that the universe had a beginning?
Download all the Quarantine Questionnaires HERE. The PDF files have active hyperlinks you can use to access the videos and the articles, and you can print them to complete your responses!
May 2.—Morning. [Or August 31.]
“Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel.”
IN the passage which we shall now read, we shall see an instance of David’s patriotism. Although he was persecuted in his own country, he did not cease from loving his nation, but took a deep interest in all that concerned it. When he found that the Philistines were plundering the granaries of Keilah, he marched with his little army against them.
1 Samuel 23:1–13
1 Then they told David, saying, Behold, the Philistines fight against Keilah, and they rob the threshingfloors.
2 Therefore David enquired of the Lord, saying, Shall I go and smite these Philistines? And the Lord said unto David, Go, and smite the Philistines, and save Keilah.
Here we see the deep religiousness of David: he would do nothing till he had waited upon God. O for more of this holy caution.
3 And David’s men said unto him, Behold, we be afraid here in Judah: how much more, then if we come to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines? (Brave as they were, they judged this to be a rash enterprise, for they would have two enemies to fear—the Philistines and the soldiers of Saul. David listened to his men courteously, but he was not ruled by them. He turned to his God again for direction.)
4 Then David enquired of the Lord yet again. And the Lord answered him and said, Arise, go down to Keilah; for I will deliver the Philistines into thine hand.
5 So David and his men went to Keilah, and fought with the Philistines, and brought away their cattle, and smote them with a great slaughter. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah. (This was a gallant action, and received a reward as far as the spoil of the Philistines was concerned, but the treachery of the people whom David had rescued from their enemies was disgraceful, and shews how base a thing is human nature.)
6 And it came to pass, when Abiathar the son of Ahimelech fled to David to Keilah, that he came down with an ephod in his hand.
So that when banished from public worship at the tabernacle, the exiled hero was not without spiritual consolation, for the highpriest himself, and his breast-plate of righteousness were with him. See how God provides for the faithful.
7, 8 And it was told Saul that David was come to Keilah. And Saul said, God hath delivered him into mine hand; for he is shut in, by entering into a town that hath gates and bars. And Saul called all the people together to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men. (He ought to have honoured him for the eminent service he had rendered to the state, but malice is as a wolf greedy for the blood of its object.)
9 ¶ And David knew that Saul secretly practised mischief against him; and he said to Abiathar the priest, Bring hither the ephod.
10 Then said David, O Lord God of Israel, thy servant hath certainly heard that Saul seeketh to come to Keilah, to destroy the city for my sake. (Observe David’s anxiety for the city rather than for himself. Saul had destroyed Nob for sheltering him, and he might do the same to Keilah. Generous spirits cannot bear to bring evil upon others.)
11 Will the men of Keilah deliver me up into his hand? will Saul come down, as thy servant hath heard? O Lord God of Israel, I beseech thee, tell thy servant. And the Lord said, He will come down.
12 Then said David, Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul? And the Lord said, They will deliver thee up.
God so thoroughly knows men, that he can not only tell what they will do, but what they would do under certain circumstances. He knows us better than we know ourselves. Let us always, consult his wisdom upon all occasions, and under his direction we shall not err.
13 ¶ Then David and his men, which were about six hundred, arose and departed out of Keilah, and went whithersoever they could go. And it was told Saul that David was escaped from Keilah; and he forbare to go forth.
Thou art near; yes, Lord, I feel it,
Thou art near where’er I move,
And though sense would fain conceal it,
Faith oft whispers it to love.
Then, my soul, since God doth love thee,
Faint not, droop not, do not fear;
Though his heaven is high above thee,
He himself is ever near!
May 2.—Evening. [Or September 1.]
“God is mine helper.”
DAVID, for a while, concealed himself in the fastnesses and forests of Ziph. The Ziphites wishing to curry favour with Saul, betrayed the fugitive leader.
1 Samuel 23:19–29
19 ¶ Then came up the Ziphites to Saul to Gibeah, saying, Doth not David hide himself with us in strong holds in the wood?
20 Now therefore, O king, come down according to all the desire of thy soul to come down; and our part shall be to deliver him into the king’s hand.
21 And Saul said, Blessed be ye of the Lord; for ye have compassion on me.
He had come to regard himself as the injured party, and he dared to introduce God’s name into his hypocritical speech; thus shewing that he had lost all moral sense, and was under a strong delusion to believe a lie. By a course of sin a bad man may at last convince himself that he is right, and even fancy that God himself is in league with him. The Lord save us from so terrible a state of mind. Saul further instructed the Ziphites how to act, so as to secure David.
22 Go, I pray you, prepare yet, and know and see his place where his haunt is, and who hath seen him there: for it is told me that he dealeth very subtilly.
23 See therefore, and take knowledge of all the lurking places where he hideth himself, and come ye again to me with the certainty, and I will go with you: and it shall come to pass, if he be in the land, that I will search him out throughout all the thousands of Judah.
24 And they arose, and went to Ziph before Saul: but David and his men were in the wilderness of Maon.
25 Saul also and his men went to seek him. And they told David: wherefore he came down into a rock, and abode in the wilderness of Maon. And when Saul heard that, he pursued after David in the wilderness of Maon.
26 And Saul went on this side of the mountain, and David and his men on that side of the mountain: and David made haste to get away for fear of Saul; for Saul and his men compassed David and his men round about to take them.
Now, indeed, David was hunted like a partridge on the mountains. Saul, with his three thousand men, chased him, and the treacherous Ziphites beat the bushes before him. It seemed to be all over with the young chieftain, but in his extremity, the Lord interposed.
27 But there came a messenger unto Saul, saying, Haste thee, and come; for the Philistines have invaded the land.
28 Wherefore Saul returned from pursuing after David, and went against the Philistines: therefore they called that place Sela-hammahlekoth. (The pursuer and the pursued were within sight of one another, and yet the victim escaped. The memory of this deliverance was preserved in the name of the Cliff of Divisions, given to the rock down one side of which David climbed while Saul was surrounding the hill on the other side, and was suddenly called away by a panic of the Philistine invasion.)
29 And David went up from thence, and dwelt in strong holds at En-gedi.
AT this time David wrote
1, 2 Save me, O God, by thy name, and judge me by thy strength. Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth.
3 For strangers are risen up against me, and oppressors seek after my soul: they have not set God before them. Selah. (Perhaps the Ziphites were a remnant of the Canaanites, and so were “strangers”; at any rate they were enemies to David without a cause. If any treat us in this fashion, our best resort is prayer to God.)
4, 5, 6, 7 Behold, God is mine helper: the Lord is with them that uphold my soul. He shall reward evil unto mine enemies: cut them off in thy truth. I will freely sacrifice unto thee: I will praise thy name, O Lord; for it is good. For he hath delivered me out of all trouble: and mine eye hath seen his desire upon mine enemies.
O lead me to the Rock
That’s high above my head!
And make the covert of thy wings
My shelter and my shade.
Within thy presence, Lord,
For ever I’ll abide:
Thou art the tower of my defence,
The refuge where I hide.
Proof of His Divine Love
And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (14:28–31)
The fourth proof of Jesus’ deity was His demonstration of divine love. Although Mark and John report Jesus’ walking on the water, only Matthew tells of this incident concerning Peter.
Peter’s if did not reflect doubt that it was actually his Lord, because going out onto the water to join an unidentified ghost was the last thing Peter would have done. He was naturally impetuous and brash, and more than once his overconfidence got him into trouble—including trouble with the Lord. But it would have taken more than brashness for this life-long fisherman to have ventured out on the water without benefit of a boat, because no one on board better knew the dangers of Galilee storms than Peter. He had probably been thrown into the water at times by high winds or waves and had seen others experience the same trauma. He was no fool, and it is highly unlikely that impetuosity would have so easily overridden his reason and instinctive caution.
It seems much more probable that Peter was overjoyed to see Jesus and that his supreme concern was to be safely with Him. Mere impetuosity might have caused him to jump out of the boat, expecting Jesus somehow to come to his rescue. But he knew better, and he therefore asked the Lord, Command me to come to You on the water. He knew Jesus had the power to enable him to walk on the water, but he did not presume to attempt the feat without His express instruction. Peter’s request was an act of affection built on confident faith. He did not ask to walk on water for the sake of doing something spectacular, but because it was the way to get to Jesus.
Peter did many things for which he can be faulted. But he is sometimes faulted for things that reflect love, courage, and faith as much as brashness or cowardice. For instance, although he denied the Lord while in the courtyard during Jesus’ trial, he was nevertheless there, as close to Him as he could get. The rest of the disciples were nowhere to be found. On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter’s suggestion was unwise but it was prompted by sincere devotion: “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (Matt. 17:4). He genuinely loved Jesus and sincerely wanted to serve and please Him. Peter did not resist Jesus’ washing his feet because of pride, but because, in his deep humility, he could not conceive of His Lord washing the feet of anyone so unworthy. And when Jesus explained the significance of what He was doing, Peter said, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head” (John 13:9).
Peter was continually in the Lord’s shadow and footsteps. By reading between the lines of the gospel accounts it is not difficult to imagine that Peter sometimes followed so closely behind Jesus that he bumped into Him when He stopped. Peter sensed in Jesus’ presence a wonderful safety and comfort, and that is where Peter now wanted to be. It was safer to be with Jesus on the water than to be without Him in the boat.
Peter’s love for Jesus was imperfect and weak, but it was real. Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, and each time Peter responded affirmatively. Jesus did not contradict Peter’s answer but reminded him of his obligation to care for his Master’s sheep and warned him of the great cost his love would demand (John 21:15–18). Tradition has it that when Peter was about to be crucified, he requested being put on the cross upside down, not feeling worthy to die in the same way as his Lord.
Jesus’ telling Peter to come confirms the disciple’s right motive. Jesus never invites, much less commands, a person to do anything sinful. Nor is He ever a party to pride or presumption. With the greatest of compassion, Jesus told Peter to come, highly pleased that he wanted to be with his Lord.
As much as anything else, it was Peter’s great love for Christ that made him the leader of the disciples. He appears to have been the closest to Christ, and is always named first in lists of the twelve. Just as the Lord never rejects weak faith, but accepts it and builds on it, He also never rejects weak and imperfect love. With great patience and care He takes the love of His children and, through trials and hardships as well as successes and victories, builds that love into greater conformity to His own love.
Jesus’ telling Peter, “Come!” was an act of love. John declared, “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us.” In fact, he goes on to say, “God is love” (1 John 4:16; cf. v. 8). It is God’s nature to be loving, just as it is water’s nature to be wet and the sun’s to be bright and hot. He loves his own with an infinite, uninfluenced, unqualified, unchanging, unending, and perfect love.
Christians most perfectly reflect their heavenly Father when they are loving, especially to each other. “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar,” John continues to explain; “for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20).
Although Peter was sincere, he did not comprehend the reality or the extremity of what he was asking to do. From the relative safety of the boat the feat did not seem so terrifying; but once Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus, the situation appeared radically different. Peter temporarily took His eyes off the Lord and, seeing the wind, he became afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” His faith was enough to get him out of the boat, but it was not enough to carry him across the water.
Faith is strengthened by its being taken to extremities it has never faced before. Such strengthening is basic to Christian growth and maturity. “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial,” James says; “for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12). The Lord takes us as far as our faith will go, and when it ends we begin to sink. It is then that we call out to Him and He again demonstrates His faithfulness and His power, and our faith learns to extend that much further. As we trust God in the faith we have, we discover its limitations; but we also discover what it can yet become.
When Peter was beginning to sink, he was probably fully clothed and would have had great difficulty swimming through the high waves. And in his fright he could think of nothing but drowning. But as soon as he cried out … “Lord, save me,” he was safe, because immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him.
When Jesus rebuked him, saying, O you of little faith, why did you doubt? Peter must have wondered at the question. The reason for his doubt seemed obvious. He was bone weary from rowing most of the night, scared to death by the storm and then by what he thought was a ghost, and now it seemed he was about to drown before he could reach the Lord. He had never been in such a situation before, and it may be that his actually walking a few feet on the water added to his shock.
But Peter’s weak faith was better than no faith; and, as in the courtyard when he denied the Lord, at least he was there and not holding back like the rest. He at least started toward Jesus, and when he faltered, the Lord took him the rest of the way.
Jesus had been interceding for Peter and the others while He was on the mountain, and now He came directly to their aid in the midst of the storm. The Lord goes before us and He goes with us. When we get frustrated, anxious, bewildered, and frightened, Satan tempts us to wonder why God allows such things to happen to his children. And if we keep our attention on those things we will begin to sink just as surely as Peter did. But if we cry out to the Lord for help, He will come to our rescue just as surely as He did to Peter’s.
Peter would one day write, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:6–7).
28–32 See introductory comments above on why Matthew may have added this rider to the story as told by the other evangelists. That Jesus has authority to share with someone else his miraculous ability to walk on the water adds a further dimension to the supernatural power he has already displayed. But the focus of this story is on Peter, who displays a characteristic mixture of attitudes: he will not attempt the walk without Jesus’ direct instruction, but given that instruction he is unable to carry it through because he lacks the necessary faith. Desire to emulate Jesus’ miracle conflicts with the experienced fisherman’s realistic assessment of the risk (“when he saw the strong wind”).
The text as printed above suggests that at first Peter was successful in walking on the water and had already reached Jesus when he ran into trouble. But the alternative reading (“to come” instead of “and came;” see p. 566, n. 4) would express intention rather than actual achievement. In that case it has been suggested that the preceding aorist verb “walked” might be taken not so much as a simple statement of fact but rather as an “inceptive aorist,” so that the whole clause would mean “stepped onto the water intending to come to Jesus.” On such a reading the attempt was a failure from the start, and Jesus had to rescue Peter as soon as he was in the water.15 But the “inceptive aorist” normally denotes the beginning of a continuing state rather than a failed attempt; the desired sense would have been better expressed by an imperfect, which often means “tried to.” Most interpreters, whichever reading they adopt in v. 29b, agree that we are intended to see Peter’s attempt as initially successful, until doubt overcame him.
The verb for “doubt” will recur in 28:17, its only other use in the NT. We shall note there that it denotes not so much a theological uncertainty or unbelief, but a practical hesitation, wavering, being in two minds. Peter’s problem was not so much lack of intellectual conviction as the conflict between the evidence of his senses and the invitation of Jesus. To be “faithless” is (as in 6:30; 8:26) to lack the practical confidence in God and/or Jesus which is required in those who seek his supernatural provision. But here, as in 8:26 (note the same urgent appeal, “Lord, save!”), Jesus overrides that lack of faith, and saves Peter as he had saved the “faithless” disciples in the previous storm.18 The sudden dropping of the wind echoes the conclusion of that previous story.
These verses are peculiar to Matthew; i.e., they belong to ‘M.’ Recalling that discussion (pp. 86–90), we may note that the present material (i) is based on Matthew’s personal recollections (as one of the twelve, he was almost certainly in the boat), together with those of other disciples, notably Peter in this instance; and (ii) is included because it well serves the author’s theological and pastoral purpose (as we shall see).
Answering (the verb apokrinomai) Jesus, Peter says: ‘Lord [Kyrie], if it is you [ei sy ei], command me to come to you over the waters [epi ta hydata]’ (Matt. 14:28). What Peter means by Kyrie here and in 14:30, we reserve for comments on 14:32–33. What of the conditional clause ei sy ei? If, as is probable, Peter is already certain of the figure’s identity, the thought is ‘if it is you, and I know it is.’ But, possibly Peter’s being absolutely sure awaits the answer to his request. In any case, his faith is already overcoming his fear. Jesus has not yet issued a command; and there is no precedent for a disciple’s walking on the water. Yet Peter is confident that Jesus’ mighty word can supply what it commands.
In accord with Peter’s request—‘command me to come [elthein]’ (14:28b)—Jesus said, ‘Come [Elthe],’ an aorist imperative of command (from erchomai) to match the preceding aorist infinitive. Having climbed out (the verb katabainō) of the boat, Peter in exact obedience ‘walked [or began to walk] over the waters [epi ta hydata, as in 14:28b] and came [ēlthen] to Jesus’ (14:29b). ‘But seeing the [strong] wind, he was afraid [ephobēthē]; and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord [Kyrie], save me [sōson me]!” ’ (14:30). In trust and obedience Peter has walked from the boat over the waters into Jesus’ presence (when Peter starts to sink, Jesus is close enough to grasp him immediately; 14:31). The fear that then grips Peter is understandable. He not only hears the wind, he sees it (the verb blepō): i.e., he witnesses its effects on the waves. Even in the boat with the other disciples, he has reason to fear a storm at night; here on the heaving waters, he is more vulnerable than ever. The cause of his fear is the storm; its effect is that he begins to sink—whereupon he cries out (krazō, the verb used in 14:26b) for Jesus to save him (the verb sōzō).
‘Jesus immediately [eutheōs] stretched out [ekteinas] his hand, took hold of [epelabeto] him and said [legei] to him, “You of little faith [Oligopiste], why did you doubt [edistasas]?” ’ (14:31). Jesus’ words to Peter are dramatic: note the shift from the aorist verb epelabeto to the present legei. Jesus says Peter has little faith (oligopistos), not that he has no faith (apistos, an adjective Jesus uses in 17:17). He has just exercised remarkable faith, a faith not shared by the other disciples. Yet Peter’s faith is diminished by his doubt (the verb distazō); namely, doubts about the adequacy of Jesus to deal with frightening conditions beyond Peter’s control.
Has not Peter witnessed Jesus’ saving power in countless miracles heretofore? Has he forgotten what happened earlier on this lake in very similar circumstances (8:23–27)? Did not he and the other disciples, fearing for their lives amid a great storm, cry out (as here) ‘Lord, save [Kyrie sōson]!’? and did not Jesus there (as here) call them men of ‘little faith [oligopistoi],’ because they thought that crisis beyond his control? Given that antecedent revelation, Peter’s present doubt, while understandable, is inexcusable. But it is not unforgivable. Let it be emphasized that Peter exercises his ‘little faith’ by crying out to Jesus for salvation (as did the disciples earlier), and that Jesus saves Peter (as he did the disciples) even when aware of his ‘little faith.’
As noted (p. 766), this text well serves Matthew’s theological and pastoral purpose. 1. Let the church heed this portrait of Jesus, the mighty sovereign of the sea, who rules both church and world (16:18; 28:18). Let him be recognized as the faithful Lord who alone is worthy of one’s ultimate trust and obedience, and who both rebukes and saves doubtful and wavering disciples. 2. Let the church heed this portrait of Peter, the single disciple named here (14:28, 29) and the one who will become increasingly prominent in the chapters to follow. Let Christians take note of his fear and its causes (the storm and especially the figure on the sea); and let them, when beset by various terrors, emulate Peter by trusting and obeying Jesus. Let Peter’s failure be a sober warning, lest amid unrelenting trials and life-threatening persecutions they doubt Jesus’ ability and willingness to defend and save them. But, let Christians also remember that it is the doubting and failing Peter whom Jesus saves; and let them, taking heart from their own experience of such mercy, be strengthened in their resolve to persevere in trusting and obeying Jesus the Lord.47
14:28–33 / The story of Peter’s attempt to walk to his Master on the water is recorded only by Matthew (vv. 28–31). It is sometimes taken as an acted parable of Peter’s career (i.e., in his pride he fell and had to be rescued and restored by Jesus). Christian elaborations on the theme would see the boat as the church, the water as the hostile world, and Jesus descending from the mountain as the ascended Lord coming to dispel the fears of the troubled church. Once again we are reminded that presuppositions control exegesis. Our understanding of the text is conditioned by allowing it to speak for itself. Filson reaches for middle ground, writing, “These miracle stories have grown in the telling, but they are nearer the truth than a gospel narrative stripped of miracles and high faith” (p. 174).
Peter asks the Lord that if it is really he, to command him to come to him across the water (note: epi with the accusative; cf. v. 25, where it was suggested by some that epi with the accusative meant “toward the sea”—hardly possible in vv. 28 and 29). In response to Jesus’ word of command, Peter got down out of the boat (v. 29) and started toward Jesus. When he saw how strong the wind was, he lost his courage. Beginning to sink, he called out, Lord, save me. Jesus immediately reached out and caught him, saying, You of little faith, “What made you lose your nerve like that?” (Phillips). When both Peter and Jesus climbed into the boat, the wind died down (v. 32). Matthew records the worshiping response of the disciples, who exclaimed, Truly you are the Son of God. This profession of faith in Jesus anticipates Peter’s great confession at Caesarea Philippi (Matt. 16:16). It is often pointed out that Mark ends his account noting that the disciples were astounded because they had not gained any insight from the feeding of the five thousand and their minds were closed (Mark 6:51–52). It is incorrect to compare this with Matthew’s account of the disciples who responded by confessing that Jesus was the Son of God. Mark’s words attach directly to the disciples’ terrified response to seeing Jesus walking on the water. Matthew records the disciples’ response to Christ’s rescue of Peter (the account of which is not included in Mark’s narrative).
14:31 You of little faith … why did you doubt? Jesus refers to Peter as one with “little faith,” the same description that Jesus uses for the twelve disciples across the narrative (6:30; 8:26; 16:8; 17:20). At other points “little faith” is defined by the presence of worry (6:30), fear (8:26), and lack of understanding (16:8); in this passage it is further explicated by Peter’s “doubt” (distazō, also rendered as “waver”). This word is used in the New Testament only in Matthew and only two times (14:31; 28:17). In both cases it describes a wavering of faith in the disciples. Little faith is a faith that does not hold firm in the midst of adversity or confusing circumstances.
COLLAPSE AND RECOVERY
And Peter answered him: ‘Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.’ He said: ‘Come.’ Peter got down from the boat and walked on the water to come to Jesus. But, when he saw the wind, he was afraid; and, when he began to sink below the water, he cried out: ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and grasped him. ‘O man of little faith!’ he said. ‘Why did you begin to have doubts?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind sank. And those in the boat knelt in reverence before him, saying: ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’
There is no passage in the New Testament in which Peter’s character is more fully revealed than this. It tells us three things about him.
(1) Peter was given to acting upon impulse and without thinking of what he was doing. It was his mistake that again and again he acted without fully facing the situation and without counting the cost. He was to do exactly the same when he affirmed undying and unshakable loyalty to Jesus (Matthew 26:33–5), and then denied his Lord’s name. And yet there are worse sins than that, because Peter’s whole trouble was that he was ruled by his heart; and, however he might sometimes fail, his heart was always in the right place and the instinct of his heart was always love.
(2) Because Peter acted on impulse, he often failed and came to grief. It was always Jesus’ insistence that people should look at a situation in all its bleak grimness before they acted (Luke 9:57–8; Matthew 16:24–5). Jesus was completely honest with people; he always urged them to see how difficult it was to follow him before they set out upon the Christian way. A great deal of Christian failure is due to acting upon an emotional moment without counting the cost.
(3) But Peter never finally failed, for always in the moment of his failure he clutched at Christ. The wonderful thing about him is that every time he fell, he rose again; and that it must have been true that even his failures brought him closer and closer to Jesus Christ. As has been well said, a saint is not someone who never fails; a saint is someone who after a fall gets up and goes on again every time. Peter’s failures only made him love Jesus Christ the more.
These verses finish with another great and permanent truth. When Jesus got into the boat, the wind sank. The great truth is that, wherever Jesus Christ is, the wildest storm becomes a calm. Olive Wyon, in her book Consider Him, quotes from the letters of the seventeenth-century Bishop of Geneva, St Francis of Sales, who had noticed a custom of the country districts in which he lived. He had often noticed a farm servant going across a farmyard to draw water at the well; he also noticed that, before she lifted the brimming pail, the girl always put a piece of wood into it. One day he went out to the girl and asked her: ‘Why do you do that?’ She looked surprised and answered, as if it were a matter of course: ‘Why? to keep the water from spilling … to keep it steady!’ Writing to a friend later on, the bishop told this story and added: ‘So when your heart is distressed and agitated, put the Cross into its centre to keep it steady!’ In every time of storm and stress, the presence of Jesus and the love which flows from the cross bring peace and serenity and calm.
Ver. 31.—And immediately. Without any waste of time, just as in ver. 27. Jesus stretched forth his hand. So that St. Peter had come up to him (ver. 29.). And caught him; and took hold of him (Revised Version, ἐπελάβετο αὐτοῦ: cf. Heb. 2:16; 8:9). And said; saith (Revised Version). The writer passes to more vivid narration. Unto him, O thou of little faith (ὀλιγόπιστε); ch. 6:30, note. But in ch. 17:20 (Westcott and Hort) the substantive is used of faith in a more active sense. Wherefore (εἰς τί); “למה, literally rendered” (Dr. Guillemard). Didst thou doubt? (ἐδίστασας). In the New Testament, ch. 28:17 only. Christ saves first, and rebukes afterwards. Perhaps the need for help was more immediate than in ch. 8:26, or possibly the fervency of St. Peter’s love deserved gentler treatment.
31. O man of little faith. While our Lord kindly preserves Peter, he does not connive at Peter’s fault. Such is the object of the chastisement administered, when Peter is blamed for the weakness of his faith. But a question arises, Does every kind of fear give evidence of a weakness of faith? for Christ’s words seem to imply that, where faith reigns, there is no room for doubt. I reply: Christ reproves here that kind of doubt which was directly opposed to faith. A man may sometimes doubt without any fault on his part; and that is, when the word of the Lord does not speak with certainty on the matter. But the case was quite different with Peter, who had received an express command from Christ, and had already experienced his power, and yet leaves that twofold support, and falls into foolish and wicked fear.
28–31. Matthew elsewhere introduces Peter as the spokesman of the disciples, or as the typical disciple, in whom we may see ourselves, and it seems clear that this story is told with the same purpose. It is an object-lesson about faith. At the same time the episode, reflecting Peter’s own impulsive yet vulnerable personality, rings true as his actual experience, not merely as a cautionary tale.
Interpreters differ over whether Peter’s proposal is intended as an object for imitation. If it is, it teaches the disciple to expect to share his Master’s power, and in obedience to his call (note that Peter will not try without an explicit ‘command’, vv. 28–29) to do that which is naturally impossible. This depends on faith, and Peter’s loss of faith (of little faith is oligopistos, a favourite word of Matthew used elsewhere in 6:30; 8:26; 16:8; 17:20, in all of which it denotes rather unbelief than inadequate belief) consists in allowing the material facts (the wind) to weigh more heavily than the power of Jesus. Doubt is literally ‘be divided in two’; true faith is single-mindedly focused on Jesus.
Others suggest that far from being, temporarily at least, a hero of faith, Peter is here revealed as foolhardy and childish, an example of the wrong approach to discipleship. His desire to imitate Jesus is presumptuous (cf. on 4:5–7, ‘testing God’), and Jesus’ acceptance of his request is intended to teach him by his mistake. Verse 31 seems to imply, however, that Peter’s fault was in his loss of confidence, rather than in his initial proposal, so the story should preferably be read as an example of true faith which did not survive the crisis.
14:31 You have so little faith. Jesus rescued Peter by grasping him with his hand, but his words were aimed at rescue on another level. He pointed out Peter’s weak faith and asked why Peter doubted him (cf. 6:30; 8:26; 16:8).
Ver. 31. Wherefore didst thou doubt.—
Doubting Christians:—1. It perverts all they do by directing them to a wrong end. 2. It withdraws the mind from Christ. 3. It sours the temper. It breeds fears. 4. It gives Satan peculiar advantage against the soul. 5. The providence of God appears dark to such a soul. 6. It occasions false comfort. 7. It tarnishes the profession of such a person. (J. Cooke.)
Safety of believers in seeming perils:—A British subject may be safe although surrounded by enemies in a distant land—not that he has strength to contend alone against armed thousands, but because he is a subject of our Queen. A despot on his throne, a horde of savages in their desert, have permitted a helpless traveller to pass unharmed, like a lamb among lions—although, like lions looking on a lamb, they thirsted for his blood—because they knew his sovereign’s watchfulness, and feared his sovereign’s power. The feeble stranger has a charmed life in the midst of his enemies, because a royal arm unseen encompasses him as with a shield. The power thus wielded by an earthly throne may suggest and symbolize the perfect protection of Omnipotence. A British subject’s confidence in his Queen may rebuke the feeble faith of a Christian. “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” What though there be fears within and fightings without? He who bought His people with His own Blood cannot lose his inheritance, and will not permit any enemy to wrest from His hand the satisfaction of His soul. The man with a deceitful heart and a darkened mind, a feeble frame and a slippery way, a fainting heart and a daring foe—such a man would stumble and fall; but the member of Christ’s body cannot drop off; the portion of the Redeemer cannot be wrenched from His grasp. “Ye are His.” Christ is the safety of a Christian. (W. Arnot.)
Ver. 36. As many as touched were made perfectly whole.—
Christ healing the diseased:—
- Some of the antecedents of the healing. They felt they were diseased. They were anxious to be healed. They were in the right place to be healed.
- The condition of healing. Contact with Christ. Illustrates the conditions upon which we become partakers of the life which is in Christ Jesus. This condition is simple, not only as regards its operation, but also as it springs out of a principle which all men possess.
III. The extent of the healing. This is seen in the numbers healed and in the completeness of the cures. (R. Henry.)
14:31 “You of little faith,” This is a recurrent theme in the Gospel of Matthew (cf. 6:30; 8:26; 16:8). Many of Jesus’ miracles were done to increase the faith of the disciples. God works with those who have little faith. Amen!
The Lord does not disappoint his wavering disciple, who in his distress has cried to him for help: 31. Immediately Jesus reached out his hand, grabbed him, and said to him, O man of little faith, why did you waver?
Strictly speaking it would not have been necessary for Jesus to reach out his hand to rescue Peter. A simple command would have sufficed. But was not the method which the Lord actually used reassuring? Jesus wanted Peter to feel his love as well as to experience his power. See also on 8:3 and 9:25.
The Lord calls Peter a “man of little faith.” For this expression see on 6:30. Doubt or wavering had entered Peter’s heart because for a moment he had looked away from Jesus, that is, he had failed to rest the eye of his faith upon the Master. He had not sufficiently taken to heart the comfort he should have derived from the presence, promises, power, and love of Christ.
14:30–31. But only a moment later, what Peter could see with his physical eyes (the violent, stormy sea) became larger in his mind than what can be seen only through the “eyes” of a faith-filled heart. There is a healthy, respectful fear we need to have before the Lord (Prov. 1:7), but the fear we feel toward anything that seems bigger than the Lord is a sign of small faith. Peter’s underdeveloped faith feared the storm more than the Lord, so the Lord allowed him to sink into a dark, angry sea. Jesus was always teaching his disciples. Every moment, every conversation, and every demonstration were intended to develop his church’s foundational leaders.
In that moment of terror, Peter called out with the most basic expression of faith possible: Lord, save me! (cf. 8:25). The Lord loves that kind of cry, because it is a sign that the person has come to the end of self-reliance and realizes there is nowhere else to turn but to the Lord. Whether from the unbeliever who knows he is helpless on his own or from the believer who has been self-striving for years and has only met with frustration and failure the simple cry, “Save me!” is music to the Father’s ears (cf. Pss. 18:16; 69:1–3; 144:7).
The Messiah answered Peter’s cry immediately by reaching out and grabbing him. Then Jesus said calmly, You of little faith … why did you doubt? The issue here was not the amount of Peter’s faith, but Peter’s culpability. The smallest faith in the right object is effective. Jesus was chiding Peter, not his faith. The problem was that his faith was supplanted by doubt. In all this time, even Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends, had not learned to trust the king fully.
Jesus had also used the phrase you of little faith to address the disciples when he calmed the storm in 8:23–27 (also in 6:30; 16:8; Luke 12:28). Two important tests of faith for Jesus’ disciples have now happened on a stormy sea. Given the awe with which most cultures view the power of nature, Jesus knew that if they could see him as greater than nature, they would be closer to mature faith.
31 Jesus responds to this desperate cry “immediately” (εὐθέως), stretching out his hand (as in 8:3) to save Peter. Jesus then addresses Peter as ὀλιγόπιστε, “you of little faith” (see Comment on 6:30 for this word in Matthew), just as he did the disciples in the boat according to 8:26, and asks εἰς τί ἐδίστασας, “Why did you doubt?” (the only other use of διστάζειν in the NT is in 28:17; it means “to be of a divided mind”). Here the object of the doubt is whether it was possible indeed to walk on the water and hence indirectly expresses a doubt concerning the power of Jesus. Peter was nevertheless saved. The underlying message here is as much for the disciples and for Matthew’s church as it is for Peter himself.
 Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 2, p. 242). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 Turner, D., & Bock, D. L. (2005). Cornerstone biblical commentary, Vol 11: Matthew and Mark (p. 204). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
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