1At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them
3and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
4Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.
How appropriate that our reading for today would fall on what is called in the church, Maundy Thursday. [The word “Maundy” is one that you only hear once a year and that is on this day. Maundy actually means “command” or “commandment” for it when Jesus commands His disciples to live as servants to those around them.] This is the day that we remember the last time that Jesus and His disciples celebrated the Passover together before His death. We have come to call that The Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion. This is an important practice in our worship life and holds a great deal of meaning to the faithful. But also on that night, Jesus stooped before His disciples and washed their feet. If you would like to read that story, see http://www.esvbible.org/John 13:1-17.
Here you can read for yourself the humility that the Lord of Universe shows to His followers.
Going back to our reading from Matthew, we find that the disciples are again displaying the fact that they just don’t get it as they begin to argue about who will be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven; the argument being the antithesis of humility. Their humanity is showing as the one-ups-man-ship begins to rage. Each of them wants to be the closest to Christ when He comes into His kingdom. Of course, this argument is born from the fact that they have still not come to grips with the fact that Jesus Kingdom is going to come through violence against Him. He is about to be brutally killed and this argument displays that they know nothing of that future. Once again, they haven’t been paying attention. Jesus has been open about what is coming for Him.
Now, Jesus stands a small child in their midst and tells them that the attitudes and countenance of a child are what God seeks in His followers. A child is simple in their faith. They know their place in the world for they are vulnerable and dependent. This is what God looks for in our faith; simplicity and dependence. Obviously, the child was not a part of the argument, declaring that he/she was the greatest in the kingdom. Now go back to that upper room where Jesus has gotten on His knees before these disciples and is gently wiping the dirt from their feet. This was the roll of a servant or even a slave. This is the act of humility that these men were not willing to stoop to before Jesus taught them how. Our role model here is that of a child; not ignorant, but openly willing to be led.