Chapter and Verse: Matthew 18:1-5
The disciples want to know which of them will be the greatest in the Kingdom. Peter, James and John are probably the hot favourites – they’ve just witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration (17:1-8). Of the three, Peter is the one consulted by the temple authorities as to whether or not Jesus pays the temple tax (17:24-25). And, of course, it’s far more comforting to think about Jesus making cabinet appointments as the newly-installed ruler in Jerusalem than to take seriously his prediction of forthcoming suffering and death (17:22-23).
Jesus’ response is as disconcerting as it is shocking and powerful. He calls a child over, stands her in their midst and says: “There – that’s your role model of greatness!”
Children were so unimportant that the word “child” was frequently neuter, rather than masculine or feminine. A child was an “it”, as here in 18:2. Adults tended to become interested in children only at puberty; disturbingly, at the point in which they become potential sexual partners. Girls in particular suffered. Newborn girls were often simply thrown away, left to starve or be eaten by predators, or sold into prostitution at an early age, because families didn’t want expensive daughters…
This is an extract from the November 2015 edition of Reform.