Those who represent Jesus represent both the King and His kingdom.
To speak about the King, you will have to have met Him. Otherwise, no one needs to believe you. There are those who people “claim” are good but without having met them personally, it is not possible to have that confidence in yourself because you never had any interaction with Him.
Then, to speak about a kingdom, you would somehow have to have lived there. (If you have ever lived in a foreign country, you know the difference between visiting” and “living” somewhere. The two experiences are different.) If you have not entered a foreign country or kingdom, you could not have authority to speak of it.
The first five verses of Matthew 18 are significant. In this passage, we find the disciples wanting to be “great” like many of us do. They asked Jesus, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matthew 18:1). They thought that with Jesus, they were really on their way to the top! They would be big celebrities; people that everyone would admire and look up to. The words they spoke and the clothes they wore would be copied and published far and wide. For them, knowing this Jesus guy was a really big deal. He was “their ticket to the top.”
Jesus did not reply directly, but called a little child to Him instead. He said, “Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven,” (Matthew 18:2). The disciples were now red with embarrassment. Jesus’ reply let them know they could not be great in the kingdom because they had not even entered into His kingdom! They had thought they knew Him, but realized they would be locked out in favor of a little child.
Entering the kingdom of God requires a conversion of the heart and the mind. “Unless you are converted” Jesus said, and He was not talking about being born again. He was saying that his kingdom is not like this world. There is no celebrity status in His kingdom. The disciples wanted to be great, but they had chosen the wrong world. It was what the world honors. Not what God honors. Why? Because people who want to be great will love themselves, not what God loves. Great people would like to stay great and not greet those in need. Persons who want to be great want to hold power over others. The desire to be great in God’s kingdom is not so great.
Greatness is measured by humility in the kingdom of God. Jesus said it is the opposite of what we think. “Whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:5). This child came when the Lord called. They came because Jesus called, not to become something great. There was no thought or aspiration of what great things they would accomplish once they came. There was only the simple knowledge that they were being called. And the same Lord is calling us.
There is no competition in God’s kingdom. This is the reason for the final verse in this passage. “Whoever receives one little child like this in my name receives Me.” (Matthew 18:5) There must be no barrier between the call of God and us. No expectations of greatness. And with the same simplicity that God welcomes all of us, we are commanded to accept one another.
So there we have it. The way to enter the kingdom is conversion, and the way to be great is to be humble. Those who seek to be great are greatly mistaken. “Great” is the wrong word.