When the disciples were arguing over which one of them was the greatest, Jesus “took a child and put him by his side, and said to them, 'Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me, for he who is the least among you all is the one who is great.'” (Luke 9:47-48)
John Piper comments on this passage in A Godward Life: “Jesus says that when you receive a child in his name (that is, with love in Jesus' strength and for his glory), you receive Jesus himself. In that act of love for the glory of Christ, Jesus himself draws near and makes his fellowship more real and more sweet. Jesus continued by saying that when you receive him in this way, you also receive God the Father.”
When Jesus rebuked his striving-to-be-the-greatest-disciples with the challenge of humbly receiving a child in his name, I wonder if he might have thought of his mother. Mary, who willingly received Jesus as her child, in the name of God Most High—believing the impossible and trusting the angel's news that she would give birth to the King of Kings. With humble submission and awe, “I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38)
Believing a promise. Trusting in the impossible. The gift of a child.
This morning I have been reflecting back to the day last September when Charly and I visited Daniel, just before he was taken back to the orphanage after his 3 week stay in the hospital. The military hospital didn't have a therapy department, and the doctor said they had done all they could do for him after his encephalitis and 6 day coma. Our adoption paperwork for him and for David was almost complete. And after we got home from that trip to the hospital, we would make our final family decision: to accept our match for both boys, even with the recent and dramatic change in Daniel's situation.
As we stood at the foot of Daniel's hospital bed, while he was oblivious to everything going on around him, I noticed a pair of little red shoes on the floor. Shoes that the orphanage staff had brought in for him, that he didn't actually need at that time. Because he wasn't able to walk. And the doctor said it was impossible to say then whether he would ever be able to walk or talk again. We were praying and waiting to see what kind of healing God would bring. But those little red shoes made me think of the verse, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.”
And I silently prayed: “How beautiful are his feet (even though we don’t know if he will walk again) to bring Your good news of peace and salvation. I believe you have a special purpose for Daniel's life. And You will use this illness for Your glory.”
How blessed on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7)
Mary, chosen by God out of all the people of this world, had the incredible privilege and responsibility of caring for Jesus--in all of his physical needs--as he grew from an infant to a boy to a man. Feeding him when he was hungry, giving him drink when he was thirsty, giving him extra care when he was sick, providing him with clothes to wear...
And somehow, Jesus said that even today “Whatever we do for the least of these, we do for him.” Feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, inviting the stranger into our homes, clothing the needy, visiting the sick and the prisoner...All of these blessings (however big or small) that we extend to the “least” Jesus receives as if we were serving him. (from Matthew 25)
How do I receive the least?
Sometimes it is a big one-time decision, like bringing a child home to adopt. But in other ways it's a decision that must be made every day. How do I love and receive this child in my home as if he were Jesus himself?
Will I receive this child in Jesus' name?
With love. In His strength and for His glory.
And in doing so, receive Jesus. So that fellowship with Him is more real and more sweet.
“Let every heart prepare him room.”
May those words be true as we sing "Joy to the World" this Christmas season.