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He 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 least among you all is the one who is great” (Luke 9:47-48).
We are reading through the Gospel of Luke. That morning we came to the part where the disciples were arguing (again!) about which of them was the greatest (9:46). Jesus did something surprising this time.
I read this to Karsten, Benjamin, Abraham, and Barnabas. Then I said, “This is strange. What does ‘receiving a child’ have to do with ‘being least’? It looks like Jesus is saying that receiving a child is the same as being least. What does it mean?”
Karsten and I agreed: It must mean that spending time with children was a sort of low-priority, insignificant, demeaning work. So if you spent time receiving and caring for children you were one of the “least” people.
is listening to all this. You have to understand that Benjamin is a regular worker in Nursery I. His name and phone number stand on a list with 108 other “least” people who work in Nursery I.
Benjamin gets an official postcard from Beth Davis, the coordinator of all these “least” people, to remind him of his upcoming duty. He has a white sheet of “Nursery I Worker’s Guidelines” and a cream sheet of “Important Information for Nursery I” and a gold sheet with the “February Schedule.”
He hears us explain that “receiving a child in Jesus’ name” is like “being least” because it was work nobody wants to do. So he says, “But that’s not the way it is at church! It’s not low work.”
At that moment as I opened my mouth to respond I found myself saying a most wonderful truth: “Benjamin, that’s because at Bethlehem God has created a Christ-like atmosphere.”
Jesus took the child-belittling culture of his day which defined “greatness” to exclude “receiving children” and he turned it upside down. He said: “Receiving children in my name is the world’s least, and the world’s least is my great.” So wherever the Spirit of Christ pervades, the people who receive children will no longer be the “least.” They will be “great.”
Really? Why? Because to receive a child in Jesus’ name (i.e., out of love, in his strength, and for his glory) is to receive Jesus, and to receive Jesus is to receive God the Father. Which means that Nursery I may be more full of God than any other room in the church.
Yes, Benjamin, it is a great work. May you love it to all your days!
John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including A Peculiar Glory.
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