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Session 5: Like a child – insights into
discipleship and community 'As in heaven'

 

Ideas and thought generating: if you are in a group you may want to have a large sheet of paper and a marker pen.  Gather ideas and thoughts on what discipleship and community 'As in heaven' might look like.

I hope you have a long list of thoughts and ideas which you can connect to Scripture.  We are going to focus on just one aspect of being disciples of Jesus Christ and living as a community with Jesus Christ as Lord. 

Read Matthew 18:1-10 and 19:13-15.  If possible read them in at least two different versions and read them at least twice.
  • What do you note about the passages?  What particularly stands out for you? (Don’t worry if nothing does – this is not an exam).  Each one share, if possible, something that they note.

Some Background
Jesus has recently spoken of his death, Matthew 17:22-23, and the opening words of chapter 18 'At that time' are filled with the sombre reality that they are travelling towards the final scenes of Jesus’ earthly life.  While Jesus is preparing the disciples for the reality of his death on the cross, the disciples are caught up with themselves and wanting to be great.  Maybe the disciples had understood Jesus would be taken from them and they wanted to know who would take over.  Who would lead in Jesus’ absence?
 
The question about status is a recurrent theme, it is mentioned in Matthew 20:26-28; 23:11-12; and Luke 22:24-27 at the Last Supper.  Peter has been in the limelight – 10:2 he was singled out as first; 16:16-19 he was given a special role and authority; 17:1 with James and John he was present at the Transfiguration; the temple tax incident seems to be just Jesus and Peter.
 
Reflection on greatness and status
Think about situations in your family, friendship group, social activities, work life where status seems to be a big issue.  Why does it keep coming to the fore in people’s thinking?
  • Why is the focus on status destructive in any situation, but particularly in God’s community?
  • Do you think the disciples are jealous of Peter?  Have you ever envied someone’s relationship with God or with spiritual leaders?
  • Have you felt slighted because you have not been given the recognition or position that you think you deserve?  How did you cope with it?
  • The disciples seem to assume that even in the Kingdom of Heaven there is a pecking order – what Bible verses tell you there is no pecking order? Eg Galatians 3:28 – can you think of others?
  • Is there a pecking order in the church community, the one you are part of or more widely?  How does it reveal itself?

Note: Leadership requires God’s authority and the affirmation of that authority from the church community, but the role of leadership does not assume any greater status before God or in the Kingdom of Heaven.
 
Reflection on Jesus’ response to the disciples question
As so often, Jesus does not answer the disciples’ question.  They are thinking in the abstract and in essence it is the wrong question to be asking.  If you are asking about greatness in the Kingdom of Heaven then you have not understood God’s purposes and plans.
  • What do 18:2 and 19:13-15 tell us about the priorities of Jesus?
  • Note that in chapter 18 Jesus refers to little ones, stray sheep, brothers and sisters gathered together and fellow servants – all revealing something of being followers of Christ.  What do these images of little ones, stray sheep, brothers and sisters gathered together and fellow servants, suggest about discipleship and being a community centred on Christ?
  • What is it about the child that makes him a particularly good illustration of being a disciple?  What does this incident have in common with the occasion Jesus washed the disciples feet?  John 13:1-17.
  • Jesus makes the point that to welcome the child is to welcome Jesus and everyone whom the child represents: James 2:1-4.  Who are those whom we might not be welcoming as we could in our church community?
  • These verses suggest to us that God’s Kingdom is made up of all kinds of people, but particularly the lost sheep and the children.  What particular challenges does that pose for your church?

In a culture intoxicated with greatness how can we live as true disciples of Jesus?

We live with advertising, marketing and other media which shouts at us to be the greatest we can be; to be better than others in how we look, how we live and the power and wealth that we have.  This has been so since the beginning of time because we have failed to live as God designed us to live – in relationship with him, humble and dependent.

  • Think about Matthew 11:25 – 'you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children'.  What are we missing out on by not being like children?
  • The fact that the disciples asked the question about greatness shows they have a long way to go in being renewed in their minds and thinking.  What do the following verses say to us about having attitudes 'as in heaven' Romans 12:1-2; Colossians 3:5, 12?
  • It is a lifetime’s work, and more, to be a disciple of Jesus and to take our full part in the Kingdom of Heaven – share together or reflect individually what steps you take to be childlike in your faith and yet paradoxically mature in Christ?  Read Colossians 2:6-7 and reflect on what this says about true discipleship.
  • “Only the small are capable of yielding all greatness to God” – do you agree with this statement? 


A Prayer

We worship you, loving God, who cares deeply for the seemingly small, vulnerable and insignificant children.  Thank you that your desire is for a community where all are valued and loved.  Forgive us that we crave recognition, status and power, help us Lord to humble ourselves before you; may we know your grace and your presence in us.  Lord we pray for our communities, we recognise conflict happens when we disagree and do not honour each other, help us to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, help us to love and serve all you send our way; give us the grace to care for those we find particularly draining.  We long to honour you in all things.  Amen.

 
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Insights into discipleship and community 'As in heaven'
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