Matthew 18:2
And Jesus called a little child to him, and set him in the middle of them,
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(2) Jesus called a little child unto him.—As the conversation was “in the house” (Mark 9:33), and that house probably was Peter’s, the child may have been one of his. As in other like incidents (Matthew 19:13; Matthew 21:15-16), we may recognise in our Lord’s act a recognition of the special beauty of childhood, a tender love for the gracious trust and freedom from rivalry which it shows when, as yet, the taint of egotism is undeveloped. St. Mark adds that He folded His arms round the child as in loving fondness, and, before He did so, uttered the warning words, “If any one will (wishes to) be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” A late tradition of the Eastern Church identified the child with Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, taking the name which he gave himself as passive, Θεοφόρος (Theo-phoros), “one who had been carried or borne by God.” Ignatius himself, however, uses it in its active sense, “one who carries God within him.”

Matthew 18:2. And Jesus — Perceiving the thought of their heart, says Luke, or the dispositions by which they were animated, and their ambitious views and expectations; in order to check and eradicate all such sinful inclinations and affections, he called a little child, and set him in the midst of them — That they might consider him attentively, and learn by the sweetness, docility, and modesty visible in his countenance, what the temper and dispositions of his disciples ought to be, and how dear to him persons of such dispositions are. This little child is said to have been the great Ignatius, whom Trajan the wise, the good Emperor Trajan, condemned to be cast to the wild beasts at Rome! This method of instruction was agreeable to the manner of the eastern doctors and prophets, who, in teaching, impressed the minds of their disciples by symbolical actions, as well as by words. Thus, John 20:22, Jesus, by breathing on his apostles, signified that through the invisible energy of his power he conferred on them the gifts of his Spirit. Thus also, John 21:19, he bade Peter follow him, to show that he should be his follower in sufferings. And, Revelation 18:21, an angel cast a great stone into the sea, to signify the utter destruction of Babylon.18:1-6 Christ spoke many words of his sufferings, but only one of his glory; yet the disciples fasten upon that, and overlook the others. Many love to hear and speak of privileges and glory, who are willing to pass by the thoughts of work and trouble. Our Lord set a little child before them, solemnly assuring them, that unless they were converted and made like little children, they could not enter his kingdom. Children, when very young, do not desire authority, do not regard outward distinctions, are free from malice, are teachable, and willingly dependent on their parents. It is true that they soon begin to show other dispositions, and other ideas are taught them at an early age; but these are marks of childhood, and render them proper emblems of the lowly minds of true Christians. Surely we need to be daily renewed in the spirit of our minds, that we may become simple and humble, as little children, and willing to be the least of all. Let us daily study this subject, and examine our own spirits.Except ye be converted - The word "converted" means changed or turned.

The verb means to change or turn from one habit of life or set of opinions to another, James 5:19; Luke 22:32. See also Matthew 7:6; Matthew 16:23; Luke 7:9, etc., where the same word is used in the original. It sometimes refers to that great change called the new birth or regeneration Psalm 51:13; Isaiah 60:5; Acts 3:19, but not always. It is a general word, meaning any change. The word "regeneration" denotes a particular change the beginning to live a spiritual life. The phrase, "Except ye be converted," does not imply, of necessity, that they were not Christians before, or had not been born again. It means that their opinions and feelings about the kingdom of the Messiah must be changed. They had supposed that he was to be a temporal prince. They expected he would reign as other kings did. They supposed he would have his great officers of state, as other monarchs had, and they were ambitiously inquiring who should hold the highest offices. Jesus told them that they were wrong in their views and expectations. No such things would take place. From these notions they must be turned, changed or converted, or they could have no part in his kingdom. These ideas did not fit at all the nature of his kingdom.

And become as little children - Children are, to a great extent, destitute of ambition, pride, and haughtiness They are characteristically humble and teachable. By requiring his disciples to be like them, he did not intend to express any opinion about the native moral character of children, but simply that in these respects they must become like them. They must lay aside their ambitious views and their pride, and be willing to occupy their proper station - a very lowly one. Mark says Mark 9:35 that Jesus, before he placed the little child in the midst of them, told them that "if any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all and servant of all." That is, he shall be the most distinguished Christian who is the most humble, and who is willing to be esteemed least and last of all. To esteem ourselves as God esteems us is humility, and it cannot be degrading to think of ourselves as we are; but pride, or an attempt to be thought of more importance than we are, is foolish, wicked, and degrading.


Mt 18:1-9. Strife among the Twelve Who Should Be Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, with Relative Teaching. ( = Mr 9:33-50; Lu 9:46-50).

For the exposition, see on [1323]Mr 9:33-50.

See Poole on "Matthew 18:4". And Jesus called a little child unto him,.... One, very likely, that was in the house, and might belong to the master of it, and which was big enough to come to him at his call. Some have thought that this was Ignatius the martyr, but without any foundation. His own words, in his epistle to the church at Smyrna (y), can give no countenance to it; where he says, "for I also know, that after his resurrection he was in the flesh, and I believe that he is." The Latin version indeed renders it thus; "for I also saw him in the flesh after the resurrection, and believe that he exists." But it does not follow from hence that he must be this child, but rather the contrary; since it cannot be thought, that a child so young as this, in half a year after, had it seen Christ, when risen from the dead, could have took so much notice of him, as this version represents Ignatius to do; but it matters not who it was; Christ designed, by this emblem, to give them his sense of the question, and convey some proper instruction to the minds of his disciples:

and set him in the midst of them; that everyone might see him; and upon the very sight of him, had he said no more to them, they might easily have perceived what was his opinion; that he that was but a child, the most humble, and least in his own eyes, would be the greatest: but besides setting the child in such a situation, he pointed to him, saying what follows.

(y) p. 3. Ed. Voss.

{1} And Jesus called a {a} little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,

(1) Humbleness of mind is the right way to preeminence.

(a) A child in years.

Matthew 18:2. Παιδίον] According to Nicephorus, ii. 35, the child in question is alleged to have been St. Ignatius. Chrysostom correctly observes that it is a little child (σφόδρα παιδίον); τὸ γὰρ τοιοῦτον παιδίον καὶ ἀπονοίας καὶ δοξομανίας κ. βασκανίας κ. φιλονεικείας κ. πάντων τῶν τοιούτων ἀπήλλακται παθῶν, καὶ πολλὰς ἔχον τὰς ἀρετὰς, ἀφέλειαν, ταπεινοφ ροσύνην, ἀπραγμοσύνην, ἐπʼ οὐδενὶ τούτων ἐπαίρεται. Comp. Mark 9:36; Luke 9:47.Matthew 18:2. παιδίον: the task of Jesus is not merely to communicate instruction but to rebuke and exorcise an evil spirit, therefore He does not trust to words alone, but for the greater impressiveness uses a child who happens to be present as a vehicle of instruction. The legendary spirit which dearly loves certainty in detail identified the child with Ignatius, as if that would make the lesson any the more valuable!2. set him in the midst of them] St Mark adds, “when He had taken him in His arms.”Matthew 18:2. Παιδίον, a little child) A diminutive, to rebuke the disciples who sought great things. It is said to have been Ignatius—ὁ θεοφόρος.[804] Without doubt it must have been a child of excellent disposition and sweetest appearance who was then present by Divine appointment.—ἐν μέσῳ αὐτῶν, in the midst of them) see Gnomon on Mark 9:36.

[804] Considerable difference of opinion exists as to the meaning of this word: some rendering it “one who was carried by GOD,” in allusion to the circumstance mentioned in the text; others explaining it to mean “one who carried GOD always about with him, sc. in his heart.”—(I. B.)Verse 2. - A little child. Our Lord teaches, not only by spoken parables, but by symbolical actions also. This was not a mere infant, as Christ is said to have called him unto him. A tradition, mentioned by Nicephorus ('Hist. Eccl.,' 2:35), asserts that this child was the famous martyr Ignatius. Set him in the midst of them. Taking him in his arms, as St. Mark tells. What a picture of Christ's tenderness and human love! From the boy's trustfulness and submission he draws a needed lesson for the ambitious apostles.
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