He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
Can you think of other times when Jesus used visual aids to make a lasting impression on his disciples? He had Thomas take a long look at the nail-marked hands and side, throwing in an invitation to touch those wounds as well. A shriveled-up fig tree attested to the power of faith in an unforgettable way. He used a coin with the emperor’s image, a coin plucked from a fish’s mouth, and a coin plunked into the temple’s money box as visual support for the words he was speaking.
Jesus wasn’t afraid to use a visual aid when he thought it would drive home his point. So what was his point in bringing the little child into the disciples’ line of vision? It was more than “be nice to kids.” (Important as that is!)
Jesus was trying to teach the disciples about the works that God considers great and honorable. And how those works are often quite the opposite of what we’d expect. The world around us makes sure to put its best foot forward when interacting with those viewed as most important, powerful, or influential.
But Jesus reminds us that our hearts are most like his heart when we’re interacting with those the rest of the world might overlook. The most important work is serving those who need us. That might be the little ones who look to us to put food on their table. It might be the lonely person at church who needs someone to talk to. It might be the aging parent who can’t do some things on their own anymore. That work may not win you any headlines or earn you any promotions. It might be inconvenient and messy. But it’s how God takes care of people in this world. And it’s humble service, first modeled for us by Jesus in his humble service to us. And that makes it really, really important.
Gracious God, help me to see the opportunities for your important work all around me. Give me the humility to embrace them and the strength to carry them to completion. Amen.