Doubtless the magnificent scene on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mt 17.1-8; Mk 9.2-10; Lk 9.28-36) had gripped the three disciples who had been "with him in the holy mount" (2 Pet 1.18), and although they had been instructed to tell of the vision to no man, which would include the other nine disciples, it would never have been far from their minds. Perhaps by what they had seen and heard, or perhaps due to the fact that that Lord had told all twelve of His death and resurrection, there had arisen a debate, which is included in the record of three of the Gospel writers, as to which of them would be the greatest (Mt 18.1; Mk 9.31-32; Lk 9.46-47). The Lord was aware of the conversation as He asked, "What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?" (Mk 9.33). Since the Fall there has been in the human heart the propensity to seek "place" or "pre-eminence" and the disciples showed this by the discussion that had taken place. As they travelled from Capernaum this was the issue that filled their minds.
The Lord responded by taking "a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them" (Mt 18.2). His words struck home: "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven". This would have startled the Twelve. How different it is to the assessment of the world around us. "Greatness" in the Kingdom is measured, not by self-importance, but by self-effacement. The presence of the child emphasised the need for humility, but the Lord is stating that that demeanour will mark those who follow Him. To be humble is the mark of the disciple who knows the Master. Peter doubtless had this occasion in mind when he wrote, "be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble" (1 Pet 5.5). Self-importance is a characteristic that gives the Lord no pleasure.
Note, however, how the Lord dealt with this child. There are three lessons to be enjoyed when we look on ourselves, and act, like a "little child", acknowledging that we are totally dependent on Him as a young child is on its mother. Matthew records that "Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them" (Mt 18.2).
First, note that the Lord set the child "in the midst of them". This indicates the privilege of being in the midst of His people, of being one of many. Nevertheless, "in the midst" also indicates that he, the child, was an illustration to the disciples. Today it is incumbent on every believer to be an example to others as Paul, writing to Timothy, states: "be thou an example of the believers" (1 Tim 4.12).
But Mark notes that the child, after being placed in the midst of the disciples, is taken into the arms of the Lord (Mk 9.36). The child now enjoys the sweet security of the Lord holding fast to him. What a blessing this is! The humble are often criticised because they are "too soft" or not strong enough to make their point. But humility is not weakness; it has often been said to be "strength under control". How great is the blessedness of being in His arms.
Lukes comment on this incident is that the Lord "took a child, and set him by him" (Lk 9.47). Does this not indicate the fellowship that the humble saint can enjoy with Christ? The blessing of being with Him through the circumstances of life, to be aware that He is constantly at our side, to be "by him" at all times, whether in the sad days or the happy days, is an honour and privilege indeed.
In the midst, in His arms, and by His side! Consider this every morning, and seek to enjoy the three-fold blessing. Humility, therefore, is not a feature that demeans the believer, but rather is a display of Christlikeness. His is the example to follow and ours is the responsibility to ensure that self-importance never stains our character.