Chapter

Luke 9:48

ESV 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.”
NIV Then he said to them, 'Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.'
NASB and He said to them, 'Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great.'
CSB He told them, "Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me welcomes him who sent me. For whoever is least among you--this one is great."
NLT Then he said to them, 'Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.'
KJV And said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great.

What does Luke 9:48 mean?

Andrew and Peter are fishermen who own their own boats. James and John are their partners. Matthew was a tax collector. We don't know the jobs of the other disciples, but the fact they were able to leave their jobs suggests they were not lower-class slaves or laborers as many in the Roman Empire were. The disciples are roughly middle-class men looking forward to having positions of authority in the court of the renewed Jewish nation. Like many who see the promise of greater things on the horizon, they start preparing by considering where they stand now.

They accept that Jesus is the Messiah, and Jesus has affirmed their belief (Luke 9:18–20). Some of Jesus' teachings, however, create a mental disconnect such that their minds can't keep up. Several times, Jesus has warned them the religious leaders in Jerusalem are going to kill Him (Luke 9:44). And then, three days later, He's going to rise again (Luke 9:22). He's also told them that they must be willing to be crucified and lose their lives to save them (Luke 9:23–25).

Those words don't make any sense of their expectations. So, they cling to what they can understand: Jesus will be king, and they will reign with Him (Luke 22:30).

In response, Jesus gives more confusing words. To respect children is to respect Jesus. The least will be the greatest. It goes against everything the world tells them.

First, Jesus says that His disciples must "receive" a child. A child has no status or power. She cannot reciprocate honor or favors. Jesus' followers must be willing to accept and show hospitality to those who cannot repay. To do so is to accept and show hospitality to Jesus and, ultimately, God the Father (Matthew 25:31–40).

Second, Jesus' followers must endeavor to have the same status as a child. Matthew records, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3–4). Jesus will demonstrate this attitude when He washes the disciple's feet (John 13:1–17). This is not a plea for blind faith, but a call to trust based on imperfect knowledge.

In this context, one's "name" wasn't sounds and syllables. One's "name" referred to their character, reputation, and authority. To receive a child "in Jesus' name" means to treat them as Jesus would: with benevolence and protection (Luke 17:2; 18:15–17). To emulate Jesus in this way demonstrates that the person is a follower of Christ. And since He does the work of His Father (John 14:10), it demonstrates that the person accepts His Father, as well.

This passage is a companion to Luke 9:23–27. In both cases, Jesus tells His disciples to reject what the world values for the sake of their future position in the kingdom of God. Here, it's worldly status and honor. In the earlier teaching, it's their lives.
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