by Mary Alice McGinnis
The words in the beginning of today’s reading caused me to ponder.
"See that you do not despise one of these little ones."
Who are these “little ones” Jesus is speaking about? We often understand this to mean children. In fact, in the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day, children were regarded more like property than individuals, more of an obligation than real people with a significant place in society.
Children are not wise or knowledgeable, they are ignorant of many things. They are dependent, vulnerable, small, and insignificant in size and in importance.
Who are “little ones” who are all around me every day? Is there a broader spectrum of individuals that I see as less-than, small, insignificant, unimportant, or even lower than myself? Maybe there are people whom I think “just don’t get it"?
I don’t know about you, but I have experienced times of feeling brushed off, insignificant, and unworthy of someone else’s time and attention.
What does it mean to despise these “little ones"?
Merriam Webster says to despise means: "treating with contempt, scorn, disdain. To regard as unworthy of one's notice or consideration."
Vocabulary.com says this: "Despise dates all the way back to the Latin word despicare, which combines de 'down' with specere 'to look at.' So if you look down your nose at something, you could say you despise it."
It caused me to question, where in my life am I looking down on others, seeing them as unworthy of my time and certainly not my attention. Who are those that I am labeling, and then considering them as worthless - almost sub-human?
Note that the wealthy Shepherd in today's parable has 100 sheep. He could have easily said, “Well, I have 99 other sheep. I am so tired of chasing after this one that is so prone to wander. This ONE is not worth my time and effort.”
But NO! The loving Shepherd takes the initiative. He does not wait for the One to come back. Instead, He leaves the 99 and goes after this One. Despite having to look high and low, He does not consider this little lost one as a waste of His time.
This One matters to Him.
"In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish."
Jesus Himself experienced being despised. Isaiah 53:3 says of Jesus:
"He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces He was despised, and we held Him in low esteem." (Isaiah 53:3)
Despising often leads to feelings of shame. Yet at the cross, Jesus turned the tables and did the unthinkable. Jesus endured the cross, "despising the shame."
John Piper's article, "What Does it Mean for Jesus to Despise Shame," he says Jesus was in essence saying:
“Listen to me, Shame, do you see that joy in front of me? Compared to that, you are less than nothing. You are not worth comparing to that! I despise you. You think you have power. Compared to the joy before me, you have none. Joy. Joy. Joy. That is my power! Not you, Shame. You are worthless. You are powerless.”
The JOY that was set before Jesus was obediently living out the plan of His Father from the creation of the world. He endured the shame on that cross that I deserved. Jesus JOYFULLY paid the ultimate price for me, and for all of His "little ones."
Thank You Jesus that You bore my sin and shame and have set me free. Help me see people as You see them, as Your little ones, Your children. You paid ultimate price for ALL of us - the cost of Your Holy, Innocent, Precious Blood. Use my life to lead others back to You.