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The Secret Codes in Matthew: Examining Israel’s Messiah, Part 14: Matthew 17:24-18:16, by Kevin M. Williams

Obviously Vander Laan’s assumptions are not provable. Yet within the scope of this study, looking at the gospel of Matthew from a Hebraic perspective, it seemed worth noting.


At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:1-3).

The Greek word here for “converted” is strepho. It seems interesting that Yeshua of all people would be teaching a “conversion” other than a conversion from heresy to faith in his own death and resurrection. Yet this word strepho means to “turn around,” to “change course,” or to “repent.” So the implication here is every bit as adamant as we might tell someone today that they need to “convert to Christianity.”

Yeshua does not tell anyone to repent from the Torah, but he does warn us to repent from “adulthood.” What might that mean?

In that day, children had no rights of which to speak. Some women complain about the plight of females in that age, how much more the children? Minors had no legal recourse, no rights, and no privileges other than what their father chose to extend to them. Might there be a lesson in there for us?

Today, our western society offers us all variety of liberties. Political causes abound, some of which improve those liberties and some of which infringe upon them. Yet once in place, it is very common to rail against anyone who might try and take those privileges away. We have learned to demand our rights.

Yeshua’s implication here may be that wondering who will be greatest in the kingdom is of little value to those who do not know their role here on earth. Those who seek after influence and power are not welcome to sit in those seats. In many respects, it is similar to the feudal days of Europe, where there were lords and vassals. Vassals had no rights. None. Their existence was to see to the wellbeing of their overlord, no matter how good or evil, righteous or unrighteous his will may have been. A man in the medieval period might have understood this passage with greater clarity than we can today.

If it was important in the disciple’s age to “convert and become like a child,” during an era of Roman political oppression, and of Pharisaical religious repression, how much more so then in this day and age when we have been given so much, allowed so many liberties, and provided with such opportunities as no generation before? If anything, the need to “convert” may be even greater!

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Category: Biblical Studies, Pneuma Review, Summer 2004

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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