I believe that Jesus is using an extended metaphor here. In other words by comparing disciples to children initially, it probably means that the “little ones” he is talking about later are actually disciples. When you think about it that way, Jesus gives us some pretty important guidelines for discipleship.
- Disciples turn to God in trust and humility. He saves us. He provides for us. He guides us. He loves us. It’s all about Him, not us. We aren’t great, He is! (18:1-4)
- Disciples minister to other disciples. (18:5)
- As a part of that ministry, disciples guard against engaging in sin or minimizing sin because they don’t want to be a bad example to others. The world encourages sin already, and that is enough of a test/temptation. In fact, the consequences for leading someone else into sin are dire. Don’t do it! (18:6-9)
- Disciples recognize how much God cares for His children. It seem that He cares so much that His angels watch over them and report back to Him. But isn’t God omniscient? Yes, but He still gives out jobs, even to us! This is also a very poetic way of saying that God knows what is going on. Even though some of His children may be caught in sin, He still cares, and seeks, and brings back, and rejoices. Shouldn’t we do the same? (18:10-14)