Just so you know, I know that there is something about children that can melt our hearts. But there is also plenty that will frustrate us into a frazzle. We can debate the point of whether or not they have sin. But the truth is that children can be selfish, demanding, jealous, manipulative, bullies, and etc. I tell you this because when we come across the passages in which Jesus is dealing with children some will expend tremendous effort to extrapolate the qualities that we as adults should emulate. Years ago, I saw a news report about adults who spend money to be treated like babies. They wear diapers; they cry until they get a bottle of milk; and they sleep in cribs. This is considered therapy. They are nurturing their inner child. I am not an expert, but this doesn’t seem healthy to me. There is much that we are intended to grow out of as we mature. I think the appropriate phrase is “Grow up people.” But there is something about children that Jesus does hold up as an example.
In Luke 18:15-17 we witness people bringing their babies to Jesus so that he could touch them. Matthew tells us that this was about Jesus laying his hands on them and praying (Matthew 19:13). This was about parents seeking a blessing for their infants. Notice the flow of movement here. Parents seek out Jesus bringing their children; they flow to him. What they want is a blessing to flow from Jesus to their children. They believed that this miracle man; this possible Messiah; this blessed by God rabbi, could flow a blessing to their babies. They did not know about the whole Son of God thing. Sure, they heard about the amazing power Jesus possessed. And that may have been enough to fill them with a desire to seek out a blessing for their children. But it may have also been about the strange tales of his compassion; his eating with the sinners and tax collectors; his fraternizing with the common folk. Don’t we want our children to be blessed by good people? Well, that often doesn’t just happen. We may have to go seek those good people out. You know, with children in tote. And there is another thing here. Bring your children to God. Don’t wait until they are old enough. I am convinced when you take your children to seek the presence of God that they will receive a blessing. There is no promise here concerning your children always walking with God. It is about seeking out a blessing.
When the disciples saw this they rebuked or denounced these parents. Did they reason that Jesus was far too important to be sidetracked by baby blessing? After all, he is on his way to Jerusalem, where all great and important things happen. Were they jealous of any attention directed toward another group, even if it was adorable little babies? If so, why don’t they rebuke the sinners and tax collectors or women that seem to grab Jesus’ compassion? This seems to be more about Jesus’ time. He is on his way to Jerusalem where he will make his Messiahship known, or so they hope. Jesus is getting attention. Things are happening. He doesn’t have time for silly baby blessing. It was an unnecessary distraction.
Jesus called them. Interestingly the words used seem to refer to the babies. This can mean that he offered to welcome them. His following words are most likely directed toward the disciples and the parents. Permit the little children to come. Don’t hinder them. Notice that Jesus doesn’t use the word “baby” here. This may simply be rhetoric. It seems more likely that Jesus does not want his hearers to be limited by the term “baby,” so he broadens it a little. Anyway, the point is that the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. But why? We are going to want to figure this out. There is something about children that Jesus wants us to have. So, what is it about children? Is it innocence? Is it their honesty? Maybe the next verse can clear it up: Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it. Most likely Jesus is emphasizing how a child receives. Until we teach them differently, they receive without any concept of earning. They stand in need. They know that they depend on others for everything. They are the tax collectors of the previous parable. How do you enter the kingdom? Receive it like a child receives.
Baby blessings. Jesus is not bothered by blessing anyone. He doesn’t first determine value to decide if it is worth his time. And parents should go out of their way to bring their children to a place where Jesus can touch them. They should also think about the adults they want their children to be around; adults who will bless and not curse. But most of all, we should truly evaluate who we are in the presence of God. We are the one standing in desperate need. We cannot earn anything here. Receive like a child!