Imagine the scene: Jesus is resting, perhaps, in the home of one of his friends. There is a sound of chatter at the door. Mothers and fathers, grandparents too, are arriving with little children, toddlers, babies. They’re asking to come in, so that Jesus can touch the little ones.
Peter and the others will have none of it. Standing in the doorway, they seek to protect their Master from all this fuss and intrusion. “The Master hasn’t got time for children. Don’t you realise he has the affairs of the kingdom of God on his mind? Be off with you!”
And so the visitors are shooed away, and off they begin to trudge.
But Jesus has heard the commotion, and he comes to the door. “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them.” And he takes the children – he takes each child in turn – cradles it in his arms, lays a hand on the child’s head, and offers a simple, profound, prayer of blessing for each one.
And ringing in the ears of all were these words: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
1. Jesus has time for people whom others would turn away
When the grown-ups brought the children to Jesus, the disciples ‘rebuked’ them. But when Jesus saw this he was indignant, and he took the children in his arms and blessed them, Mk 10:13-16.
Take blind Bartimaeus. When he called out to Jesus, many in the crowd rebuked him. But Jesus asked for him to be brought to him, and restored his sight, Lk 18:35-43.
Take the prostitute who came to Jesus. The Pharisees would have recoiled with horror from a prostitute. But Jesus allowed her to bathe his feet with her tears, wipe them with her hair, kiss them, and anoint them with ointment, Lk 7:36-50.
Take the woman from Samaria. In those days it was said that ‘the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans’. But Jesus was an exception to this rule. The one he talked with at Jacob’s well was three times despised – she was a Samaritan, a woman, and a ‘sinner’, Jn 4:4-21.
Take people with leprosy. The Rabbis looked down with loathing on such people, and would even throw stones at them to drive them away. In contrast, Jesus had compassion on them. On one occasion, he stretched out his hand, and touched the leper, and healed him, Mk 1:40-45.
Take people who were sick. In the case of the woman who had had a flow of blood for many years, Jesus did not rebuke her when she touched him, but sent her away in peace and health, Mk 5:25-34. He even took the hand of a dead girl and restored her to life, Mk 5:21-24; 35-43.
Take people like Zacchaeus and Levi. They were thoroughly disreputable folk, But Jesus was happy to accept invitations into their homes. With Levi, he even accepted him into his team of apostles, Lk 6:12-16.
Jesus attitude was one of acceptance, of compassion, of welcoming those whom others tended to dispise. And if Jesus welcomes such people, do we?
2. Each of us must receive the kingdom of God like a little child, or not at all
Was was it about these children, that caused Jesus to say, “The kingdom of God belongs to such as these”? Was it their their cuteness; their sense of fun; their innocence, their simplicity, their imaginativeness, their unselfconsciousness? No: the key is to be found in the fact that these were little children, babies and toddlers, whom Jesus took in his arms. All they could do was look up at Jesus, open their arms, and allow him to pick them up. The key characteristic of a small child is its dependence.
To receive the kingdom like a little child is to allow oneself to be given it, because one knows one cannot claim it as one’s right or attempt to earn it.
Two people went up to the temple to pray: one thought he had it all; the other knew he had nothing. Which one went back home rejoicing, because he had found peace with God?
1 Cor 1:26ff Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,’ Mt 5:3.
This is the narrow door through which we must all pass.
Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness he requireth,
Is to feel your need of him.
Nothing in my hand I bring
Simply to thy cross I cling.