Everywhere Jesus went people followed. Many times large crowds would gather where Jesus was and he would teach and heal and love on them. The disciples didn’t seem to have a problem with this until the moms showed up with their children in tow. This is where they drew the line. Jesus did not need to be bothered with these snotty, little, rug-rats whose attentions span was about the size of a gnat.
Jesus becomes indignant and intervenes with his famous words , “Let the Children come to me.” The disciples dismissal of the children was a dangerous misunderstanding. While most of them may not have been able to understand Christ’s teachings they still needed Jesus and his blessings. They were objects of his love and attention.
Jesus uses this incident as a way to teach the disciples and the people around him something about his Kingdom.
“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
He is not saying that the Kingdom of God is made up of children, but of people of childlike faith. What does that mean? I have heard several suggestions.
Innocence of Childhood?
It is easy to look at little babies and young children and see their innocence. Is this what Jesus is referring too? Are we to see things through the eyes of children, eyes who have not seen much evil? If so, then where does that leave the adulterers and murderers? And what about the pharisees, hypocrites, gossipers, liers, and selfish people? We are those people and we are certainly not innocent.
Humility of Childhood?
Maybe humility is what we need to search for. Children sometimes are characterized as humble, but I see the opposite. From infancy children are more interested in self than in others. “Me first” seems to be their mantra.
Children live on trust. Trust that they will be taken care of, protected, loved and accepted. THere is no better picture of trust than a baby being held in its mothers arms. So maybe Jesus is telling us that those who inherit the kingdom are those who are completely trustful? But is there such an adult? Doubt and weakness in our faith seems to be something we are all plagued with on a regular basis.
B.B. Warfield (brilliant theologian in the 1800s) warns that this is too superficial and subjective of a reading of the passage. We need to look for something more objective. We need to go deeper into the heart if we want to find out what childlikeness is.
Young children and especially babies are totally helpless and completely dependant on their parents for life. If parents didn’t take their kids to the doctor when they are sick they could die. If they didn’t feed their children they would die. And if parents didn’t protect their children from the harm that surrounds them, they would die. Children cannot force or coerce their parents into taking care of them. They are completely at the mercy of their parents and helpless in their dependence.
As Jesus is calling the little ones to him and possibly cradling a baby in his arms he is telling us that on our own we cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven because, like the babies he was blessing, we are helpless. His kingdom is a supernatural kingdom and we must get there through supernatural ways. We cannot just take it or work our way into it.
“He who will not humble himself and enter it as a little child enters the world, in utter nakedness and complete dependence, shall never see it.”
But don’t misunderstand me.There is nothing we can do to make ourselves helpless. We already are helpless. Only when we see our helplessness can we then move toward dependency.
The more we understand our hearts and see our sins the more we will see how helpless we are, and the more we study God and the gospel the more we realize how dependent on him we must be. Christ alone can save (John 14:6). On him alone we must cast ourselves for love, mercy and life. He alone is our hope.