15 People were bringing infants to him so he might touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 Jesus, however, invited them: “Let the little children come to me, and don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Children are often considered a big deal these days. Pregnancy and adoption announcements, gender reveals, and baby showers have gradually become as grand in celebration as a college graduation. When it comes to shopping, there are entire markets directed not only at children, but at parents and grandparents, enticing them to do more, buy more, and educate more for the sake of their children. But our fairly child-centric society is a recent development in the history of the world, and that couldn’t be more apparent than in our passage today.
As Jesus was in the midst of delivering a series of parables, children and even infants were brought to Him so He would lay hands on them and pray. While it was not unusual for parents to bring their children to rabbis for a blessing, it was a little odd that the disciples attempted to keep them at bay. But considering the low regard people had for children in those days, it could be the disciples simply thought Jesus was not interested in the children.
They thought wrong. Jesus used the children as a seemingly impromptu object lesson for His audience. He explained that they were to receive the kingdom like a child, and if they did not, they would not enter it. Ouch. The earthly significance they lavished on themselves made no difference to Christ. Rather, they were to take on the nature of a child in order to receive the kingdom of God. This would have come as a hard blow to anyone listening, because in those days, children merely existed with no reason to ever be considered.
How does a child receive a huge gift? Happily, willingly, and whether or not we truly recognize it, humbly. A child does not say, “Oh you shouldn’t have,” and try to give it back. Yet how do we as adults instinctively react when given a large, unexpected gift? More often than not, our pride gets so far in the way that we want to give the gift back, because we believe we should be able to obtain the gift by our own efforts and not someone else’s. We see this theme over and over in the New Testament. Many of the Jewish rulers had become so puffed up by their authority over others that to receive the kingdom of God would be a denial of the miniature kingdoms they made among themselves and for themselves.
This should not be an unfamiliar concept for us to grasp. From first century Judea to 21st century America, we need a daily dose of self-denial by picking up our own cross to follow Christ. Otherwise pursuit of His kingdom will be in vain, because we still cling to our own self-reliance to obtain significance in this world. But Christ calls us to Himself and away from our efforts, and by receiving Him we receive more than we could ever begin to build for ourselves.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- A job, a role at church, or a hobby are not bad things in and of themselves, and they are often used to glorify the Lord. In what ways can the role(s) God has placed you in lead to building your own kingdom, if you are not focused on receiving His kingdom?
- Have you found that you have a difficult time receiving gifts from others? Take some time today to consider the reasons why, and then strive to receive a future gift with gracious humility—or maybe even a little eagerness, like a child.
41.6% of the people in the world have never encountered the gospel of Jesus Christ. They live in spiritual darkness and without eternal hope. Pray Matthew 9:38, for God to send workers to the harvest field. https://joshuaproject.net/