Luke 18.15-17, Matthew 19.13-15, Mark 10.13-16
This passage is found in all three synoptic gospels, but is connected specifically to marriage and divorce in both Matthew’s and Mark’s recounting of events leading up to Jesus final passover in Jerusalem. Jesus was traveling very quickly and visiting many places along his final journey through the countryside. He had been in Galilee along the Samaritan border to Capernaum then traveling onward beyond the Jordan River to the region of Judea and would soon arrive in Jericho before his final ascent to Jerusalem.
We might even understand this text to be on Jesus’ bucket list of last things to do, even famous last words. As Jesus moves his way to Jerusalem for his last Passover meal with his disciples, he is intentional about his ministry to children and families. To be sure Jesus is not dissuaded by his disciples attempts at removing unimportant people like these little babies from his pathway. However, the disciples will soon discover that Jesus sees the importance in the expressions of humility with families seeking after the priestly and prophetic baby blessing from Jesus.
You might remember the story of when Jesus was blessed in the Temple on the 8th day when he was circumcised in accordance to the Law of Moses. Two prophets Simeon and Anna step forward to declare a word about Jesus’ future.
Imagine yourself as one of the babies being brought to Jesus. The word often translated “children” in the text means baby or infant in the original Greek language. Luke’s emphasis is on the babies, little bitty babies, who had no ability to assist the incoming Kingdom business. They were essentially helpless. We can only speculate whether what the circumstances were that compelled the people to bring their little ones to see Jesus. But if history serves us correctly, the people who sought after Jesus were generally those who had special needs, defects from birth, and life-threatening diseases. These little ones came needing a blessing!
According to Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus placed his hands on the children and prayed.
Imagine yourself being one of the people bringing the babies to Jesus. Jesus reached out to them one after another and touched each one. In the passage the parents were willingly bringing the babies to Jesus. Imagine what your hearts’ desire would be for your little baby. One morning you wake up to hear that Jesus is passing by and your little one has colic or another disease or perhaps is struggling to nurse. The parents came hoping for a blessing for their children. They came to receive a blessing!
I can only imagine how Jesus might have experienced the final leg of his earthly life having remained faithfully single, and not experiencing the legacy that comes with having children. I have several single friends who have remained faithfully single and are without children at this time. Each one has in some way claimed my children as their inheritance in the Lord by providing guidance to them and financial blessings. Here in the passage Jesus is reaching out to claim these children as his very own by blessing them. I can only imagine how Jesus must have prayed words of impartation, i.e., “Father, let this one carry your message forward!”
In these few verses I can only imagine what it was like for Jesus and the families with their little ones. But I am certain of on thing: families were transformed for future generations! Through the thoughtful and loving act of blessing the little ones, families would forever tell the story of how Jesus once touched their lives.
Do you remember the first time Jesus touched your life? What was it like? It is so important to share our stories about Jesus with one another. Our testimony is so vital to making disciples. The bible says that we overcome evil by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony, “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (Rev. 12.11 TNIV). Can you remember a time when you shared your story about Jesus with a little one?
Imagine yourself being one of the disciples in the story. As Jesus was walking along touching these little babies, his disciples began to dismiss them. His leaders whom he was teaching were dismissing the ministry at hand. They were sending the people away, essentially rejecting them as unfit for the Kingdom of God. They formed a judgement about who qualified to be Kingdom people, and the babies didn’t fit their understanding. The disciple-leaders were hindering, forbidding the families from participating in the blessing. The disciples were in a position to help, but instead they discouraged their participation. The disciples took authority that didn’t belong to them (usurped). They were preventing a blessing!
This illustration of Jesus’ disciples missing the importance of blessing the little ones instructs us on what stumbling blocks we are putting in the way of God’s sovereign acts of grace. When we dismiss, reject, judge, hinder, forbid, or discourage little ones from participating in the Kingdom of God, we prevent a blessing. The disciples imposed their ways upon Jesus, and usurped his authority. They were asserting personal power to remove what they perceived as distractions in the coming of the Kingdom of God. Have you ever noticed how the disciples struggled with usurping Jesus’ authority? They took on a lot of responsibility for crowd control from who could be healed like the blind man on the side of the road calling to Jesus to complaining about the love offering of wasted perfume to arguments of who was first and last on the flow chart. But Jesus sees his future! He knows what the bigger picture holds for the Kingdom of God!
According to Mark’s Gospel, Jesus became angry with the disciples. Across the pages of the New Testament, Jesus becomes angry for three main reasons: mistreating little ones, self-serving leaders, and ungodly lifestyles.
Imagine yourself being Jesus teaching his followers something new about the Kingdom of God. Jesus admonishes the disciple-leaders that anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God as a little baby will miss it. Here’s the rub: Jesus calls all of us to become the little ones. The little ones had nothing to offer – no gift, offering, talent, or ability, but received a blessing. The little ones came with messy diapers and hungry bellies, and received a comforting touch. The little ones came without pomp or circumstance, and received welcome of the highest form. Jesus taught the disciples a philosophy of blessing the little ones!
According to Mark’s Gospel, after admonishing the disciples Jesus hugged and blessed the children.
We are called to extend Radical Hospitality to the little ones in our community outside the walls of the church and along the journey of our everyday lives. We are called to welcome families in a drastically different way that touches, holds, prays, and blesses for the sake of the future. We are called to exceed cultural expectations and go the second mile for the little ones who cannot do for themselves. We are called to invite, welcome, receive, and care for the little ones in our homes, in our church, and in our community. Jesus is introducing us to a paradoxical shift in how we experience the mystery of God’s presence. And, his invitation to us reassess our everyday decision-making. The disciples were simply following their cultural understanding of how to treat children. This passage of scripture begs us to rethink church for little ones. What might we be doing that is hindering them from coming to Jesus?
We risk never getting to the place of teaching children how to hear God’s voice or discern how they might be experiencing God.
You might recall an Old Testament story about a little one named Samuel who slept in the house of God under the watchful eye of Eli, the priest. God came to Samuel in the night and spoke to him, but Samuel could not discern the voice of God; he thought God was Eli. At first Eli did not understand Samuel’s inquiry, and discerned incorrectly that the child was being a nuance waking him up at night. Then Eli discerned rightly that Samuel was hearing the voice of God. Eli urged Samuel to respond to God’s voice, and soon Samuel found himself in a dialogue with God.
Henry & Richard Blackaby wrote the seven realities of experiencing God. God is at work. God desires a relationship. God invites us into a relationship. God speaks to us, and a crisis of belief ensues. We must adjust to obey and experience God. “Experiencing God” begins with a willingness to be in relationship with the unseen God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God invites us to participate in that relationship, and an ongoing fellowship between God and us begins. God invites us to respond to his call, which creates a crisis event in our lives that engages us in adjusting our lives to become holy. As we continue to listen and obey our lives align in harmony with the will of God. These seven realities repeat themselves throughout our spiritual development, which continues until death. We never reach spiritual maturity until heaven. The best way you and I can help each other discern the voice of God is to practice! We have to hear clearly, and discern properly what God is speaking. When we hear God correctly, then we can help others discern the voice of God. As we leave this place of personal discovery let us recall the last time we heard God speaking to us.
Where has God been working in your life? How did God speak to you? What has God asked of you? Let us respond to God just like Samuel, “Speak, your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3.10 CEB).