People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. But Jesus called for them and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’
Children, 2000 years ago, had virtually no rights. Their father literally had the power of life or death over them. Even knowing this, the disciples don’t come out of this story in a good light, but, I suspect they were simply trying to protect Jesus who had set his sight on Jerusalem and his supreme sacrifice. I can still remember my mum telling me to give my dad some peace when he had come home from work tired and hungry. But Jesus was not looking after his own wellbeing. He recognised how important it was to bless these children, not just for their sakes but also for their mothers who wanted their children to be blessed by a distinguished rabbi.
So good so far. But then Jesus delivers the bombshell: ‘you need to be like a child to enter God’s kingdom’. You can just hear the crowd say, ‘but do I really have to put aside my freedom, wisdom and education?’ However, I don’t think that Jesus was highlighting children for what they don’t have, but for what they do have. I can think of four qualities children and child-like people have: A deep sense of wonder and an excitement for life. An intrinsic trust in the adults around them. A natural obedience … at least until they are two years old! An amazing ability to forgive and to love.
With qualities like that you can see why the gates to God’s kingdom would open wide for you. So, as you approach the time of year when we mark Christ’s death and resurrection, why not build up your child-like qualities and live as a child of God.
Parent God, I thank you for this vivid demonstration of how important even the ‘lowly’ children were to you, and by inference, how important each one of us is to you. The enormity of your love defies our comprehension, but we can still have a sense of wonderment and excitement about life lived with you. Help us to trust, love, and forgive as a true child of God in obedience to your holy word. Amen
Alan Yates, Education & Learning Committee Convenor, elder at Trinity URC, High Wycombe