Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.
What were the disciples thinking?
It was only shortly before this that Jesus had called a little child to his side, placed him in front of his gathered disciples, and said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).
I would have thought that moment was entirely memorable. I would have thought they’d remember.
But somehow they’d missed the clue that little children were valuable to Jesus. Children didn’t count for anything in the culture of that day, being considered on par with servants, but Jesus valued them. Indeed, knowing they had no status in their own right, Jesus used them as a perfect model for entering the kingdom. Why? Because we ourselves can only get into the kingdom if we realize we can’t earn it on our own. We can only receive it as a gift. Just like a child.
So, the disciples should have known that these children, brought by their parents, would be fully accepted by Jesus. Just like anyone entering the kingdom. But instead, the disciples were offended by their presence. They rebuked the parents for bringing them. Can’t you just hear them bawling, “What do you think you’re doing, bothering the Master with these little ones?! Take them away! They don’t belong! They have no rights here! They shouldn’t be hanging around!”
So, Jesus makes his same point again. “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Let’s broaden the issue out. If Jesus, back then, was willing to accept those who were considered least and last, don’t you think he would accept the same today? And while we’re considering, if the disciples themselves were supposed to become “like little children” in order to enter the kingdom, don’t you suppose Jesus considered the disciples and the children on equal footing? And don’t you suppose, with that being the case, that he would have expected the disciples to freely associate with the children, just as he did, especially considering they all had the same status in the kingdom?
Which then makes us think about the least and the last today. Whoever we might include in that category, we find that in Jesus’ eyes we ourselves are on exactly the same footing. How is it then, that we make distinctions, treating some with respect and others not? How can we succumb to racial bias when the Lord sees us all the same? How can we let social status influence the value we place on people when our Lord Jesus loves each and every one equally?
How can we turn anyone aside, when we know that Jesus embraces the little ones?
Lord Jesus, thank you that you fully accept me, warts and all, with my failings and imperfections. Thank you that your heart accepts each and every one. Please forgive me when my own biases get in the way of treating people fully as you would. Fill my heart afresh with your love for all these little ones, knowing that I myself am included.
Reflect: Is there any person, or group of persons, you are tempted to turn away from, wishing they didn’t intrude? Honestly speak with the Lord about it. Ask for his heart. Ask for his direction.
Photo by samer daboul: https://www.pexels.com/.../girl-and-three-boys-on.../