One day some parents brought their little children to Jesus so He could touch and bless them. But when the disciples saw this, they scolded the parents for bothering Him.
Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples,"Let the children come to Me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.
I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn't receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it." (Luke 18:15-17)
Was this a formal ritual or was it just a spontaneous moment of Jesus wanting to bless the children? Many see it as the grounds for having Child dedications, blessing ceremonies and or child baptismal services – all aimed at ritualistic blessing. But I don't think that is what happened here at all. We don't know where it happened. Opinion is divided as to whether it happened "on the way" or whether it happened in a house somewhere. There is no hint in the text of any context to this event. Those who think it was in house suggest that the house was likely to be in Perea as the team were going south to Jerusalem. They assume this by virtue of verses like Luke 9:51, 13:22 and 17:11. But the truth is we really don't know. I wonder whether Luke is actually tagging it to what went before it for a reason. But I can't pass a final judgement on it because we frankly just don't know.
Secondly who is it Jesus is actually blessing? Oh we know it's children, that much is clear. But children of what age? Many who like to turn this into a ritual want to know the parameters for establishing the practice. What was the age of the children Jesus was blessing? Can children over 5 can blessed? What about children over one year old? Or can children can blessed after only 8 days like circumcision? Oh how we love to come up with the rules and regulations that control when blessing should take place and for who. I don't think Jesus much cared about that stuff. So often we love to ritualize things. Jesus just got on with the process of blessing. Chill out and be a blessing. Look at Gem 919 where I discussed Peter's tendency to want to institutionalize the moment. That is so like us humans.
So how old were these children? Well the interesting thing is that this passage contains two words for child or children. The first word is [brephos] (verse 15) which refers to children who still need to be carried. The King James translates it as "infants", other translations use the term "babies". The second word is [paidion] used in verses 16 and 17. This is a diminutive of [pais] which is a more general term for children of any age really. It was used of the 8 day old John the Baptist and the forty day old Jesus, but it is also used of children of varying ages. It is hard to make it age specific but most would say it generally refers to children who were old enough to walk. This fact is evidenced by the text before us where Jesus says to those "carrying the child" (assumedly) to "Let the children come to Him). This infers the child will make its own way to Jesus. So, in essence, "put the child down and let him or her come to Me."
There are other aspects I could comment on but I will move on to why the disciples rebuked the parents or the child minders. Of course there is nothing in the text that gives us a clue. Sometimes we just have to put ourselves in the situation and consider for ourselves why they would do such a thing. The word used is [epitimao] which has a range of meanings including scold, reprimand, rebuke, stop, check or block some one from doing something. Tell them not to do that. The same word was used in Luke 17:3 and there translated "rebuke". It is most likely that they thought either Jesus was too busy to be bothered by children when He had far more important adult things to do. Or that He was just too tired to be bothered by people bringing their children to Him. That children were too insignificant to be brought to Him, hence this was just a waste of time. Remember children in those days and cultural setting were not high on the priority list. The disciples don't appear to have an agenda behind their response, rather it seems they were protecting the Master. Notice it was all of the disciples who adopted the role of blockers to these "pesky children" and not just one of them. This appears to have been a group decision or at least a response initiated by one of them and then backed up by the others. Notice too they didn’t rebuke the children themselves, they rebuked the parents who were behind the initiative.
Jesus response is interesting. He calls to the children first. Then He calls to parents or child minders saying, Let them come. Finally He addresses the disciples with a dual command: one positive and one negative. Let them come! Don't stop them! This adds emphasis to the counter of their rebuke to the parents. To this Jesus adds His reason for saying what He said. "For the Kingdom of God belongs to the likes of these." He doesn’t say the Kingdom of God belongs to the children. That would infer that we are sowing into the future generation. No, He says the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. Now what does that mean? What is it about children that makes them eligible for the Kingdom of God? This has brought forth many opinions. As I have said before, we have to find the point of comparison that is in focus here. Here are some of the suggestions:
1) It is the receptivity of children.
2) It is the humility of children.
3) It is the dependence of the child on the adults in it's life.
4) Is the excitement and willingness of a child to receive any gift given.
5) Is the child's faith and unquestioning trust of the adults in it's life.
You take your pick as to which of these natural characteristics of a child are in focus here. I know what I think. Time for you to ponder the question.
Some think that all children are automatically in the Kingdom of God. But notice that Jesus says the children still have to come to Him. Just like we adults have to come to Him. When we come in simple trust that His gift is genuine and all we need to do is receive it then we may enter. But if one can't come to Him on any one of those bases list above then we can't enter. Whether you are a child or an adult, you must come and receive Him as God's gift without thinking that somehow you are good enough and deserve it.
Does this passage connect with what went before it or not? Well you look at the link between the passages. It could easily link back to the issue of faith and righteousness. We gain God's gift of His righteousness when we can receive it with unquestioning trust and humility like a child. A child is totally dependent on its parent to provide for it. That is how we have to be with God when it comes to the righteousnessof Godand righteousnesswith God. We need to willingly and humbly accept His salvation and admit we can't do it ourselves. But some adults have a problem with that because they have to prove that they are independent. Oh dear. Wrong move. That is the very thing that sabotages God's free gift. Don’t make it complicated. Just come with the attitude of a child and admit your need for God's way of us being made right with Him. It's as simple as that.
He who teaches children learns more than they do. German Proverb
The end of childhood is when things cease to astonish us. When the world seems familiar, when one has got used to existence, one has become an adult. Eugene Ionesco
There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One is roots and the other is wings. Hodding Carter
Children are the hands by which we take hold of heaven. Henry Ward Beecher
The reluctance to put away childish things may be a requirement of genius.
The reluctance to become childlike may be the very thing that keeps us from the Kingdom of God. Ian