Recently, Ray Miller (the pulpit minister I work with) lost a 2 month old grandbaby after his short struggle with life. As a result, Ray prepared and preached a sermon entitled “When a Baby Dies” which you can listen to here (May 17, 2009, AM service). One of the passages he brought up during his sermon was a parallel passage to Luke 18.15-17. I do believe that this (and the parallel passages) offer a lot of comfort on the subject of children and their relationship with God and Christ.
The Children Rebuked by the Disciples
We are not told who exactly was bringing the children to Jesus. “Them” is very vague but probably refers to the parents of these children, not only mothers of the “infants” but also fathers (the Greek word is masculine). It is interesting to note that these parents are bringing “even infants” to Jesus. Not only are there “children” (Matt. 19.13; Mark 10.13), but little babies are brought to Jesus. The intention of the parents is to have Jesus touch them. Matthew gets specific and says that Jesus would lay his hands on the children and pray (Matt 19.13). So here is our invoking blessing on these little children and even babies.
But all is not well in this scene. Jesus’s disciples, the Twelve as it were, see what is going on and start running families off. We are not told why they responded the way they did. Some have speculated that perhaps they though Jesus was too busy for the children. Others say they may have thought Jesus was too tired to be bothered now. Leon Morris in his commentary on Luke writes, “…it is a fact that few of the world’s greatest religious teachers have been greatly concerned with children.” Perhaps the disciples thought he didn’t like children. Who knows? The fact is that the disciples did not have the mind of Christ in this instance.
The Children Received by Christ
Mark tells us that Jesus was “indignant” because of the disciples (Mark 10.14). What the disciples were doing upset Jesus. Instead, he called these little children over and invited the small babes into his arms to do what the parents requested: he invokes a blessing upon them. He says, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them.” Don’t allow anything to get in these children’s way; not any person or any thing. Why? “For to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Here is the blessing of the innocence of childhood: you belong to the kingdom. Children are sinless and innocent and therefore are members of the kingdom of God. That is, Jesus and God have unique fellowship with children and babies.
Again, what comfort to know that any child, any baby who is prematurely taken from this life is welcome by God and Christ into eternal life. Many do not believe this. Those who believe in “original sin” (that man is born with the sin of Adam) do not, nay, cannot believe this. Unfortunately, their doctrine does not line up with Christ’s doctrine. He says these little ones, children, babies, are members already of the kingdom. Like David, we can remark that though the child cannot come to us, we can go to them (2 Samuel 12.23).
Finally, Jesus tells us how we, like the children, can enter the kingdom of God. “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Commentators say that has to do with humility and trust. Children are small and know it; they know their proper place in this great big world. Also, children are very trusting, totally dependent upon others for food, clothing, house, etc. I think these are accurate descriptions of anyone who would seek the kingdom, find it, and recieve it. We cannot be haughty nor can we be distrusting of God. If we are to have any part of the kingdom, we must have those same attributes a child has.