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.’ (Luke 18:15-17)
- Back in those days, people didn’t have a particularly romantic view of children as sweet and cute. They probably wouldn’t have been cooing over the kids, but rather, somewhat irritated. Thus, Jesus’s remark about “As a little child” would have been somewhat insulting. That is why the disciples “sternly order” the people not to bring the babies. As usual, the disciples miss the point… but isn’t the disciples’ attitude common to ourselves as well? “I don’t want to bother God with something that is beneath his notice.”
- What do we think about the attitude of the parents bringing the babies? Did they have the right idea? Or were they actually as clueless as the disciples?
- Is there anything we can learn from our children about how to approach God? * N.T. Wright: “Little children, trusting, adventurous, eager, ready to be drawn into stories and dramas, are just the sort of people the kingdom is for.”
* Leon Morris: “Children show us the way in their utter dependence, their unworldliness, their openness, the completeness of their trust.”
* Joel Green: “Their attitudes of trust, simplicity, inability to put forward their own achievements, and dependence, all characterize true disciples.”
It’s easy to enjoy our children… but are we supposed to be like them?
- How do we understand the last sentence of this passage — especially the underlined part? Saying “receive the kingdom of God as a little child” seems like a simple thing to say, but is actually quite profound:
2a. “Receive” highlights that this “kingdom of God” is a gift — you can’t earn it.
2b. “the Kingdom of God” is something that can be received. How can we “receive” the kingdom? What does that actually mean?
2c. “as a little child” shows utter humility. There’s no way a child can “earn” the kingdom of God.
- It is a check on our ego, our self-esteem — to be sure that we neither have too little nor too much.
3a. Knowing that we have to receive the kingdom “as a child” keeps us from being too proud, but
3b. Knowing that we are going to receive the Kingdom of God keeps us from being too down on ourselves. If God wants to give us his kingdom, how can we beat ourselves up?
References (by date)
- J. Duncan M. Derrett, “Why Jesus Blessed the Children (Mk 10:13-16 par.)” Novum Testamentum 25:1 (January 1983).
- Larry L. Eubanks, “Mark 10:13-16.” Review and Expositor 91 (1994).
- James L. Bailey, “Experiencing the Kingdom as a Little Child: A Rereading of Mark 10:13-16,” Word and World 15:1 (1995).
- Marcia J. Bunge, The Child in Christian Thought (Eerdmans, 2001).
- Joyce Ann Mercer, Welcoming Children: A Practical Theology of Childhood (Chalice Press, 2005).
- James Murphy, Kids and Kingdom: The Precarious Presence of Children in the Synoptic Gospels (Wipf and Stock, 2013).
- Peter Balla, The Child-Parent Relationship in the New Testament and Its Environment (Wipf and Stock, 2015).