The Kingdom of God Part 6: Come as a Child
My kids are grown now. Both have moved out of the house and are living lives that are independent of their parents. I am exceedingly proud of my kids and what they have accomplished in their lives. But in that pride is a bit of sorrow. I miss picking up my daughter and her beeping my nose, saying, with a laugh, “Boopies, I got you first!” I miss having deep conversations with my then four-year-old son. “Daddy, what ‘cuz the world to go in circles around the sun?” Yes, they had their times of disobedience, and they needed to be corrected from time to time. However, those memories have faded into the past. Mostly what remains are memories of happy, joyous times with my children.
I think about those days when I read the accounts of Jesus with children. There are not many passages, but they are profound. First, let’s start with John 10:
People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive, the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” After taking them in his arms, he laid his hands on them and blessed them. Mk 10:13–16 CSB.
The first-century Jewish concept of children is, in many ways, quite different than how we moderns view children. In other ways, they are quite similar. To start, people were bringing their children to Jesus for a blessing. Their love for their children compelled them to bring these little ones forward. To touch the Rabbi and receive blessings was a special honor. What is different in that culture was the thought of children as lowly, a strain on the family, and not of much value until they were older and could contribute to the family. You see this in the disciple’s reaction to the parents.
What is fascinating is how Jesus completely embraced the children. He had just gotten through instructing the twelve that they welcome “one little child such as this in my name welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me does not welcome me, but him who sent me.” Mk 9:37 (CSB). Apparently, they didn’t get the message. In God’s Kingdom economy of power, the lowest is the highest, and the highest is the lowest. Jesus allowed the children to come into His lap and receive a blessing was probably just as scandalous as entering a taxpayer’s house, sitting with a Samaritan woman, or touching the infirmed.
When we come to faith in Jesus, we come to the Father as little children. Jesus has made the way so that we can enter the Father’s Kingdom and have a relationship. This way is why Jesus declares, “whoever does not receive, the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Matthew 18 expands on Mark’s account from chapter 9 and 10:
At that time, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “So who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a small child and had him stand among them. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “unless you turn and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child—this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one child like this in my name welcomes me. Mt 18:1–5 CSB.
Again, Jesus is using children as an object lesson for describing the economy of God’s Kingdom. First, notice how the disciples ask about who is the greatest in the Kingdom. They view Jesus’ Kingdom as an Earthly kingdom – think Rome where Jesus is the emperor. In that kind of a Kingdom, it is essential that you snuggle up and sycophantically adhere to the leader. For you and your family to be wealthy and happy in that kingdom, the closer to are to the supreme power – the emperor – the better off you are.
Not so in the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ Kingdom is built upon servanthood and self-sacrifice. By taking a child into His arms, Jesus is demonstrating our need to be utterly dependent on the Father and to come to Him with humility. The less powerful you are in the Kingdom of God, the more powerful you become.
In applying these concepts, not only am I reminded of my children, but I am also reminded of these as I go about my business and my day. Am I a servant to others? Do I love my wife as Christ loves the church? How am I treating the checkout person at the grocery store – are they just another object in my day, or are they people with feelings and histories? Even when another person annoys me – are there are plenty of those people (which is more of a reflection on me than them) – do I treat them in a way that attempts to make me superior over them? If so, then my superiority is worthless in God’s power economy. Only when I see myself as a servant to others too, I gain stature in the Kingdom. When I am a child before the Father – helpless and dependent on Him – then I can honestly know His love and have power within His Kingdom.