Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked 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.
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.
There aren’t many times in the bible where Jesus’ anger is directly recorded, if is often implied through His actions or words (such as Matthew 21:12-13). In a few verses, we actually see Jesus’ emotions being recorded, such as in Mark 3:5 and Mark 10:13-16. Here many translations (NIV, NET, ESV, Strong’s) use the word “indignant” to express Jesus’ emotion, others use “greatly displeased” (NKJV) or “angry”. It is obvious that Jesus was really angry.
His disciples weren’t rebuking Jesus, they weren’t even rebuking the children themselves, they were rebuking the people who brought the children. But Jesus took the rebuke personally, it was unjust, insulting and offensive to Him. Matthew 18:4-5 tells us how Jesus views children “Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” The disciples weren’t just rebuking the parents, they were offending “the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”. They were offending Jesus, who sees everyone’s significance from the kingdom perspective – no matter the size or age.
Jesus used a simple illustration to show how His kingdom works. In His kingdom, it isn’t the richest, most intelligent, best groomed, most handworking that gets to enter. Membership is based on receiving the kingdom of God like a child. A child has little merit, he/she cannot do anything for Jesus. But a child understands that Jesus can do something for them. A child readily trusts and receives. We have to teach our children not to take lollies from strangers because if they are not taught, their natural inclination is to trust and receive. When it comes to the kingdom of God, we are told to be like children, have nothing to give but only to trust and receive.
This is what God does for everyone who receives His kingdom like a child – “he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” What a picture of fatherhood and love! That is what He does for us who receive His kingdom with simple faith – “the kingdom of God belongs to such as these”. In many ways, adults have much to learn from children.
Sometimes I struggle to look beyond what I see with my eyes. I fail to see the significance of those who have nothing to give. I fail to see the kingdom with trusting and depending eyes. We need to unlearn what we have learnt through worldly cynicism. I must see those who are seemingly insignificant as the most important. I must come to Jesus with nothing and expect to receive the kingdom.
Father, make me like you. Give me a heart that beats for the insignificant, poor, lowly and small. Give me a heart that treats their justice personally. Help me to see with your eyes, through your kingdom’s perspective. I come to you having nothing – nothing I can offer, nothing I can give. I place all my trust in you and ask that you would receive me. Grant me a simple faith, like that of a child, that willingly trust you, obeys you and depends on you.