Scripture: Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away.
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Observation: Recapping Friday’s Daily Focus (click here to read), Jesus and his disciples leave Galilee for the final leg of his ministry through Judea. And the Pharisees track him to garner more evidence to convict him as a lawbreaker. Thus, they ask a two-part question regarding the grounds for divorce and why Moses issued a writ of divorce. But Jesus sees through their scheme and responds as one who has authority over Scripture, stating Moses appeased Israel’s hard hearts (including this generation), but God hates divorce. Thus, if any divorce their wife, other than for sexual immorality, and remarry, they commit adultery. Jesus’ response unnerves his disciples, who exclaim that with this high standard, one is better off remaining single. Acknowledging their concern, Jesus explains that celibacy is a gift, and those who embrace contentment in singleness will effectively serve his kingdom in ways that a married person cannot.
So having addressed marriage relationships, Jesus turns his attention to children—thanks to the disciples rebuking the parents in the crowd for letting their children distract Jesus from more vital ministry needs. So Jesus graciously cautions his disciples not to hinder children from seeking him, for they belong to the kingdom of heaven. And to emphasize his point, Jesus welcomely and tenderly lays his hands on this gathering of children.
Takeaway: As mentioned in previous Daily Focus devotions, children, while deeply cherished in Israel, nevertheless were valued as negligible members of society. Similarly, during the Victorian era, children were to be seen, not heard. But the disciples’ reaction still reveals proud hearts as they act like Jesus’ appointed bodyguards. Still, Jesus is not stating that children automatically get a pass into heaven. Otherwise, heaven’s doors are open to everyone since we all started as children.
It’s subtle, but Jesus uses the children metaphorically for the necessary disposition to enter God’s kingdom. As theologian David Wilkins rightly observes, “We can learn much by valuing the contributions of children and seeing their spiritual growth and development not only in terms of their future development but also in what they can also contribute now. Often, children endorse attitudes and insights that we lose as we grow in discipleship” (NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, p.647).
Undoubtedly, as most of us experience seasons of spiritual apathy, our children can remind us of the joy of an uncomplicated faith in Christ. The heartaches and disappointments of adult life have not yet jaded them, so they believe at face value without demanding answers to life’s disappointments. Hence, Jesus speaks to those with spiritual ears to consider whether they have childlike faith. The disciples soon will be stripped of any remnant of self-sufficiency and pride when their superstar rabbi hangs from his cross. But with the infilling of the Holy Spirit, they will soon develop a love for and reliance on their Lord that will inspire them to face peril with childlike faith to care for children and adults who are marginalized and vulnerable.
Our Takeaway? The same applies to us. If we want to foster a childlike (not childish) faith, we need to rely on the lead of the Holy Spirit, who speaks to our minds, convicts and renews our hearts, and then guides us toward others who are hurting. And don’t be surprised if he uses our children’s unguarded words to get us back on track, for “Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger” (Psalm 8:2 ESV). Indeed, our babes’ unadulterated words and actions expose and silence the enemies of our weary souls that jade our faith.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son who exhibited tenderness, not only to children but to hurting and vulnerable adults. And we thank you that he wholeheartedly trusted and relied on you and rose above the temptation of self-preservation to die for us. So would you please help us follow the Holy Spirit’s lead to follow your Son with childlike faith? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling