One significant contrast between the first century and 2021 is the way we value children.
We seldom scroll through Facebook without seeing many pictures of children, cats, and dogs.
In contrast, children in the first century were at the very bottom of the social order. They had no value until they were able to enter the workforce.
With that in mind, let’s examine a time when people brought children to Jesus.
Jesus Welcomes Children
–– Luke 18.15-17 – 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.”
The Gospels portray the disciples, who are the heroes of the faith, in a very honest light. This is quite contrary to the way other ancient writers described their heroes.
The disciples learned from Jesus every day. They were first-hand witnesses to his attitudes and actions. Still, they needed to give up cultural influences in favor of what Jesus taught.
This fact is hopeful. If Jesus had to confront the attitudes and behavior of these great men and women of God, we are in good company when he challenges us, too.
The Disciples and Children
The disciples accepted a cultural pattern that was in existence in the first century. They failed to understand the impact of Jesus’ acceptance of the outsider that was so prominent in the way he welcomed tax collectors, “sinful” women, lepers, and the like.
It is possible that they knew there was a rich young ruler waiting to see Jesus (Luke 18.18-25), and saw the children as a nuisance and an inconvenience.
The Pharisee in the earlier parable (Luke 18.9-14) held others in contempt. The disciples viewed the children the same way, as nobodies, zeroes, and without value.
Luke consistently emphasized Jesus’ willingness to include the outsider. He valued children, contrary to the opinion of society.
Jesus 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” (Luke 18.16).
The kingdom of God belongs to little children, not because they are humble, trusting, or have other inherent qualities.
Instead, like the Parables of the Widow and the Unjust Judge (Luke 18.1-8) and the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18.9-14), they are dependent on the grace and mercy of God that can help their plight.
Cultural views toward children in the United States have dramatically changed from the first century. Unfortunately, in many parts of the world, child exploitation continues at an alarming rate.
I expect the readers of my blog will identify with a recent experience I had with our grandson, Grayson.
I have been sleeping in a chair because of hip troubles for two years. Grayson and Grant were spending the night with us and Grayson woke me up about 3:00 AM.
When he came to me, I pulled him into my arms and he slept on my chest until about 7:00. Before I dozed off, I took the blessed opportunity to rub his back and ask Jesus to bless him. What a privilege!
The good news is that every parent or grandparent can confidently place their loved ones in Jesus’ arms through prayer. Jesus will receive them and declare, “For it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (Luke 18.16).
Welcoming the Kingdom
In his commentary on Luke, Joel Green paraphrases verse 17, “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as one receives a little child will never enter it.”
Jesus received many people who were held in contempt and seen as “zeroes” by their society.
— Luke 7.36-50 – Jesus welcomed the devotion of a sinful woman at a dinner party hosted by Simon the Pharisee.
— Luke 8.2 – “Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,” joined his band of disciples.
— Luke 8.26-39 – A demonized man from the region of the Gerasenes was freed from demonic forces to become one of Jesus’ followers.
— Luke 13.10-17 – Jesus healed a woman who had been crippled for 18 years over the opposition of religious leaders.
— Luke 17.11-19 – Jesus healed 10 lepers, including one who was a Samaritan.
Jesus’ disciples failed on several occasions to appreciate the grace and generosity of the kingdom of God.
Jesus used parables to emphasize the importance of welcoming the outsider and “zeroes” of life.
The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16.19-31) is one of the parables Jesus used to convince disciples to break free from the prevailing culture and to adopt kingdom values.
Jesus’ actions, which are referenced above, should have opened their eyes to the worth God assigned to people on the margins of life.
We show that we are part of God’s kingdom by the way we embrace the attitudes and behavior of the kingdom.
Jesus’ actions toward children are both a blessing and a challenge. If we are going to live a Jesus-kind-of-life, we need to adopt his attitudes and actions toward those on the margins of life.
Rudy Ross and I have a short YouTube video on this passage. Rudy has some insights that you will appreciate.
The video is on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.
Please email your prayer request to email@example.com or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.