People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; 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.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
We tend, and the popular culture even more so, to think of this as a cute story, that Jesus loved little kids and so wanted to give them all hugs. I’ve tried to dispel that a bit by noting that Jesus was probably creating more of a scene than we might imagine by scooping up these cast-offs, these diseased and sick children, into his healing embrace.
In case anyone watching – then or now – might have missed that, Jesus then takes it a step further; indeed, he ups the ante considerably by saying that it is “to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.”
Consider that, for a moment. God’s kingdom belongs to the weak, to the ill, to the cast off, to the most vulnerable. If this is true, it is like no other kingdom we’ve ever heard of. Kingdoms, after all, are built through power. From the Roman Empire to the American, it’s muscles and brains and hard work and vibrant industries and growing economies and strong militaries that build kingdoms. But Jesus says God’s kingdom belongs not to the strong but to the weak, not to the powerful but to the powerless. Truly, this is a different kind of kingdom.
Not only that, but Jesus also says that only those who receive the Kingdom of God like these children will enter it. That is, when we look to our strengths or power or possessions to secure our future and good, we will be disappointed. Only those aware of their brokenness and need, after all, can receive help.
And when you recognize the import – indeed, the scandal – of what Jesus is saying, you realize that this encounter with these children is another foreshadowing of the cross, where the righteousness of God will come wrapped in vulnerability and the power of God will be revealed in weakness. Those who are confident of the kingdoms of the world will look upon this spectacle as foolishness. But those who are broken, hurting, alone or ill will look and see God there, in this broken figure, eager to gather them into God’s healing arms and embrace them in redemptive love.
Prayer: Dear God, gives us the eyes of faith to see in brokenness your presence and summons, that we might be met by you in our need and meet you in the need of our neighbor. In Jesus’ name, Amen.