JESUS’ WELCOME FOR THE CHILDREN
Children were brought to him, that he might lay his hands on them, and pray for them. The disciples spoke sternly to them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as they are.” And after he had laid his hands on them, he went away from there.
It may well be said that here we have the loveliest incident in the gospel story. The characters all stand out clear and plain, although it only takes two verses to tell it.
(i) There are those who brought the children. No doubt these would be their mothers.
No wonder they wished Jesus to lay his hands on them. They had seen what these hands could do; had seen them touch disease and pain away; had seen them bring sight to the blind eyes, and peace to the distracted mind; and they wanted hands like that to touch their children. There are few stories which show so clearly the sheer loveliness of the life of Jesus. Those who brought the children would not know who Jesus was; they would be well aware that Jesus was anything but popular with the Scribes and the Pharisees, and the Priests and the Sadducees and the leaders of orthodox religion; but there was a loveliness on him.
Premanand tells of a thing his mother once said to him. When Premanand became a Christian his family cast him off, and the doors were shut against him; but sometimes he used to slip back to see his mother. She was broken-hearted that he had become a Christian, but she did not cease to love him. She told him that when she was carrying him in her womb a missionary gave her a copy of one of the gospels. She read it; she still had it. She told her son that she had no desire to become a Christian, but that sometimes, in those days before he was born, she used to long that he might grow up to be a man like this Jesus.
There is a loveliness on Jesus Christ that anyone can see. It is easy to think of these mothers in Palestine feeling that the touch of a man like that on their children’s heads would bring a blessing, even if they did not understand why.
(ii) There are the disciples. The disciples sound as if they were rough and stern; but, if they were, it was love that made them so. Their one desire was to protect Jesus.
They saw how tired he was; they saw what healing cost him. He was talking to them so often about a cross, and they must have seen on his face the tension of his heart and soul. All that they wanted was to see that Jesus was not bothered. They could only think that at such a time as this the children were a nuisance to the Master. We must not think of them as hard; we must not condemn them; they wished only to save Jesus from another of those insistent demands which were always laying their claims upon his strength.
(iii) There is Jesus himself. This story tells us much about him.
He was the kind of person children loved. George Macdonald used to say that no man could be a follower of Jesus if the children were afraid to play at his door. Jesus was certainly no grim ascetic, if the children loved him.
Further, to Jesus no one was unimportant. Some might say, “It’s only a child; don’t let him bother you.” Jesus would never say that. No one was ever a nuisance to Jesus. He was never too tired, never too busy to give all of himself to anyone who needed it. There is a strange difference between Jesus and many a famous preacher or evangelist. It is often next door to impossible to get into the presence of one of these famous ones. They have a kind of retinue and bodyguard which keep the public away lest the great man be wearied and bothered. Jesus was the opposite of that. The way to his presence was open to the humblest person and to the youngest child.
(iv) There are the children. Jesus said of them that they were nearer God than anyone else there. The child’s simplicity is, indeed, closer to God than anything else. It is life’s tragedy that, as we grow older, we so often grow further from God rather than nearer to him.
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