13 People were bringing children to Jesus so that he would bless them. But the disciples scolded them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he grew angry and said to them, “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children. 15 I assure you that whoever doesn’t welcome God’s kingdom like a child will never enter it.” 16 Then he hugged the children and blessed them.
Clearly, Jesus loved children, and children loved him. That was unusual in his time—most rabbis had no interest in speaking to children. Jesus’ disciples were more typical, saying, in effect, take these children away; the Master has important things to do. “The disciples rebuked the parents. Jesus rebuked the disciples.”* Mark added the lovely eyewitness detail that Jesus “hugged the children and blessed them.”
Lord Jesus, please keep me from ever growing too old inside to join the joyous, trusting circle of children you welcomed. Keep my heart fresh, flexible and smiling as I follow you. Amen.
* John Ortberg, Who Is This Man? The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012, p. 29.
** From Eugene H. Peterson, The Message. NavPress, 1993-2002.
Jesus made it very clear that he cared for children. He not only forbade the disciples from sending the children away, but hugged the children and blessed them. This passage of Scripture has always been a bit hard for me to wrap my head around. I love the image of Jesus welcoming the kids and hugging them, but for that piece to be really impactful I have to also acknowledge that this was not the typical behavior of faith leaders at the time. For the few children Jesus welcomed and blessed, there were many more who other religious leaders turned away.
I have had the privilege to serve on staff in our KidsCOR area for almost 20 years. My own children have been “raised Resurrection.” Kate was three years old when we joined the church and Ryan was born after we were members. They have never experienced a situation where adults didn’t welcome them to explore their faith, get to know where they fit in God’s big plan or feel that Jesus wanted to be their best friend.
From the time Kate and Ryan were in the nursery until they were out of school, on youth music mission trips, through youth handbells and orchestra, and as youth leaders in PreK Sunday school classes, they were blessed with amazing adults who helped shape their faith. The experiences that were available to my kids were due to the time, love, and commitment of many adults who were willing to show what the love of Christ looks like.
All of those adults who had a role in helping my kids learn to know, love, and serve Jesus were as different as they could be, but the one thing they had in common was a genuine love for children and a desire to develop the faith of a child. We will never forget those people who stepped up, prayed for, taught, led, encouraged, and hugged our children. Kate and Ryan may not actually have been hugged by Jesus, but they have experienced the next best thing – the love of His modern disciples welcoming them. And because of those people, my entire family has been richly blessed.
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