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TEXT: Luke 18:15-17
SUBJECT: Luke #68: Christ and the Little Ones
Today's story is one of the Bible's best known and most charming. If you've read the Gospels at all, you know it well. If you haven't, you've still got a pretty good idea of what it's about.
Unless you're a senator!
A few weeks ago, one of our senators attacked the President's domestic policy by saying it was "suffering the little children". As though suffer means to inflict pain on someone. In fact, it means to permit or to allow. The suffering in the story, therefore, is not about blood and guts, sweat and tears, screams and sighs, but about the Lord's love for children-of all ages!
The story begins with parents bringing their little ones to Jesus Christ. Mark uses the generic word, children, but Luke puts a finer point on it: he says they are infants. Thus, they haven't come for a glowing Gospel sermon or a stern lecture on obeying their parents!
What they've come for is a blessing. The moms and dads want the Lord to touch their babies. Over the years, they have seen what His hands can do: they can cast out demons and heal the sick, even raising the dead is not beyond their power. And they want Him to lay His hands on their children and to offer a prayer on their behalf.
Some might call them superstitious-but I'm not one of them. God often uses ordinary men to convey His grace. Nearing death, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob rose up to bless their sons. After the daily sacrifices, the priest would come out of the Holy Place and pronounce a blessing on the people. The holy tradition is still with us: pastors all over the world dismiss their churches with a blessing, often this one:
"The grace of the Lord Jesus,
the love of God, and the
fellowship of the Holy Spirit
be with you all. Amen".
If fathers and priests and pastors can communicate a blessing from God, why can't the Lord the Lord Jesus Christ? The parents were right: it was a great privilege to have Him hold their children, to pray for them, and to pronounce a blessing!
What does the story say about the Lord Jesus? It says He is a remarkably open Man, generous with His time, a Man who doesn't give you the feeling that you're imposing on Him!
The parents knew He was busy and doing all manner of great things like healing the sick, raising the dead, and preaching to thousands. Yet they felt He was not too busy for them-that little things mattered to Him-including children.
Kids: Jesus Christ has not changed; He's the same yesterday, today, and forever. This means He cares about you: other adults may not. Many grownups don't take kids seriously at all: they don't think kid problems are real problems; they think kid fears are not real fears. But you know they are real: and so does the Lord Jesus Christ!
I Peter 5:7 was not written to adults only: The Lord is speaking to kids, no less than their parents:
"Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you".
Christ is not for grownups: He's for everybody! Salvation is not for people over thirty: it's for people of every age: 30, 99, 6, 2: no one is left out!
Jesus Christ is not too busy for kids!
His best friends thought He was. When the disciples saw the army of kids advancing on them, they didn't like it. Maybe the babies were innocent, but the parents were not: they should know better; they ought to know that Jesus Christ has better things to do with His time than to fool with kids.
If the babies were dying-okay-bring them in. But they were perfectly well and butting in on the Lord's private time was rude and thoughtless. The disciples told them so!
It is not a pretty picture, is it? Of all the graceless and tacky things the Apostles ever did, this has got to be the worst!
The parents were disappointed and the babies were scared: loud and ugly voices do that to people.
But the disciples did not have the last word! As the moms and dads turned away in embarrassment, they heard another voice-a voice far different than the ones that bawled them out.
It is the Lord speaking and what He says makes them laugh for joy!
"Let the little children come to me and do not forbid them."
Maybe Peter, James, and John are too busy or too tired or too important to spend time with the kids, but Jesus Christ is not! He is happy to see them and eager to give them a blessing.
He's ready for them right now and He wants no one to get in their way-not even His well-meaning friends.
This is good news for children: If you come to Jesus Christ, He will be glad to see you. The kids in the story came to Him physically-you can't do that. But you can come to Him in faith, believing in Him and trusting Him to save you. When you do, He won't bring up the past. Your parents might do that, but Jesus won't! He will take you right now and as you are: even if you've been really, really bad.
Some adults are very demanding, suspicious, and hard-to-please. But one Adult isn't that way at all-the Lord Jesus Christ. If babies were wise enough to come to Christ, why aren't you?
This is also good news for worried parents. I wonder if I should use the words, worried parents, together? It's like saying tall giants or wet rain! All parents are worried parents. We all know why: the world is a scary place for a kid. He or she has no idea of how dangerous it is: but we do. We try to warn them, but, sometimes they don't listen. We wonder what they're getting into.
Our only comfort is Jesus Christ cares for our children. What we cannot give them, He can give them; what we cannot keep them away from, He can keep them away from; the evil we cannot turn into good, He can. We ought to trust Him from the bottom of our hearts and pray to Him without ceasing.
This is bad news for adults who can't be bothered with children. I think of the man who can't tolerate children crying out in church! Or the woman who won't take the time to learn the names of other people's children. Or the adults who are easily annoyed by kids or who jump all over them, often for things that are not even sinful, but only.childish. I think of couples without children who never pray for the kids they know.
Is this the way our Lord Jesus Christ is? Were the Apostles at their best when they were this way? We ought to love kids and do everything we can to bring them to Christ.who loves them too.
As important as these reflections are, they don't explain the story or give the punch line the Lord has for us in it. The story is not really about eager kids or cranky adults, but about the Kingdom of God, who gets into it-and who doesn't.
The Lord says
"Let the little children come to Me and do not forbid them.for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it".
Though the Lord cares for children-and wants them to come to Him-in this place, He is using them to teach a bigger lesson-a lesson everyone needs to learn: babies, kids, young adults, senior citizens, everyone!
He says to get to heaven you've got to be like a child in some way or other.
But therein lies the rub: in what way must we be like children?
Some think it means innocent. The problem with this answer is: it does not fit the context at all, and, besides, children are not innocent. They are stained by the same original sin that their parents are. This means they are born out of fellowship with God.
Others think it stands for humility. That's closer to the truth, but I think we can improve on it just a little bit.
If you read the stories before and after this one, you'll see the larger subject is depending on Christ-or not. The Pharisee in vv.9-14 does not depend on the Lord because he's good enough without Him. The Rich Man in vv.18-23 also does not depend on the Lord because-well, because he's got money!
The babies, on the other hand, are dependent. Every parent knows this: leave a baby for half a minute and he screams out in fear! Older kids feel this way, too. When I was a boy, I was scared to death that my parents would die-not only because I loved them-but, mostly, because I needed them! Where would I live? Who would take care of me?
To receive the Kingdom of God, you've got to feel as dependent as a newborn baby. Dependent on the Lord Jesus Christ!
That's what the illustration illustrates! We don't get into heaven by being childish or staying young at heart (whatever that means). No, we enter the Kingdom of God by depending on the Lord Jesus Christ. The way a baby depends on his mother.
Depending on Christ is not as easy as it sounds. In fact, it's the hardest thing in the world because there is always something else to depend on! And because you can see it and understand it, it is easier to trust than the Lord whom you cannot see or understand.
The Lord is invisible and unpredictable. If you could just see Him, He would be easier to trust: but you can't see Him and have nothing to go on but His Promise-Hebrews 13:5b, Matthew 28:20.
Unlike your family and friends, the Lord is unpredictable: if it were up to me, I'd heal you right now or get you out of that mess pronto. If I had the power to do it, I would do it-you can count on me. But the Lord-who has the power to do it-often does not get you out of the mess you're in! Leaves you sick for tiring year after year. Or allows you get to worse and worse, to linger on and not enjoy the relief death provides the Christian.
All you have to go on is His promise-Romans 8:28.
You can see what money can buy and foresee what friends will do: they both seem so dependable. Of course, they're not: Paul warns us to not trust in uncertain riches; and the dearest friend may become your worst enemy.
But the Lord-who often seems undependable-is, in fact, the only one worthy of your trust-of your total commitment, holding nothing back.
Everyone is dependent on Jesus Christ-the holiest Christian, the worst infidel, even Satan depends on Him: "He upholds all things by the Word of His power". But not everyone feels that dependence or lives by it.
That's the challenge of our story: to depend on Christ as much as a baby does on its mother-and to feel our need and to find it met in Him-in Christ alone.
God bless you, everyone. For Christ's sake. Amen.
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