Jesus Loves The Little Children – September 23, 2018
🎶Jesus loves the little children…all the children of the world …red and yellow, black and white … they are precious in his sight …
Jesus loves the little children of the world. 🎶
We can hardly say those lines without singing them. The words reflect what the church understands to have been Jesus' attitude toward children as it is described in the Gospels and as it has been handed down to us in the church today.
Jesus told his earliest followers that they must receive the Kingdom of God like children. What could he have meant? In today's Gospel passage, when Jesus finds the disciples arguing about who was the greatest among them, Jesus turns to a child -- to "the least of these," to show them how the kingdom of God is to be understood and how the person who follows him - then and now - is to understand power and prestige, place and position.
Why did Jesus choose a child to illustrate what it means to be in God's kingdom?
I think Jesus chose a child because children are uniquely trusting. They are spontaneous and without pretension. They are open and vulnerable. Jesus chose a child because children have no past to regret and no worries for the future.
Jesus chose little children for each of these reasons, I believe. The very things that we tend to lose as we mature into our adulthood. But it is these children, who are full of the very wonder and awe, the need for answers to why things are the way they are.
Take Brighton for an example.
One of my fondest memories of his early childhood was when he and I were playing with his boats we began to discuss what made different types of boats go, the differences between motorboats and sailboats. Brighton stated that the sail is the source of power for the sailboats, so it was like that boats motor. He and I, or rather I, began to talk about how the wind powers the sails and that the sail would be useless without the wind, and the sail boat would therefore be stranded without the wind.
The question is, why did I find it necessary to take that sense of discovery from him, why did I feel it necessary to correct that minor point? Because, in reality, I am sure that someone, not so concerned with particulars, or pretension, as I may be, may be able to argue in favor of Brighton’s discovery of the sail being its ‘motor.’ Brighton was simply happy with the knowledge that boats either moved via motor or sail. Therefore he was right in his perception of the situation, and I was trying to change that within him. As Adults, I believe we do that all the time. I might even suggest that the loss of our ability to be open to new ideas, or to be uniquely trustful, or to be spontaneous, to be without pretension; or even to allow ourselves to be vulnerable is to become an adult. An Adult in the strictest sense of the word ‘adult’ as it is opposite (antonym) of child.
Imagine this scene and the disciples’ response for a moment, if you will. Jesus recognizes that the disciples, that we, have lost the ability as adults to simply accept things as they are, without trying to look beyond;
Jesus takes a little child and sets that child in front of the disciples who just moments earlier were discussing among themselves as to who was the greatest. They are saying to themselves- this kid, for heaven’s sake? Someone who drinks milk three times a day, who still believes in fairy tales. This kid who is wholly dependant upon on someone else for survival? This child - the model disciple, and not me they wonder. Whoever welcomes this child welcomes this child welcomes Jesus? What is Jesus talking about? - The Disciples wonder.
Even if the message standing before them is insulting to the adult ego, it nevertheless is clear. Jesus and the child are inseparable. To receive one is to receive the other. Just as the child is wholly dependent on “big people” for survival, so is Jesus wholly dependent on the goodness of God, His father, for his, as we say in the Lords’ Prayer, his “daily bread.”
And so should the disciples, and so should we, be so centered in the our trust of “our Father, who art in Heaven.”
For such an important lesson, why did Jesus use children again and again? No one knows, and yet each of us knows. Each of us knows, if we are honest with ourselves, that the really good things and healthy relationships are rarely, if ever, because we have earned them or worked for them. They are ours because of the love and forgiveness and generosity of some one else. They are ours because of the love and forgiveness and generosity of God.
Why did Jesus use children again and again? No one knows, and yet each of us knows. Each of us knows that the way of the Cross, the way of the child- The narrow way of the Kingdom- is the way of life- the way of childlike trust and self-forgetfulness- self-less- ness- is the way of eternal life, no matter how old we are.
In closing I leave you with final thought from Jonathan Kozel- I think children see clearly, far more clearly than we grown-ups do. I want them to illuminate my life, my understanding.
May the children show each of us how we are to be better, faith-filled Christians in our daily lives. That is my prayer today for you and for me.