But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.“
The commentary I’ve heard on this scripture has always focused on childlikeness, the requirement for entering the Kingdom of Heaven [Mark 10 & Luke 18].
It is certainly truth to point to children with no pretense, fresh, unaffected, giggling or gushing tears and say, “That’s what the Kingdom is like.” On the other hand, there is one action commanded of all who would be a resident in God’s Household. “Come to me.“ The sheer volume of reference to this foundational command makes it very possible that Jesus is talking about how inappropriate it is for the disciples to bar anyone and especially the children from coming to Him.
Taking the panorama of Scripture and the teaching of Jesus and the apostles, this is the center piece of our participation in God’s gift of salvation. We can add nothing to the Cross to enhance its power to save. The only power we humans have is the power of choice, to choose to turn toward Jesus and come to Him, or not.
I break that action down into two obvious physical actions, turning and coming, primarily because I believe many have turned toward Him but never have come to Him which effects more than the individual. That half-action is precisely what produces the scene we are looking at in this verse. Here are “disciples” who have turned toward Jesus but haven’t a clue what He is like or what He is up to. Consider this hypothetical scene:
Someone gets my attention. I turn to observe but stay at a distance. Basically, that is a counter-challenge. I am saying, “OK, you’ve got my attention. Now, show me what you’ve got and what’s in it for me.” I have turned and I am aware of what’s happening on some level, but I have NOT come.
The nature of that posture produces a wall that discourages those around me from coming as well, a much more serious matter than to exclude childish behavior because it might interrupt or distract someone or, heaven forbid, draw attention to itself. That exclusion is priggish enough, but the gravity is in the more fundamental mistake of attempting to look like a participant but ignoring what Jesus is doing and all the while preventing it by making a huge deal of childishness, even from a child. Indeed a grave mistake, done out of ignorance or, more correctly, obstinacy. It is proof positive that we misinterpret the heart and purpose of Jesus when we begin to exclude parts of the Family from our time in the Word and with Jesus. [Selah]
Jesus’ invitation to come means join. Not just become one of the pack but become ONE with Him. The Holy Spirit will have to continue to draw us toward this joining with Jesus because as long as we are in these bodies, with these minds, we will be vacillating and battling with the obstinacy of our impulses and appetites. But His mercy is new every morning and the divine reason behind is that we need that open door and welcoming invitation every time we are drawn away by our own lusts.
The tension this revelation seems to pose between being adults and being children is irrational to our natural minds. How can I be a child, being already past that? Sounds like Nicodemus’ response to “You must be born again.“[John 3:4] That is the key that unlocks, if you will let it. The “Kingdom of Heaven“ has to be illustrated to us by certain parallels in our “kingdom” or the time and space world, which is only the shadow of the reality of Heaven. [Colossians 2, Hebrews 8 & 10] Jesus even refers to that in the rest of His explanation to Nick-at-Night in John 3:5-21.
We have to stop trying to define God’s world and where He wants us to come, by our own experience and knowledge. Even the most true of our own expression of His revelation to us is but a shadow of what is to come. And especially what it means “to come.“
Yes, what it is to come to Him has been a mystery up to that point and has no reference in this shadowland. But the one who will set aside previous, albeit, true understanding and expectations, with its vocabulary and its compulsions, as fresh as a child, and come to Jesus where He calls; that is a completely converted organism fit to be a building block in the Body of Christ. [Matthew 16:18, Ephesians 2] Be the Body. Come to Him. Not to some work or cause that you can define in your own mind. He is calling you past all the shadows, to Himself. HALLELUYAH!