There is a short section in Matthew 19 that deals with children who were being brought to Jesus. The disciple rebuke the people then Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
How many of you find this to be a surprising text? Surprising not for the way in which Jesus reacts, but for the way the disciples seek to prevent the children from coming?
I was thinking about my own reaction to the story, and I think it is a great credit to the church today that so many are shocked at the disciples. We read it and say to ourselves, “Where do they get off trying to stop children, of all people, from coming to Jesus?” But we only say that because so many in the church have worked in the intervening centuries to do as Jesus did and welcome children. Children are to have a place in the church and we celebrate them. So many places in our society leave no place for kids. They are a nuisance or inconvenient. But in a church that seeks to follow Jesus here, the very opposite is true.
If churches were not a place that embraces children as a legitimate part of the community, but rather saw them as not-yet-important part of it, we’d read this passage and be more surprised that Jesus welcomes them. What the disciples did was probably not unexpected to their audience, but thankfully when I read it I’m taken aback and say, “What were they thinking?”
Good thing Jesus set us straight.