DON’T GET BETWEEN THEM AND ME
“People brought babies to Jesus, hoping He might touch them. When the disciples saw it, they shooed them off. Jesus called them back. ‘Let these children alone. Don’t get between them and me. These children are the kingdom’s pride and joy. Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.'” Luke 18:15-17.
There are so many things that Jesus said and did that startle us because they are so different from the way we think and from the culture of the people of His day.
This little interlude tells us a whole lot about the disciples, about Jesus and about little children.
Women and children occupied the lowest rungs in society and were treated accordingly. It was quite natural for the disciples to be offended by these mothers’ audacity to bring their children to Jesus for a fatherly blessing. Jesus was an important person in their culture – a rabbi with authority. It was surely their duty to protect Him from them and to screen those who took up His time.
The disciples were still very much part of their own culture. Although they had been with Jesus for some time, they had not yet absorbed His kingdom perspective. They thought like the rest of their people, and to them, children were a nuisance and in the way. Jesus had more important things to do than to be bothered with a bunch of kids!
But Jesus was always the perfect representative of His Father. He was first and foremost the Son of God. Not to accept and welcome children, no matter how insignificant they were in His society, was to betray the passionate love of the Father for all people, big and small. He was not only true to the character of the Father; He was true to Himself because He and the Father are one.
As always, Jesus’ vision was long-term. He saw the end from the beginning and recognised potential rather than actual. To Him, babies and little children were not snot-nosed brats to be tolerated but people with potential to fulfil the Father’s purpose for them; they were worshippers-in-the-making, and to get between them and Him in this early, formative part of their lives was to hinder God’s working in them. To Him, that was a far more serious issue than the immature behaviour of the little ones.
To Jesus, children were adults-in-formation, at the beginning of their journey towards fulfilling their purpose in God. Any adult attitude or behaviour which interfered with their natural disposition of trust, simplicity and helpless dependence on Him would put obstacles in their way which they would have to, and some might never, overcome. Both the circumstances of their lives and the way they were treated by those who influenced them in any way, would determine their understanding and belief about God.
Jesus’ attitude to all people, women and children included, was to recognise their place in the kingdom of God, and His treatment of them was always to remove whatever hindered them from taking their place in the kingdom, whether it be physical, emotional, intellectual, relational or any other issue that clouded their understanding of the Father’s love for them.
All children have two characteristics that need to be developed and can easily be squashed by their misunderstanding the circumstances of their lives and by those who are placed in their lives as mentors and guides — potential and helplessness. It is the role of parents to recognise and nurture potential and to train their children for responsible adulthood.
We raise our children to be independent, and that is good if we remember that it is important for them to become independent of us but not of God. The father’s primary role is to represent the Father by teaching their children obedience so that, as they grow up, they transfer their obedience from their earthly to heavenly Father.
Too many children are abused, harassed or neglected by their fathers so that they cannot wait to go out on their own and do their own thing. No wonder the world is full of messed-up adults who have no idea of who the Father really is, and who hate God so much that they do everything they can to defy the very conscience He put inside them as their basic guide in life.
The first step to healing our world is to acknowledge our ‘father’ issues, forgive those who have got between us and Jesus, and to go back to where Jesus is, receiving us as little children, recognising and cultivating the potential in us, and teaching us to rely on Him as closely as a baby at its mother’s breast.