Picture the scene with me. It’s another busy day in the life of Jesus. His reputation has spread; He scarcely has a moment to Himself anymore. Everywhere He and His disciples turn, there are people. Sick people. Needy people. Accusing people. Skeptical people. And, on this particular day, there are also a bunch of kids.
It seemed parents in the crowd had started pushing and shoving their way forward with their kiddos in tow. They were coming because it was customary in those days for a great teacher of the law to lay their hands on children and pray for them in order to bless them. That’s just what these parents were doing.
Jesus’ disciples didn’t want any part of it. In fact, the disciples “rebuked” these tiger parents and their disruptive kiddos (Matt. 19:13). That’s a strong word – rightly so. There was nothing polite about what the disciples did; it’s not as if they pulled mom and dad aside and quietly whispered, “Jesus is actually teaching right now, but we’re going to have a meet and greet later and you are more than welcome to come then.” This word is so strong, in fact, that in another form it can be translated, “punished.”
Jesus, though, was even more incensed than they were at this intrusion: “When Jesus saw it, He was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to Me’” (Matt. 19:14).
Now, Jesus got frustrated with His disciples a lot. He was disappointed in their level of understanding several times. But this is the only time in the Bible where He is “indignant” with them. There was something about this whole scene, chaotic as it undoubtedly was, that made the Son of God really, really angry.
Evidently the disciples had missed something crucial about the nature of the kingdom of God and what it means to receive it:
“Don’t stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you: Whoever does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
It seems that for all the growing in knowledge, understanding, and proximity to Jesus the disciples had done, they really hadn’t moved much past square one. In fact, these children were closer to understanding what it means to come to Jesus and embrace His kingdom than the disciples were. The same thing is true for us. If we want to come to Jesus, then we must come with a childlike kind of faith. But what does that mean? Here are three characteristics:
1. Childlike faith is simple.
The older we get, the more we tend to complicate things. There are always caveats, “other hands”, and considerations to every issue. But things are more simple for children, and that is a beautiful characteristic when it comes to faith. A childlike faith is sure of a few things, but those few things are more than enough:
Jesus loves me. Jesus tells the truth. Jesus will do the right thing. Jesus will keep His promises.
2. Childlike faith is unselfconscious.
Our insecurity grows with our age. We speak, act, post, move – all while looking behind us to see how people are responding. But kids are different. Children just do. They aren’t so worried about what other people think; they have little regard for such things. And we would do well to learn from that unselfconsciousness when it comes to faith.
To have childlike faith means that we simply pray. Simply obey. Simply trust, and we don’t worry too much about what we look like to those around us.
3. Childlike faith is joyful.
As adults, our faith is often exercised with a sense of drudgery. That’s because we have accumulated a lifetime of disappointments and hurt feelings, of betrayals and pain. But the faith of a child is marked by a joyful kind of expectation. Children ask for something and then wait in excitement to see the response. Conversely, we tentatively make requests and then wait for the other shoe to drop.
Let’s be careful, friends, that we do not adopt the attitude of the disciples that day. Let’s be careful that we don’t dismiss the messy, loud, exuberant childlike impulses within us, because if we do, we might just “outgrow” the kingdom of Jesus.
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