William Hendrikson illustrates how a child thinks:
A merchant had a pile of gold coins outside his windowsill with a sign, “Take One.”
All day long people passed by thinking, “this guy can’t fool me.” Evening fell and the owner was about to remove the pile. But just before he did, a child came by, read the sign and calmly and without the least hesitancy, took one.”
Jesus wants us to come to Him with child-like qualities. He says, “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” When we receive the kingdom of God like a little child, we receive it with complete genuine, trustful humility. Of course Jesus is not referring to the innocence of children, as he he has made strong remarks about the darkness and sinfulness of the human heart. Nowhere in the Bible are children referred to as “innocent” people who only develop sin and evil later in life. Instead, coming to Jesus with child-like qualities means coming to Him with the weakness, vulnerability and dependence of a little child.
Moreover, children are not good at hiding their flaws and feelings, they trust and are not suspicious. So to receive the kingdom “as a little child” we are to be completely honest about our flaws and feelings, approaching God through Christ with qualities such as dependency, trust, and inquisitiveness. Like a child, we must come to Him with a heart that believes everything, seeking his favor as a gift.
One of the highlights of our year living in Uppsala, Sweden was being invited to participate in an event for the U.S. Ambassador to Sweden. The Swedes rolled out the red carpet for the Ambassador and treated him like a V.I.P. A red carpet has been traditionally used to mark the path taken by kings, queens and other heads of state on ceremonial and formal occasions though today virtually any two-bit celebrity can receive red carpet treatment. When Jesus welcomed the little children into His presence, He was insisting on a paradigm shift in thinking related to the VIPs in the Kingdom of God. He said, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”
Jesus owned the little ones as members of His church and they should be treated as insiders not as outsiders. The King is making sure that we know that little ones are admitted into His Kingdom with all the privileges. They are part of the visible church.
They are VIPs who are welcomed around the throne of grace and we should roll out the red carpet for them.
He doesn’t regard them as “little heathen” or “reprobate” who were living outside of the realm of salvation until by an act of their own they would “join the church.” The Apostle Paul confirms this idea in 1 Cor. 7:14 that the children of believers are holy, they are Holy Seed. During his sermon at Pentecost, Peter likely recalled this memorable event when he said, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
As they grow older, parents should do everything in their power to bring their children to the point of voluntarily receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior so that they would say with their own heart and mouth, “ME TOO!” But can you imagine the impact on the little ones who met Jesus, particularly as their parents would be able to tell them when they were grown, “When you were a baby, Jesus took you into his arms and blessed you! Even then you were the object of his love!” Believers of any age can know this too, that He set His love and affection on YOU even before He spoke the creation into existence.
It is perhaps the most familiar scene in the gospels; the scene when Jesus took the little children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. Through his prayer and blessing His heart of love and compassion goes out to the little ones. Every child with equal importance and attention. To those present, this certainly would have been quite an impressive, comforting and memorable scene where we encounter the Son of God, the Highest Prophet, and Our Great High Priest as warm, inviting and accommodating.
He not only takes them into his arms with a full embrace, he prays for them, blesses them and imparts Grace to them. He doesn’t refuse them from his company and he doesn’t exclude them from his grace. And his touch was oh so tender. The calloused hands of the carpenter’s son were not soft and smooth but strong and His manner was so gentle and affectionate. He is a lamb-like lion.
Jesus was the kind of god-man whose tender and kind disposition attracted little children. In crowds, Jesus regularly took notice of the children. When he wanted a child for an illustration it seemed that there was always one present and willing to cooperate. There were even perhaps thousands of children present at his miraculous feeding events. Jesus loved the little children and they felt perfectly at ease with him. This should encourage little people to follow after Him but also encourage big people who are aware of their own weakness, helplessness and childishness.
Is. 40:11- He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.