"Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven." And he laid his hands on them and went away." (Mat. 19:13-15 ESV)
The Where: Judea after coming down from Galilee (Mat. 19:1-2)
The Who: children; they are described as little, and some of them are infants (Luke 18:15). Obviously parents are involved. Jesus had been healing many people, so perhaps these are sick children or children with disabilities.
While at Eagle Lake Camp this verse came to mind and I've thought about it for some since. I started thinking about how it applied to camp, as a place where children "came to Jesus." The *command* "do not hinder them" struck me as there is much that can be done to hinder children from coming to Jesus. Whether this is explicit (like the disciples) or a little more implicit (neglecting duties as a counselor, stopping some kid from coming to camp, etc.) we're told not to do it. Furthermore Jesus says positively: "bring them here." This rather simple verse has some deeper life commitments in it, eh?
The piece that really should blow your mind is the statement "for to such belongs the Kingdom of Heaven." Whoa, wha? Sick babies possess the Kingdom? Now, I have the good fortune to be fairly able-bodied and 2k years later than the original dialogue recorded here, but I still feel like one of the disciples: perplexed, paradigm challenged, etc.
A little conviction came to mind today via this verse in light of a soccer game I watched this past weekend. There was a player (likely around 10-12 yrs old) who could barely run (he was able-bodied, just slow). The player frequently allowed the opposition to beat him and was not doing his part on defense. Rather than say something encouraging I remarked to my sister and wife: "perhaps he should take up sewing." Yeah, sick kids get the kingdom, asshole.
"Why do the sick kids get the Kingdom?" is the question that comes to my mind. I guess its pretty simple, they come to Jesus by faith, right? Jesus is out in the country on one of his healing miracle teaching tours (that sounds so Benny Hinn when I type it, but his gig was for real), so people brought the sick kids with the hope of restoration. Come to Jesus like that - in hope of healing, recognizing powerlessness. Ouch.
I think this view of the interaction with the kids, disciples, and parents is supported by the way Jesus treats the "Rich Young Ruler" or "rich young man" later in the chapter. The RYR comes to him asking what he must do, with the implication being that he's already done it. "Keep the law" Jesus says, "been there, done that" smacks the RYR. Jesus ups the ante ("sell everything and follow me") and the RYR folds - cue the "womp womp womp" sound. The difference is pretty apparent, no? RYR comes to be justified by works with the attitude that he is good enough. The sick kids are compelled by hope in the midst of their profound need. Quite the image of faith from a few paragraphs.