Markby Robert M. Solomon
Parents want the best for their children, and which parent would not want Jesus to bless their children? Many parents brought their children to Jesus ″for him to place his hands on them″ (v. 13). But the disciples, who were trying to manage their Master's workload, felt that He had no time for such unimportant creatures as little children. It was a culture that treated children as insignificant, and there were people who treated them as less than human. ″Children are to be seen but not heard″ is a relatively modern adage that reflects attitudes passed on from much older societies.
The problem was that the disciples did not even try to refuse the parents courteously, ″We are sorry. The Rabbi is busy with more important things and has no time to attend to the children.″ Instead they ″rebuked″ the parents (v. 13); the disciples scolded them in no uncertain terms for wasting Jesus' time. I am reminded of the time when I had to join a long queue at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem to see the tomb where Jesus was buried and from which He resurrected. Those who were regulating the crowd spoke roughly to the people and even scolded some, and the sanctity of the moment was spoiled by their roughshod manners.
Jesus was ″indignant″ when He saw the disciples treat the parents and their children badly. He reversed the disciples' insensitive instructions by saying, ″Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these″ (v. 14). He welcomed the children and reproved the disciples for turning them away. He further taught that the kingdom of God belonged to people who were like the little children-innocent and humble. Jesus elevated the humanity and dignity of little children by using them as a standard for the kingdom of God. Anyone ″who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it″ (v. 15). The words must have jolted both disciples and parents.
Jesus then took ″the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them″ (v. 16). We note the three actions here. They show the special tenderness of God for children.
Why did Jesus say that no one can enter the kingdom of God unless He receives it like a little child? In what way is this true (cf. childlikeness) and how can it be misunderstood (cf. childishness)? How may it be related to the need to be born again (John 3:3)?
What does Jesus teach us in the way we should notice children and minister tenderly to them? How can we do this in the church and in wider society?