The gospel text of Matthew 19:13-14, describes parent taking their little children to the man Jesus in order for him to touch the little ones and bless them. This interaction between Jesus and the children might not have happened as the story states, “the disciples rebuked them (children).” But Jesus stopped the disciples by saying, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” The disciples reflected the first-century ideal where children were to be seen and not heard. They did not want Jesus to be bothered by children when there were more important things to do such as healing the sick and teaching about obedience to the Law. But Jesus showed his followers that he did not follow the norm but consistently showed his love for the poor, the widows, the weak, the disenfranchised and even the little children. He was never too busy to care for the children.
As I read the story of Jesus and the children I wondered if he too joined in their playfulness, giggles and opened wide his arms for their hugs. Did he notice the pride and joy in their parent’s eyes? As they brought their little ones to Jesus, were they hoping that he would bless the children with a new kind of love and acceptance? I can only imagine as Jesus opened his arms to welcome them, the little kids felt his love without any reservations. These little wonders were so special, Jesus told the disciples that the kingdom of heaven belonged to the children. Yes heaven. Jesus offered a new world in which children were not overlooked but are a very important part of God's family.
There is much we can learn from children. What would happen if adults felt the same freedom to be emotional and open to love and being loved. As adults, our experiences have shaped our views, our personalities, and our emotional and spiritual minds. In many cases our innocence has been replaced with cynicism, fear, self-loathing, anger, and frustrations with some our choices and failures. Some people do not have happy and good memories of their childhoods. They have been betrayed and hurt by adults who did not give them the love they so deserved. I am sure God wept for the lost innocence of these adult children. The Matthew text reminds us that Jesus opens his arms wide to welcome everyone with his love, goodness and mercy. Just like the little children, he promises, “Do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” which is open to all who want to experience his grace and love as well.