Summary: Jesus calls us to become like a little child if we ever hope to enter the kingdom of God. We must have faith like a little child, become dependent like a little child, and receive the kingdom as a gift of God.
Have you ever known someone who refused to grow up? Kind of like when Tom Hanks played a kid in the 1988 movie, “Big”? Except sometimes, it’s not so cute, when adults act childish. Sometimes adults forget those key lessons from kindergarten, like learning how to share and take turns and use good manners. Sometimes adults have temper tantrums and pity parties, and it’s not a pretty sight!
In today’s story, Jesus doesn’t call people to be childish, but he does call people to be childlike. In fact, he says you won’t get to heaven without becoming like a little child. So what does he mean? How can you and I be more childlike without being childish? And why is it so important to become like a little child that Jesus would make it a requirement to get to heaven?
This story appears in all three synoptic gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It was obviously a story for the disciples to remember. They thought they were doing Jesus a favor, by managing his schedule and keeping the little people away. What they didn’t know is that our Lord is for the little people of the world! In fact, Jesus was so upset that Mark describes him as “indignant.” Other English translations say he was “much displeased,” “incensed,” or even “angry.” In the original Greek, the word is “aganakteo.” Do you know it only appears in the New Testament seven times? It’s the word used to describe the rest of the disciples when they heard that James and John were trying to get the best seats in the new kingdom. They were indignant! It’s the word used to describe the Pharisees when Jesus kept healing on the Sabbath. And it’s used to describe the chief priests and teachers of the law when Jesus cleansed the Temple. And it’s used to describe the disciples when the lady used a whole bottle of expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet. But there’s only one time it’s used to describe Jesus, and it’s here in today’s story: Jesus is indignant that his disciples would keep away the little children!
And in this interaction, Jesus tells us three things that are absolutely required to enter heaven. They are there on your outline. First,
To enter the kingdom of God, you must:
1. Have faith like a little child
In verse 14, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” “Such as these.” You don’t have to be a little child to enter the kingdom of God, but you do need to be like a little child.
Let’s think for a minute what characteristics little children possess when it comes to faith. They are innocent and sincere. They’re eager to learn. They are teachable, humble, trusting, open, simple, and spontaneous. They are unpretentious. Look at these words listed on your outline, and do a little self-inventory. How much are you like a little child in these ways? Circle the ones that might apply to you and your relationship to God. Are you innocent and sincere and eager? Are you teachable? Are you humble? And so forth. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you approach God like a little child. Sometimes we make faith too hard, too difficult, too complex, too...adulterated! Sometimes, it’s just coming to God as we are, like a little child in need of a loving and good and powerful Heavenly Father.
I told you about my Veteran that told her Jewish friend, “I don’t understand everything about Jewish history, but all I know is that my Savior died for me on a cross. And he forgave my sins. And he helps me every day. I pray and say, “I’m feeling anxious; help me settle down!” And he does. I say, “I’m running late! Please help me find a parking spot quickly!” And he puts one right where I need it. I just know that he loves me!
Sometimes we just need to keep it simple. Become like a little child. Have faith like a little child.
2. Become dependent like a little child.
Little children don’t have much to offer. Sure, they’re fun to look at and play with and dress up and hold and kiss. But they can’t earn a paycheck. They can’t cook a meal, or wash clothes. They can’t cut the grass. They can’t serve on a committee, or unload the dishwasher. Little children really are pretty useless when it comes to doing anything. Everything has to be done for them!
Little children are dependent upon others for their very survival. They have no autonomy. They have no self-security. They have no self-sufficiency. They really cannot make it on their own.