Summary: we must have the faith of a child
Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me." (Mark 9:37)
A follow-up to the Scripture we just heard told more of the story about Jesus and the children:
People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it." And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16)
Jesus has always been closely connected to children. From infants to older children, Jesus has gathered them to Him in love, time and time again; Jesus’ ministry was inclusive of children. Jesus spoke to children, healed children, blessed children, cast demons from children, raised children from the dead, and welcomed children into his warm embrace.
Jesus knew what most of us have forgotten: that a child’s faith is pure and sincere and without reservations. They have not been jaded by life experiences or personal prejudices and emotional hurts.
These children symbolize humility and not thinking of yourself as being more valuable than others. They believe with a love that has no ‘and, ifs, or buts’ attached to it. Think about when you have looked into a small child’s eyes – that wonderment and gleam of pure love.
When a child trusts Christ it's not the same belief that they have in fairies or the bogeyman - it is true faith that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, accepts. We have all heard Saint Paul say:
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. (1 Corinthians 13:11)
We do, when we grow up, put away childish things - but the Apostle Paul never put away Christ. He never gave up his faith, and it was in adulthood that he came to a fuller belief in the gospel. Trusting Jesus and having faith in Him is not a childish thing.
Now, you may think that this only applies to children, sweet lovable little kids with jam on their faces. But the meaning of children in this Scripture goes much deeper than that. Childlike faith is trusting Christ early. Now, that means whatever age you are, trusting Christ as soon as you know that He is true - whatever your age, whether you're young or old. When you realize who He is, what He says is true, what He did for us on the cross was out of love and was able to take away our sins forever - that is childlike faith.
Jesus took these small children into his lap, enfolded them with his arms and blessed them. These children represented the marginalized members of society, those of little or no worth, those left on the doorsteps or shunted away from adults. He took children into the center of His ministry – pushing aside adults to bring children in.
When Jesus refers to ‘children’ he is not just talking about kids under the age of ten. . .
He is talking about you and me!
God’s children are all around the earth, and whenever one receives/welcomes a child, one receives/welcomes the presence of God. A child is the very presence of Jesus.
In Matthew 18:6 Jesus said:
But whosoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
Jesus loves the little children, All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
All are precious in His sight,
Jesus loves the little children of the world. (sung)
Let us all remember that we are one of those children in the world, no matter what our age and renew our faith like a child’s.
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 23 September 2012