Summary: Jesus blessing the children in Luke 18:15-17 shows us a prerequisite for entry into the kingdom of God.
Do you remember Art Linkletter’s radio show with the segment, “Kids Say the Darndest Things”? Bill Cosby also hosted a show with the same name. I was reminded of these shows when I read the following story.
Five-year-old Kayse Poland grew more and more excited about her upcoming first day of kindergarten. Kayse’s 3-year-old sister, Jayme, watched her with great fascination.
However, on the Sunday before Kayse’s first day of kindergarten, she fell and skinned her knee. Tears began to flow, and 3-year-old Jayme, seeing the blood on her big sister’s knee, tried to comfort her.
She said, “Don’t worry, Kayse, if you die, you’ll go to heaven.” But that made Kayse cry even more.
“I don’t want to go to heaven,” she said. “I want to go to kindergarten!”
Hopefully, after having gone to kindergarten, Kayse did want to go to heaven too!
Jesus was teaching his disciples about the kingdom of God. The future arrival and consummation of the kingdom of God could be equated in a way with heaven. Jesus wanted people to understand how to enter into heaven. Becoming like a child is a prerequisite for entrance into the kingdom of God.
Let’s read about Jesus inviting the children to come to him in Luke 18:15-17:
15 Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Luke 18:15-17)
Jesus told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (in Luke 18:9-14). In that parable Jesus illustrated two approaches to God and entrance into his kingdom. One was the right approach, and the other was the wrong approach.
The wrong approach to God and entrance into his kingdom is to think that we can do so by trusting in our own righteousness (cf. Luke 18:9). The wrong approach is to believe that we can gain access into heaven by our own merits, our own good works, and our own righteousness. The Pharisee illustrated that approach.
The right approach to God and entrance into his kingdom is by humbly trusting in the righteousness of another. The only righteousness that God accepts is that of Jesus Christ. And so the right approach is to believe that we can gain access into heaven only by the merits, the good works, and the righteousness of Jesus. The tax collector illustrated that approach.
Luke then further illustrated the kind of humble trust that was required by telling the story of Jesus blessing the children that we are going to examine today.
Jesus blessing the children in Luke 18:15-17 shows us a prerequisite for entry into the kingdom of God.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. The Disciples Rebuke the Parents (18:15)
2. The Savior Receives the Children (18:16-17)
I. The Disciples Rebuke the Parents (18:15)
First, the disciples rebuke the parents.
Luke said in verse 15a that now they were bringing even infants to Jesus that he might touch them. The Greek word for infants (brephos) may also be translated as “(young) child.” In 2 Timothy 3:15 the same word is used of Timothy, who from childhood had been acquainted with the Scripture.
Parents were bringing their young children to Jesus so that he might touch them and bless them. Commentator Darrell Bock notes that “in Judaism, such blessing was given by elders or scribes on the eve of the Day of Atonement.” Apparently, these parents wanted Jesus to bless their children. And so he would scoop each precious child into his loving arms and cuddle the child, place his hand on the warm, soft head, lift his eyes up to heaven, and pronounce God’s blessing on each child. Jesus thoroughly enjoyed his interaction with the children and he loved to bless them.
Picture a number of parents gathering around Jesus with their children waiting for Jesus to bless the children. They were chatting with each other, while their young ones were giggling and running in and out of group. But their good cheer was about to be interrupted, because when the disciples saw the parents bringing their children to Jesus for his blessing, they rebuked them (18:15b).
Why did the disciples rebuke the parents? Luke did not tell us the reason for their rebuke. “At best they were protecting Jesus from what they deemed as interruptions or pressure. At worst they saw the situation as a waste of time.” However, I like commentator William Barclay’s suggestion:
We are not to think that the disciples were hard and cruel. It was kindness that made them act as they did. Remember where Jesus was going. He was on the way to Jerusalem to die upon a cross. The disciples could see upon his face the inner tension of his heart; and they did not want Jesus to be bothered. Often at home we may say to a little child, “Don’t bother your Daddy; he’s tired and worried tonight.” That is exactly how the disciples felt about Jesus.