“Jesus and Children,” by Andrew J. Schatkin
One of the most well-known passages in the Gospels is where Jesus invites children to approach him. The incident may be found in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 10, verses 13-16. The narrative is that children were brought to him for Jesus to touch and the disciples rebuked the children. Jesus’s response was to allow the children to come to him stating that kingdom of God is inside of them. The narrative ends with a statement, ‘whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it,’ and at this point Jesus is seen taking the children into his arms, blessing them, and laying his hand upon them. This incident is also found in the gospel of Luke 18, 15-17.
This is a somewhat puzzling incident that is difficult for us to truly grasp and understand. The world values strength, power, wealth, sophistication and intelligence. The world often values people based on how they look and dress. Thus when Jesus says “We are to be like children to enter the kingdom of god,” this is somewhat difficult to grasp. Children are generally seen as innocent, trusting, and obedient. They certainly are not equal in intellect and experience to an adult. Furthermore, no child, with the possible exception of Mozart, has ever written a great symphony, done complicated surgery, or written a great novel. In fact, in the present world there seems to be a great value in celebrities, including some morally-worthwhile people. However, the great criterion of being a celebrity is having a great deal of money and having one’s picture and image featured in the media. The society hardly holds infants as the benchmark as Jesus does.
I offer the following analysis and explanation. Children offer to most adults at least up to a certain age, unconditional love. Perhaps Jesus means here that the criteria to enter what he terms the “kingdom of heaven” are humility, unconditional love, and obedience to Christ and God. God does not necessarily want very smart people. In fact, it is quite clear that this is an irrelevant quality. It is noteworthy that Jesus chose working men and fishermen to be his first disciples. Perhaps the best way to put it is that only as a child, with the trust and honesty and obedience of a child, may the rest of us approach the Holy God.
Perhaps this particular narrative can be understood only of telling us that the values that the world accords to people and puts upon them are not the true values of an innocent child who is capable of great love and trust and, most of all, humility. It is only a child that can understand his true nature in relation to God which involves those qualities as stated above. Perhaps it is possible, when we look back at the creation of our first parents, to recognize that they initially had the innocence and qualities of children. They fell from that innocence and in that fall brought evil and sin into the world with the result of death, destruction, and a humanity that leaves much to be desired as compared to the childlike innocence of our first parents.