Reading Luke 18:15-17 caused me to recall my childhood visits to Children’s Palace (compare Mt. 19:13-15; Mk. 10:13-16). Each passage explains the same event. As a group of parents brought their baby children to the Lord, his disciples rebuked and sent them away. But the Lord rebuked them and allowed the children to procede. As I read the details of this short story, several questions came to mind.
What were the parents expecting?
The infants would remember very little about the events of that day. This was something done by parents who wanted the best for their children. They brought their children to be touched (Lk. 18:15), prayed for (Mt. 19:13), and blessed (Mk. 10:16). Apparently, these parents saw something in our Lord that others were missing. They recognized him as a man of God whose prayers would accomplish much for their children. So, they brought their children to the Lord so that he would pray for God’s blessing on their children.
This is similar to a practice in our church. When a Christian couple has a new child, they will often want to dedicate their little one to the Lord. We have done this with all of our children. During the “ceremony” the parents promise to rear their child(ren) in a godly fashion and then the pastor prays for God’s blessing on each one. While there is no “magic” in the ceremony, it is a special time during which a couple seeks God’s blessing on their family. It sounds very similar to what the parents were doing in this passage.
What is the kingdom of God?
When our Lord saw the disciples rebuking the parents for doing this, he was very displeased (Mk. 10:14). But he chose to turn the problem into a time for teaching. He called the parents, children, and disciples over and showed them that such children will make up the kingdom of God. What exactly did he mean?
The disciples on other occasions had the idea that the Lord Jesus would soon set up his kingdom on the earth. But this was not his plan. While he will be the future king, his purpose at that time was not to set up a physical kingdom. That would come later, during the millennial kingdom (Rev. 20:4). Some have suggested that the kingdom of God refers to a spiritual kingdom which must be received (Lk. 18:17). But it could just as well refer to this future physical kingdom. (I must admit that this is something I am still working through. For instance, how can people be presently pressing into a future, physical kingdom as mentioned in Lk. 16:16?) In any event, the kingdom of God contains only loyal subjects who are submitted to the sovereignty of Christ.
What characteristic of children makes one suitable for the kingdom?
Regardless of one’s understanding of the kingdom, our Lord uses these infants as an example of those who may enter the kingdom. While he does not explain his statement, his meaning seems rather obvious. Children are natural believers. At an early age, they will readily accept what they are told by others. It is not until later that they develop the cynicism so prevalent in adults. It is this simple faith to which our Lord refers in this passage. Before one may enter the kingdom of God, he must receive it as would a little child.
The simple faith of children should not be discounted today. Ministries such as Sunday School, Bible Clubs, Christian elementary schools, Vacation Bible School, Bible camps, and junior church programs are all designed to reach children with the gospel while their hearts are still tender.
Many people are unwilling to submit themselves to the King and thus will never enter his kingdom. But those who do receive him are blessed beyond measure with his care for them in this life and eternal life with him in the future. Will you be a part of the kingdom of which the Lord spoke?