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.”

We’ve all read this short parable, if indeed it is a parable, of Jesus many times. Perhaps some of us have even given sermons or heard sermons on this passage focusing upon the image of little children as indicative of the helplessness of our situation before God, and the importance of child-like faith. As beautiful and touching an image as that is, and surely as biblically true as it is, is it the central image Christ wished to convey to us through this parable?

If we set this parable in its surrounding context among the other parables we immediately begin to see a pattern and an overarching message: such is the kingdom of God, such are those who enter it. The kingdom is counterculture, the kingdom is counterintuitive, the kingdom is among us in the incarnate person of Christ. Those who enter the kingdom are not necessarily the religiously rigorous but may be those socially marked as sinful (18:9-14); nor are they the most valuable contributors to family and society but may be the most vulnerable and valueless members (18:15-17); nor are they necessarily the politically powerful but may be the most powerless members of society dependent upon the mercy of others (18:18-30).

How were children valued in the honor and shame setting of Palestine & the Greco-Roman world of the time? When someone mentioned a child what were the images that would have first came to mind by the listeners? Joel Green in his commentary on this Gospel suggest that, “Although it is easy to romanticize about children with respect to this pericope, such qualities as “innocence,” “openness to the future,” and “trusting” are not the first ones that come to mind when reviewing general perceptions of children in the first century.” (pg. 650) Rather the image one would have had was someone possessing “little if any intrinsic value as a human being.” (pg. 650) Jesus point is simply this; if you CAN NOT recieve that which world devaules, those which the world dishonors, then you will never understanding the one at the center of my Father’s Kingdom, ME; nor those who have chosen to follow after me whom the world has dehumanized in personal value. For the world has filled your heart with a heirarchy built upon the platitudes of men’s praise, rather than the plentitudes of the Father’s grace.

So my question for you as my reader and for myself is do we view those whom the world says have no intrinsic value as Jesus children? Do we realize that if we follow him that those we call brother and sister will likely be the social outcasts, and relationally discarded people of our local community? For we ourselves in the sight of God hold no intrinsic worth apart from the original imageo dei he endowed us with. Without any merit or value or status before the Father being dependent on His gracious & exalting gaze upon us that will make us apart of his Kingdom, such is our social location. Do we believ that, or do we like some of the Pharisee’s before us believe we have a righteous standing and are due approval and embrace by the King? Or like the ruler think that mercy must be measured and extended only in accordance with the subjects own intrinsic worth upon whom it is dispensed, rather than given according to the very nature of mercy itself which is found in the gracious character of God? Are you ready to recieve Jesus’ “topsy-turvy system of values and to extend respectful service to that social group most often overlooked”? (pg. 651)

Recieving the Kingdom of God is not just a matter of believing a particular expression of soteriology, but is as well the presence of that understanding at work in your life progressively causing you to be in the world but not buy into it. The presence of this faith in us can only be the work and signal that the God’s Kingdom has come to bear upon our lives because of His rich, redeeming grace… 

(Photographic art by Wolfgang Staudt, piece title “Church of Bodie”)