And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
I am the mother of 3 wonderful, strong, energetic, loving, loud and very messy boys. There is never a dull and rarely a quiet moment around our home. Until a few years ago, most of my day involved my boys. Usually it had something to do with creating a mess or cleaning it up. Since children are inherently great at making their own messes, it was hard to encourage more messes, like helping me cook. But because I love my boys and spending time with them, we often still stir up a pretty big time together in the kitchen.
Recently, we were making brownies. Mixing flour and sugar is a learned technique where the evidence of learning can often be seen all over the counter and backsplash. But the education doesn’t stop there. The best part is scraping the bowl and if you do it just right there is precisely enough delicious batter left on the spoon to serve as an early reward for your hard work. Speaking of hard work, if you are willing to stick your face in the bowl and go the extra mile, it can almost be licked clean, leaving the face of the student a sticky, dirty (albeit cute) mess.
Moms of young children will relate while all moms likely remember these days. If it’s not brownie batter on their face and hands, it’s mud and slime covering the rest of their bodies. I confess, however, that I have been guilty on more than one occasion of turning a muddy, crying child away because I didn’t want to get dirty.
In Luke 18, Jesus’ disciples probably saw the dirty, messy children in the same way, except they didn’t have the compassion of a parent and in ancient times, children were not given much esteem in the first place. It was easy for them to turn away from the little ones people were bringing to Jesus. All they saw were snotty-faced, loud, filthy kids and they didn’t want them to bother Jesus. They thought He would be offended. But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Jesus sees the innocence of children, their uninhibited zeal, their eagerness to love and be loved, their openness and vulnerability regardless of their condition, physical or spiritual.
Jesus calls God Abba, meaning “Father” (also used as the term of tender endearment by a beloved child – i.e., in an affectionate, dependent relationship with their father; “daddy,” “papa“ 1). When He invited the little children to come to Him, He showed us what our Abba Father, Daddy-God is like.
In reality, what He shows us is God will always accept us and love us like He loves these little children. He invites us to come to Him covered with our sins, our shame and our insecurities. He welcomes us into His arms, the same arms that were nailed to the cross, wiping our snotty faces with His tender hands. Do you hear the good news? In our western church culture, we often feel like we have to get ourselves together and clean ourselves up before we can come to Jesus. We’re afraid that He too might turn away in disgust of our outward and inward appearance. I’ve even heard a pastor say at an invitation “get your life right and come to Jesus”. In reality, it’s come to Jesus with your mess only He can get your life right by washing away our sins. Sweet child, God is never repulsed by the sight of you! He is always thrilled to embrace even the dirtiest of faces, souls and spirits.
You are His little child and He loves you. “There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom.” You are unreservedly accepted, approved and infinitely loved!
And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
Come to Jesus as a child today and be blessed!