I find it helpful in understanding the love Jesus has for children to remember that I am a child of God. Jesus loves the little children as children, but He especially loves all who come to Him as children, regardless of age.
The main point about children and their relationship to Jesus, in the context of Mark 10 and the Feast of the Holy Innocents, is that children are helpless. They were helpless when Herod the Great Evil came to slaughter them in a vain attempt to kill the King of the Jews, and they are helpless now to enter the Kingdom of God.
The problem we have in understanding Jesus’ teachings about children is that we fail to realize that we are as children before Him. But being adults in human terms, we don’t quite like being reduced to children and being lumped together with them.
“Who then can be saved?” the people ask, greatly astonished, when Jesus says how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God. If even the most “adult” among us can’t be saved, those who are rich and have it made in earthly terms, then who can possibly saved?
Jesus’ answer is, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” It is not possible for men to save men. If we exchanged the term “infant” for “men” we might more clearly see the point of how we are to come before God. What if we understood Jesus to mean, “It is not possible for infants to enter the Kingdom of God on their own power”? That seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? How can an infant choose God and choose salvation, apart from the gracious work of God in his life?
We understand this when it comes to infants, but when we return to the world of men and adults, suddenly we think that we are more able to come to God. But the truth is that we are like infants before Him: helpless, on our own, to come before Him. Actually, for us adults it’s worse. An infant may be incapable by lack of intellect and understanding to come to God, but as adults we are capable of understanding God and our need for Him but still actively choose to trust in ourselves.
The difference, then, between children and men, is that children know they are helpless before God, while men pretend that they are not. For this reason, Jesus says, “for of such is the Kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”
There is a word for this child-like entrance into the presence of Jesus, which is the Kingdom of God: “humility.” What children often have that adults often lack is humility, which we like to replace with pride. While the humility of a little child may come more naturally to him, for us adults it must be a conscious choice. Being less humble by human measures, we think ourselves grander and more capable than we are.
But at the center of the Kingdom of God stands humility. The Law of the Kingdom of Man is this: “he who exalts himself will be exalted.” But the Law of the Kingdom of Man is this: “he who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” This Law is the Law that the King, King Jesus, Himself chose to live by, for He made Himself of no reputation, took the form of a bondservant, came in the likeness of men, humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. But after so humbling Himself, the King was exalted and given the Name that is above every name, that at the name of humble Jesus every knee should bow.
And now it is our turn to be humble. It is our turn to bow our knee before King Jesus and come before Him with humility. Denying self, letting go of and not considering the privileges of adulthood something to be grasped, let us come as little children before Him. Let us come, knowing ourselves to be helpless and loveless, and yet knowing the One who has promised to help and love.
If we will only come before Him as children, then in the end He will exalt us to true maturity, which is coming to the fullness of His presence and image.
Prayer: I do not presume to come into Your Presence, O Lord, trusting in my own righteousness, but in Your many and great mercies. I am not worthy to gather up the crumbs under Your Table. But You are the same Lord who is always merciful. Grant me, therefore, gracious Lord, to enter into Your Presence today, where I humbly beg for Your assistance to do and receive those things I cannot do or obtain for myself; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Point for Meditation:
1. How humble have you been in your relationship to the Lord? You might want to explore your faithfulness in prayer, Bible reading, public worship, good works, etc.
2. How humble have you been in relation to the people and circumstances into which God has currently placed you?
Resolution: I resolve to find one way in which the Lord is asking me to be humble before Him and then to act humbly in this one way. It is likely that there is something He has been asking you to humble yourself in for a long time but which you have been avoiding, something related to a sin in your life, or a way that you have been relating to others, or a work to which He has called you.
© 2013 Fr. Charles Erlandson.