People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
I've always understood this little parable to mean that if we want to enter into the Kingdom of God, we must be like little children. To put it differently, this parable is about me making sure I get into heaven. "Don't be an old fuddy-duddy like Jesus' disciples. Be loving and innocent like children," was usually how the sermons went as I was growing up. And honestly, the few times I've gone over this passage in a class environment, that's along the lines of how I've taught it. I've never paid much attention to how Jesus treats the children at the end of this passage, because, well...that wasn't the point.
I don't know why, maybe it is because I have a little boy of my own now with a little girl on the way, but that is not what I got out of this parable today. What struck me today was precisely how Jesus treated the children at the end of the story.
"Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it." And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
If we let this story end where it actually ends (with Jesus receiving children), then the point of this story is not how we can be received by the Kingdom of God, but how we will receive the Kingdom of God, and that changes everything about how we understand the point of this parable.
The Kingdom of God is a gift, much like children. As a gift, we need to take it up in our arms, show it affection, and bless it. Much like the surprise of finding out you're pregnant, it was an unexpected surprise when Jesus came and said, "The time is at hand. The Kingdom is near!" And with his resurrection from the tomb, God's labor bore fruit. The Kingdom of God had been established here on earth, young, infantile, and with a great deal of growth still to come, but here none-the-less. It is our responsibility as the followers of Christ, as the Church, to nurture it until God brings it to completion, when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.
In the meantime, let's receive the Kingdom of God as we would a little child, with tenderness, love, and excitement. And also in the meantime, let's be thankful to the people around us who show us what Jesus was talking about. Thank you Kalyn, Josh, Allie, Jeff, and Rebekah for helping me see what it means to take the Kingdom of God into my arms.