Theme: Riches and Blessing
This week’s lesson teaches us how sacrifice brings blessing.
Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said,“Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away.
Whenever you study the Bible, if you study it thoughtfully, you will find things that are wonderfully reasonable and balanced. For example, we are studying Matthew 18 and 19, and there is nothing more reasonable than the balanced arrangement of material in these chapters. They are about the character of those who belong to Christ’s kingdom, and they are tied together by a series of relationships: 1) to other believers (Who shall be greatest?); 2) to those who sin against us (How often must I forgive?); 3) to a husband or wife (Can I divorce?); 4) to children (Should they be included?); and 5) to money (Who, then, can be saved?).
On the other hand, we sometimes find material that is startling and even jarring. Thus, in Matthew 19:13-30 we find Jesus correcting his disciples for wanting to drive away people who were bringing little children to Jesus. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (v. 14). Yet in the very next paragraph Jesus seems to be driving away an earnest young man who wanted to become his disciple.
Even more puzzling, the man is allowed to go because he was unwilling to part with his possessions. But the chapter ends with Jesus promising the disciples houses, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, children, and fields in this life (v. 29). These contrasts are puzzling, and it takes some careful thought to understand them.
The one thing that is the same in the latter half of the chapter is that people are coming to Jesus: first the parents with their children and second the rich young man. We do not need to spend a great deal of time on Jesus’ welcome of the children, for the meaning of the account is on the surface. Jesus welcomed children, and it is a tribute to his kind nature and essential goodness that children always seem to have been drawn to him. His attitude, reflected in this and parallel passages, had done much to form the attitude of his followers toward children.
Jesus also used the incident to teach about the nature of those who are the citizens of his kingdom, almost exactly as he had done in the teaching recorded at the start of chapter 18. When the disciples were arguing about who should be greatest in the kingdom, Jesus put a little child in front of them, saying, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3-4). Jesus is teaching the same thing in chapter 19 when he refers to the children who were brought to him then, saying, “for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (v.14).
The important words are “such as.” Jesus is not teaching about the salvation of infants, though God may graciously save those who die in infancy by Christ’s work. Some theologians have taught this. What Jesus is actually teaching is that those who would be saved from sin must become like children in their humility and simple trust in Christ. Arguing about being greatest in the kingdom of heaven is the surest way not to enter it.
What series of relationships ties together the discussions about the members of Christ’s kingdom?
What was Jesus’ attitude toward children?
How did Jesus use the response of the children as an illustration?
Why are the words “such as” important?
How often do you approach the throne as a child?
Arguing about being greatest in the kingdom of heaven is the surest way not to enter it.