v 16. Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.
You sometimes encounter this in a church; the kids make a bit of a noise, distracting those who are a little older, so let’s keep them out and stick them in a back room where they will be out of the way. It doesn’t matter what it is called – just find someone to teach/look after the children and let the rest of us get on with the real business of Church.
In this story, the ‘disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. ‘ ‘Let the adults get on with learning from Jesus, just keep your kids quiet!’ You can hear it, can’t you. Jesus must have had many moments of frustration with the disciples, but nowhere else do I recall Him being angry with them. ‘When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples ‘ Whatever you might think of the disciples, this was a mighty strong reaction from Jesus. He totally reverses the disciples’ instructions. The children were important to Him; He wasn’t going to have them chased away, in fact He warmly welcomed them. Even better than that, He brought them to the centre of attention, picked them up and blessed them! Did He care about children? You can bet your life He did!
That raises a huge question for us in our comfortable Churches today. Of course it is easier to listen when the children are kept away from the adult activities; and besides that, we say, the children need to be comfortable in an environment of their own, taught by specially prepared people. And not just little children, there are the restless teenagers too. Should we really expect children of all ages to sit through long sermons, geared to the more educated and thoughtful adults who need to learn loads of stuff about Faith?
Just perhaps we are asking the wrong questions and taking an easy way out of the dilemma. I sometimes wonder if we need to approach this from the other end and ask how people of all ages can enter into a worship and learning experience together. If Jesus welcomed children into the centre of the learning experience along with the adults, how should that affect our own provision for children?
Children learn about the love of Jesus as they experience that love through the welcome they receive from the adults who follow Jesus. Are we so geared into ‘deeper’ teaching, at greater length, with serious educational aims, that the children are effectively barred from adult company in their experience of Church at worship and learning together? Just a thought.
How can we become more like Jesus, the Man who welcomed children like no other?