One of my grandson’s favorite reading collections right now is a set of Bible story books for young children. He’s apt to ask you to read all of the stories in one book back-to-back — and then command you to start on the next volume. He knows the difference in the tales, too. If Silas requests the boat story, don’t try to read about the miraculous catch of fish if the one he wanted was the storm at sea.
Of course a favorite in most children’s Bible story collections is the one about the children themselves. You know, the one where Jesus said, “Let the children come to me…” Who hasn’t seen an artist’s rendering of the idyllic scene? Jesus sits on a boulder with tots on his knees, in his arms, and all around him as his face radiates gentleness and love.
Someone recently pointed out to me that in Matthew’s gospel, the disciples try to shoo away the children who come to Jesus a mere chapter after Christ says, “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3) Jesus must have sighed as he reminded the disciples again of the importance of the wee ones — “…to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14b)
So why are the little ones so big with Jesus?
In John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible, he says of Jesus’ …and become like children… “Unless ye learn to entertain an humble, and modest opinion of yourselves…and drop all contentions about primacy and pre-eminence, and all your ambitious views of one being greater than another…”
It’s the humility of children that Jesus was pointing to. But you already knew that, didn’t you?
I am not a noted scripture scholar. But I am a grandmother, and it is by that authority that I offer a possible additional motive behind Jesus’ admonitions. If you spend much time around children, I am sure you can easily add to the list.
What I want to share is something I have only recently come to understand. I wish I could say I learned it when my own kids were small, but I suppose then I was too busy folding laundry and cooking supper. If I keep Silas, though, it’s 100% playtime. Perhaps now I’m more able to see things with a two-year-old’s tunnel vision because I’m crawling through the tunnel with him.
When I visit Silas, he takes the reins as soon as I arrive and sends us galloping off in the direction of his choice. Whether it’s “Read this!” or “Play outside!” it’s clear from the get-go who’s in charge. His mommy often reminds him that it’s not nice to order Grandmere about. While Silas certainly is bossy at times, I’ve noticed something else driving his entreaties of, “Grandmere! Stand with me! Sit with me! Run with me!”
Did you catch that? “With me.” As I study the beaming smile and the gleam in his eyes, I see…delight. He is having great fun, and he wants me to join in. Though Silas is years away from being able to put it into words, he already understands that the best of life’s moments are those shared with a loved one. The joy of shared experience bubbles over and spills onto everyone around it. And that reminds me of God.
The eighth chapter of Proverbs is written in the voice of Wisdom. Verses 29b-31 say, “When he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him…and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always…and delighting in the sons of men.” God has always delighted in us, ever since he fashioned man from the dust of the earth and declared, “It is good.”
In Isaiah 62:4c, God speaks to Israel, “…The Lord delights in you…” He promises Zion in Zephaniah 3:17, “The Lord your God…will rejoice over you with gladness…He will exult over you with loud singing, as on a day of festival.”
And in John 15:15 it really gets personal when Jesus tells his disciples, “Henceforth I call you not servants, for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth. But I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” Friends? With the very Son of God?
In the Lord’s being as in His ways, much is a mystery and will remain so in this life. Yet God often wants to let us in on what He is doing. He doesn’t need our help at all, but He chooses to make us a part of His plans. His delight is to be close to us, and to draw us near to Him. “Look at what I’m doing over there! Go be a part of it!” “Learn what I’m doing right here! Come and help with it!”
Likewise, our Lord wants us to be ever open to Him — to voice our praise, our gratitude, our confusion, and our pain. “Father, help me be strong. Stand with me!” “God, I need you so much right now. Sit with me.”
Could Christ have placed a little one in their midst because he knew a child would delight in sharing her small world with anyone who would take the time to be a part of it?
Catch the excitement in His voice. Note the twinkle in His eye. “Run with Me!” He cries. Will you follow?