People were bringing little children to him so that he might place his hands on them, but his disciples rebuked them. Seeing this, Jesus was indignant. He said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:13-15).
From our vantage point today, it seems nearly impossible to understand why the disciples would refuse little children access to Christ. What kind of person would prevent a precious little child from receiving Jesus’ loving embrace? Yet before we disregard our spiritual ancestors as simple-minded curmudgeons, we would do well to ask what might have motivated the disciples’ resistance.
While the text doesn’t explicitly name the reason for their rebuke, it seems likely that the disciples believed such interaction with children was beneath Jesus. When they answered the call to discipleship they no doubt envisioned opportunities to turn the world upside down. Jesus had announced the imminence of God’s reign on earth, and the disciples must have rejoiced at the prospect of playing a significant role in such a conquest. With Jesus at their side, they would be exercising influence over the elite power brokers of their day—or so they thought. Instead, they found themselves trying to chase around and corral helpless little children! According to Jesus, however, children and the Kingdom of God go hand in hand since children exemplify the unhindered curiosity that should characterize all disciples.
Ironically, in order for the disciples to have a real “grown-up conversation” with Jesus, they would need to approach Jesus as little children. I’m sure many of us, at one point or another, have had our supposedly sophisticated adult conversations interrupted by children. As politely as we can, we try to calmly explain that we adults have grown-up things we need to talk about, “so please go find something to play with…” Even though such things do need to be said sometimes, Jesus cautions us about dismissing children out of hand.
Children possess a curiosity, especially for matters faith, that we should be compelled to emulate. Since everything is so new and interesting, they can’t wait to experience more and learn more. Adults, on the other hand, tend to become puffed up with the knowledge we’ve already accumulated for ourselves. To be like the curious children of faith Jesus calls us to be, we must humble ourselves enough to take a fresh look at what we often take for granted—how we pray, how we study God’s Word, how we serve, how we speak to one another, how we give, etc. May God, therefore, restore an unhindered curiosity in us all.