Held close to his mother the baby fed gently at her breast. A short time later, full and satisfied, he lay in her arms as she smiled down at him. As all infants this baby too was helpless – totally dependent on his mother for sustenance, care, love and life. Yet this baby was God – a God unconditionally restricted and absolutely resigned to the care and love of a human mother – she his benefactor and yet he, mysteriously, hers.
Christians tend to focus on the man Jesus – and even then restrict their contemplation to the last three or so years of his life. We tend to forget that he was a child and then a teenager longer than he was an adult.
To miss God the child is to miss God himself. To miss God the child is also to miss what it means to belong to the Kingdom God.
Jesus the man remained Jesus the child. Not in a childish way – but in his childlikeness. This assertion cannot be in question for he himself states that to belong to the Kingdom of God one must of necessity enter it as a child. Childlikeness therefor is not only an integral part of the divine nature but becomes the prerequisite for entry in to the Kingdom of God.
Both Matthew and Mark record the incident that gives evidence of this –
‘Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. “And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.’
Matthew 18: 2 – 4
‘Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”’
Mark 9: 36 & 37 (NLT)
This incident reveals, not only the necessity of becoming like a child to enter the Kingdom, but the fundamental requirement of remaining childlike in the life and mission of the Kingdom.
But alas – how unlike children we have become in our complex hierarchies, theologies, formulas, rules and regulations! When we consider this – and then hear the – ‘It shall not be so among you’ of Jesus, we realise just how far we have departed from the rule and reign of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 20:26).
Our religious institutions are overseen, for the most part, by rulers, masters and dictators – not servants. At least this has been my experience. This is far from the ideal of Kingdom childlikeness and the standard of the Kingdom proclaimed by Jesus where – ‘Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.’ (Matthew 20:27).
The antithesis of the Kingdom is, according to Jesus, where – ‘The rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them.’ (Matthew 20:25). This, in my experience, is the rule most religious institutions and leaders have opted to follow. Therefor, sadly, I am forced to conclude that they do not represent the Kingdom of God. Nor have they, it appears, even entered it – for to enter – to belong to it as a citizen – requires a childlike heart.
In contrast to the rulers of this world the rule of the Kingdom of God is one where we see the King lovingly, graciously, gently, lifting small children in his arms to bless them and, in so doing, show to the world the true nature of his Kingdom – one where childlikeness is valued above all else – for to be childlike is to reflect the divine nature.
The above is implicit in Jesus action and words where he clearly says – ‘Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.’
So to welcome a child in their childlikeness is also to welcome Jesus himself and in addition to welcome the Father in whose nature and likeness the child has been created. This to me remains something of a mystery – but nonetheless it is the teaching of Jesus. It is, I believe, the divine childlikeness of the child that attracts the attention of the Son and the Father. This is why entry in to and life within the Kingdom requires the humility of childlikeness.
So we worship The Child – in all his helplessness, dependence, majestic and glory. And we follow the child with the simplicity of fellow children – loving, trusting, resting.
‘I am humbled and quieted in your presence.
Like a contented child who rests on its mother’s lap,
I’m your resting child and my soul is content in you.’
Psalm 131:2 (TPT)