Some people were bringing little children to Him so He might touch them, but His disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me. Don’t stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you: Whoever does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” After taking them in His arms, He laid His hands on them and blessed them.
As a child, when I heard the story of Jesus and the little children, it was really easy to distinguish the hero from the villains. I envisioned the disciples as a bunch of big old meanies, attempting to barricade the way to Jesus from these sweet, precious kids.
Jesus would shake his finger at them and say, “How could you possibly want to keep these adorable things away from me? You better learn to be more like them or you aren’t getting any of this.”
And then He’d pick them up and swing them around, hugging and loving all over them, with violins playing in the background. Beautiful, right?
In November 2011, I traveled with a group of North Americans to Maharashtra, India on an evangelism/church planting trip. We divided up into teams of two, paired up with locals, and went off to separate villages to spread the Good News of Christ—often to people who had never before heard His name.
Our assignment was pretty simple: walk down the street until someone was curious enough about you to invite you in. Once you had gotten to know them a little bit, it was time to tell them why you came. I had the enormous privilege of seeing truth replace deception in many hearts. It was an experience that changed me forever.
In case you don’t know this about me, I look nothing like an Indian. I’m very white—especially in November—and I have blond hair and blue-green eyes. This makes me quite a curiosity to Indian villagers, particularly the children. And the children were everywhere!
I distinctly remember sitting in a house one day, preparing to share the gospel with a group of adults. There were all these kids running in and out, pushing and shoving to get next to me and my teammate, going through my backpack, and yelling, dancing, and singing.
I thought to myself (in an indignant tone), “Will someone please get these kids out of here so we can tell people about Jesus?”
From somewhere deep within, I heard a faint voice say, “Let the little children come to me, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
Ouch! I realized I’d just become a big old meanie, putting my agenda ahead of these little guys who just wanted to be around us, to hear what we were going to say. I had to apologize to the disciples right then and there for all those times I had bad-mouthed them.
Suddenly, it was easy to see where they were coming from. Let’s face it—kids can be annoying. I was one, and I have three now. I know of what I speak. So why does Jesus say that unless we receive the kingdom of God like a little child we’ll never enter it? What do kids possess that makes them especially qualified to come to Christ?
When a little child is growing up with a loving father, he thinks his dad hung the moon. His father can tell him anything and he’ll accept it as truth. When he’s hurt, it’s his father he runs to. When something fantastic happens, he can’t wait to tell his daddy. He feels protected, sheltered, wanted, and loved. He delights in the good gifts his father gives.
Isn’t this how God wants us to come to Him, as children who fully trust that their Father loves them and knows what’s best for them?
On that day in India, I decided to tell the kids a story to quiet them down. I’d hoped it would satisfy them, so I could then have a chance to speak with the adults. The Lord put the story of Zacchaeus on my heart, and I began to tell it with as much enthusiasm as I could muster.
As the words were coming off my lips, I realized this simple story I’d always loved was so much more. The story of Zacchaeus is a beautiful testimony: that was who he was; then he met Jesus; and this is who he became. It’s really that simple.
When I finished telling the story, my interpreter asked who in the room would like to give their heart to Jesus as Zacchaeus did. It was precious to see all of those children lifting their hands. But what stunned me was that all across the back of the room were adults lifting their hands as well.
My plan to give a big fat gospel presentation simply wasn’t necessary in that moment. They were coming to Christ the same way the children were, by hearing and believing. It really is that simple.
- What do you think it means to receive the kingdom of God as a little child?
- What was your childhood like? Does it make it harder or easier for you to envision God as a loving father who knows and wants what is best for you?
- Is there anything hindering you from coming to him like a child? If so, what?
- Are you ready to surrender those things and give childlike faith a try?