But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein. — Luke 18:16-17
A week or two ago, my grandchildren and I went out for a stroll in our neighborhood. The early summer evening was warm and inviting, and many of our neighbors were out enjoying it too. We passed several young parents pushing strollers, people walking their dogs, and a number of folks working in their yards.
Our six-year-old granddaughter is the epitome of friendliness, and she cheerily greeted every individual within speaking distance — even if they happened to be across the street on the opposite sidewalk, or were busily engaged in weeding flowerbeds. She never seemed to run out of comments to make: our walk was peppered with “Hello! I like your dog!” and “What kind of flower is that?” and “That’s a nice bike!” No one we passed was neglected; her attention and interest were bestowed without regard to age, gender, or appearance.
As we neared the end of our walk, we went by a heavily tattooed and metal-studded man who was working on a motorcycle. His furrowed brow and somewhat unique appearance might have deterred a less friendly individual, but my granddaughter was not in the least put off. She paused and inquired animatedly about his motorcycle, wondering what was wrong with it and exactly what he was doing. I was amazed to see his somewhat grim expression melt away in a matter of seconds. In fact, he lit up like a Christmas tree! He responded with a smile to her questions, and then stood up to engage in several minutes of friendly chatting before we moved on.
In today’s focus verse, Jesus indicated that the Kingdom of God belongs to those who have the qualities of little children. While He did not specify exactly what childlike attributes His followers were to emulate, He may have been pointing to the implicit innocence, acceptance, and trust that seem to be inherent in the young.
Jesus wants each of us to possess childlike trust in Him — a pure, unassuming, and humble faith. This straightforward spirit of acceptance allows us to receive God’s gift of salvation simply. It enables us to believe without question that God is who He says He is. It helps us to instinctively depend on our Heavenly Father to supply our needs in both the spiritual and physical realms.
That unpretentious and open spirit is what Jesus was saying must be in our lives in order to enter His Kingdom. Let us continue to walk as trustful children, for we are children — God’s children!
In this text, Jesus continued His instructions to the people regarding the criteria for entering the Kingdom of God.
Having taught about God’s part in answering persistent prayer in the preceding parable (Luke 18:1-8), Jesus taught about man’s part in the first segment of today’s text (verses 9-14). This parable was directed to “certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous.” It contrasted two men who went into the Temple to pray. One man was a Pharisee — the strictest and most legalistic of Jewish religious groups of that time. The other man was a publican, or tax collector, for the Romans. Tax collectors were often dishonest and were known to be money gougers, so they were greatly hated by the Jews.
The prayers of the two men also contrasted greatly. The Pharisee was self-righteous and proud, and his words were less a prayer than a proclamation of his great merit. The phrase “prayed thus with himself” (verse 11) was an indicator that his focus was on himself rather than God. The publican was self-effacing in manner — he stood “afar off” (verse 13), evidently not deeming himself worthy to be near the Temple, which was the symbol of God’s presence. Both his words and the action of smiting himself upon the breast showed a repentant and humble spirit. He said nothing to prove his own worthiness, but simply pled with God for mercy. Jesus’ audience, who had been taught that scrupulous observance of the Law was what gained God’s favor, was no doubt startled by the conclusion: the publican went home justified, while the Pharisee did not.
In the second portion of our text, mothers brought their children to Jesus to be blessed (verses 15-17). While Luke identifies these little ones as “infants,” the other Gospel writers refer to them as “children.” In that era, children had no social status, and the disciples seemingly reflected society’s dismissive attitude, perhaps in an effort to protect Jesus’ time or prevent infringement upon His ministry by inconsequential individuals. However, Jesus used the situation to teach what is necessary for those who wish to have a part in the Kingdom of God.
The third and final segment of today’s text (verses 18-30) concerns a ruler who came to Jesus desiring eternal life and asking what he must do to obtain it. While Luke refers to this man merely as a “ruler,” Matthew’s Gospel adds the fact that he was young. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all indicate that he was rich. Some Bible scholars believe he may have been a member of the Sanhedrin, or perhaps an official in a local synagogue.
Jesus responded to the rich young man’s question by instructing him to follow several of the Ten Commandments — the seventh, sixth, eighth, ninth, and fifth, respectively (Exodus 20:12-16). Each of these commandments pertains to man’s relationship to man (the first four of the Ten Commandments deal with man’s relationship with God).
While the rich young ruler had obeyed the Law from his youth and seemingly was devout, Jesus indicated that he lacked one thing: he needed to sell all and give his goods to the poor. This instruction was not intended to be a mandate for all who had material wealth. Rather, Jesus was addressing the key issue in this young ruler’s heart. Luke records that he was “sorrowful” and Matthew adds that he “went away sorrowful” (Matthew 19:22), unwilling to give up his wealth and possessions to become a disciple.
Jesus’ followers were amazed at this requirement because to the Jews, money was an indicator of God’s blessing. If this very moral ruler could not make Heaven, they wondered aloud, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus made it clear that it was not wealth that kept the ruler out of Heaven, but the unwillingness to put the Kingdom of God first.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
VI. The instruction of the Son of Man
D. Instructions concerning the Kingdom of God
3. Instructions concerning the coming of the kingdom
d. The entrance into the Kingdom (18:9-30)
(1) Necessity of a proper attitude (18:9-14)
(2) Necessity of childlike faith (18:15-17)
(3) Necessity of personal righteousness (18:18-30)
Jesus took time to teach His followers why He considered little children important. He even explained that He will only give His Kingdom to people who are like little children — those who have open, humble, and trustful hearts.