Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Luke 18:15-17 let the little children come

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, December 10, 2018

15 People kept bringing infants to Jesus for him to touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them.  16 But Jesus called them back and said, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Amen, I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will not enter it.”

The parallel account (Mark 10:10) tells us that this incident took place in a house. We imagine a stream of parents showing up at the door, many of whom had heard Jesus preaching during his time there in Perea across the Jordan from Jericho. They were bringing their children to be touched (blessed) by Jesus, and Jesus was perfectly fine with this; it was the best kind of interruption of his day.

Why did the disciples want to prevent this? Perhaps they were simply trying to make sure that their Master got the rest he needed. His ministry was exhausting, constantly on the move, constantly preaching (often without time for preparation in answer to many questions), and constantly meeting people (will it be any different in eternity?). Another possibility is that the disciples were infected with the same strain of “dignity” that still spooks around a few churches today with certain people frowning on the chaos and noise of children where there is worship or study going on.

“Let them come!” Jesus says. “Don’t stop them!” and he adds, “Amen!” The word “amen” is Hebrew for “truly” or “most certainly true,” and when Jesus uses it to begin a statement, he wants us to pay special attention to what he says. Verse 17 is formed in a pattern we call a conditional sentence. In this case, it begins as an “If this one thing is the case, then this other thing will certainly take place” statement (grammarians calls this “future more vivid”). But he ends the statement with a form of the word “enter” (aorist subjunctive) that implies an even more certain truth. This construction of a sentence “is the most definite form of negation regarding the future” in the Greek language (Blass, para. 365).

What are the ways a little child does things? With unabashed dependence, openness, complete trust, and sincerity. Children are usually eager, as well. Of these, it is the sincerity and trust that we probably focus on the most, but a willingness to be dependent on Jesus is also part of a childlike faith. It’s important to let go of our need to control and manipulate situations, and to allow ourselves to be carried into eternal life by the merits of Jesus Christ. God condemns those who stubbornly refuse him. “My people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me” (Psalm 81:11). This was the pattern that angered the Lord so much in the days of the Judges (Judges 2:19; Nehemiah 9:29) and afterward in the days of the kings (Zechariah 7:11). He wants us to put our trust in him the way a little baby trusts in its mommy without questioning, without even thinking of doing anything differently. “Trust in God!” Jesus said, “Trust also in me” (John 14:1).

A person without faith absolutely cannot enter into heaven. A person with any faith already has. So, let the little children come. They can believe just as their parents can, and perhaps they are better suited for faith while they are still young. “The promise,” Peter said, “is for you and your children” (Acts 2:39). Peter was talking especially about the promise of baptism, but all repentance and faith are touched by his words. We believe; we let the little children come, too.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

Browse Devotion Archive