The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” Then, gathering the children in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them. Mark 10:14-16 MSG
“Jesus was irate and let them know it.” There were a few recorded times when Jesus was really upset about something. Thieves in the temple. Hard-nosed legalism. Well-meaning adults preventing children from coming to him.
The tenderness of Jesus toward children is something to be paid close attention to. Jesus is showing us the very heart of God in his response to the disciple’s attempts to hold the children back. You can imagine the crowds pressing in to get a word with Jesus, and his disciples, perhaps naturally, are heady with self-importance at being the guardians or inner circle to their very popular teacher. They take the responsibility upon themselves to filter those who may have access to Jesus. Not out of evil intent, but simply because they want to spare Jesus the trial of being swarmed by a bunch of grubby children and their trivial needs. “They’re just kids.”, they said, “Make room for the adults and more important people.”, they sternly warned. But the disciples in turning around were startled to see the fire of anger in Jesus’ eyes and were shocked by the wild fury of his love and tenderness for the hearts of children, revealing to all who his Father really is.
“Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” John 14:9
I had the opportunity to volunteer at my church’s vacation bible school this week. I entered the week with a prayer in my heart because I have been lately aware of my “adult” self preventing the child inside me from coming to Jesus. “Renew my heart to the expectant wonder and unselfconscious trust of a child in my relationship with You, Papa.”, I prayed. I entered the week of VBS with the prayer that my eyes be open to see what Abba sees and adores in the heart of children, that perhaps I might recover some of what has been stolen from my own heart. My cynical, jaded, common-sensical, responsible, well-meaning, adult heart. And so I entered the chaotic world of 150 plus children in this way, and this is what He showed me:
Unselfconscious displays of affection. Honest emotion. Uncurbed creativity. Unashamed dependence. Unrepressed enthusiasm. Unhampered questions. Relaxed trust. Wild abandon. Instinctive tenderness.
The lance which pierced my heart and mind at the same instant was this realization. That’s Jesus! The very one in who’s image I am created. The heart of Jesus is manifested in His stunning humility. In His utter dependence on his Father. In His fierce love. In His unashamed longing. In His wild passion.
Children represent God’s heart toward us and his desire for our hearts toward Him. There is no other like my Father. My Papa. Abba. The servant God. The God who shows me how. The God who loved me first, that I may love. The God who abandoned Himself to me, that I may abandon myself to Him. The God who died first to show me how, that I might die to live. “Amazing Love, how can it be? That thou my God should die for me?”
As the week of VBS came to a close and as I reflected on the unexpected hugs, innocent questions, bold observations, enthusiastic love, and tender moments, the words of a song kept repeating in my mind as if Someone was playing it just for me.