The Book of Luke, How to Get to Heaven - Lesson 198
Luke 18:15-30, And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16But 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. 17Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.
In this passage Jesus Christ presents us with an absolute truth.
For he states unequivocally that only those who exhibit that which little children exhibit will enter into the kingdom of God.
Jesus did not say that men had to become children, but rather that they must become child-like, in some way, in order to enter the kingdom of God.
This then is given to all who hear in order that they know the requirements of the kingdom as to who is allowed to enter.
For not all who say “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of God, only those who receive the kingdom as a little child, will enter.
This of course is a very important edict of our Lord and it also brings to mind another edict of His where he told Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
So of course these two edicts are connected for they constitute instruction as to who will be allowed to enter the narrow gate into the kingdom of God.
Now if I may only receive the kingdom as a little child I must know what it is about a little child that I must have.
In what sense must I become child-like in order to enter the kingdom of God?
I use the term little child however in our passage for today Luke describes those brought to Christ as infants. And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them:
However in parallel accounts of this event in the gospels of Matthew and Mark we are told that there was brought to him little children.
Matthew 19:13-15, Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. 14But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. 15And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.
Mark 10:13-16 And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. 14But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. 15Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. 16And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.
In all three of these passages the Greek words used for children indicate that these children fit into the category of infants rather than older children.
We know from other sources that it was the habit of parents to bring their children to the rabbi for a blessing on their first birthday.
Mark tells us that Jesus took the children up in his arms and blessed them.
So these that were being brought to Christ were small children, perhaps one year old and under and therefore we should concentrate on that which is unique to very small children.
We must learn what is it about small children, even about infants that we must also have in order to enter the kingdom of God.
What are the child-like characteristics that Jesus is talking about?
In verse 8 of chapter 18, Jesus introduced the subject of the characteristics of those who would enter into his kingdom when he questioned whether there would be faith on the earth at his coming.
We find that throughout the New Testament, the character of these who will inhabit the kingdom is emphasized much more than the timing of the King’s arrival.
It is not as important to know when His kingdom is coming as it is to be ready for it when it comes, so that we may enter that kingdom.
You may know every intricacy of prophesy but if you do not know the king of the kingdom and the requirements to enter that kingdom all of that knowledge is wasted.
From an eternal standpoint there is no more important question than the question as to who is going to heaven.
It was such an important thing that Jesus urged the rich young ruler to give up all of his wealth so that he would be included in that group who would enter into eternal life.
He told us that if your foot keep you from the kingdom you are to cut it off for it is better for you to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell.
Nothing matters more in this life, or the next, than the things which Jesus is speaking of here for they concern eternal matters.
They are diametrically opposed to that which concerns the natural man for the natural man only concerns himself with the temporal, thinking that which is temporary is what is all important.
There are certain absolutes in the scriptures that we must understand and believe if we value life.
And many of those absolutes concern the getting of eternal life.
This passage is one of those where we are told that having the characteristics of a little child is a must to entering the kingdom of God.
By studying the three accounts of this event in the Gospels we learn that a number of people brought their young babies to Jesus to be blessed by placing His hands on them and praying for them.
No doubt this blessing took much time which caused distress to the disciples of Christ, so much so that they attempted to hinder the process by rebuking the parents of the little ones.
Jesus was a very busy man and there were many who wanted his attention.
I suppose that the disciples became what today we describe as handlers.
They took upon themselves the function of “filtering” those who were allowed to “get through” to Jesus.
And being natural men they most likely made choices as to whom Jesus would see based upon advantage.
What could this individual do for us was the filtering question and when applied to babies the answer was an emphatic nothing.
When someone who was very sick approached Jesus, the disciples might have allowed them to get through because the miracle which Jesus performed would be good publicity.
We know this kind of thinking took place within the disciples when we read of their discussions and disputes among themselves, as to who would be the greatest, and who would sit closest to our Lord, with the greatest power.
So when babies were brought to Jesus, to be blessed, it seemed like an unnecessary and unprofitable bother, and so the disciples took it upon themselves to send the parents and children away, giving them the impression that they should not “bother” Jesus in this way.
They hindered the children from coming to Jesus because they were not significant enough, because they had nothing to offer.
They were “takers,” but not “givers.”
They were a liability, not an asset, to the cause of the kingdom, or so the disciples thought.
Luke and Matthew tells us that he quickly rebuked the disciples while Mark tells us that Jesus was much displeased which means he was indignant about the disciple’s actions.
This reaction tells us that this was not a light matter to the Lord.
For this opened up to him this all important teaching concerning who would enter the kingdom.
The message was strongly given to the disciples “Do not be in the way nor hinder the bringing of the children to Jesus for a blessing.”
16But 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. 17Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.
Why was Jesus so angry?
He was angry because this process was a picture of the gospel of Jesus Christ for the way in which children were freely accepted by Him, without bringing anything that they had done, is similar to the way in which all men must enter into the kingdom of God.
The Apostle Paul had this same indignation when he confronted the legalists who wanted the gentiles to convert to Christianity by converting to Judaism as well.
In confronting the legalists Paul tells us that the Law made all men equals, for all men were equally condemned, without distinction, by the Law.
And it is not by law-keeping, but by grace through faith in Jesus Christ that all men are saved.
So Paul quickly condemned their actions to show that there is no distinction between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians for doing so is to distort the pure gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is precisely the same situation with our Lord’s response to the actions of the disciples.
A rebuke was required because the disciples by their hindrance was threatening a clear demonstration of the gospel of the grace of God.
This occurs on a daily basis when people bring their baby to the preacher or the priest believing that infant baptism saves.
This belief is a repudiation of the gospel of the grace of God for it is not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to his mercy he saved us.
Infant baptism avails nothing but confusion as to the status of a person before God.
Thinking that infant baptism results in salvation is a distortion and a corruption of the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ and also results in God’s indignation.
God hates any hindrance to the preaching of the pure gospel for any hindrance keeps people from His kingdom.
So Jesus never hesitates to interfere with those who hinder.
The children were to be allowed to come to Him for a blessing.
For in this he demonstrates in what way must everyone who is saved receive the kingdom of God.
Now what characterizes an infant child, which also characterizes the way we are to receive the kingdom of God?
To answer this question I think we can start with Matthew 18:2-4, where the Lord Jesus Christ instructs his disciples in this manner:
Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Now children are not naturally humble in attitude.
They have to be humbled in attitude by their father, their mother, by those who care for them for they are always trying to exalt themselves. It is always me first is it not?
Infants have no attitude about humility but they are in fact humble for they are powerless, weak, they have no reputation upon which to seek favor.
The infant has no humble thoughts but the infant is indeed humble for he can do nothing for himself, he is powerless and always depends upon another for everything.
The disciples thought of greatness in terms of power and position, not in terms of weakness and dependence.
Jesus is speaking of the actuality of humility, not the attitude of it, so far as His reference to the child was concerned for the infant has no attitude of humility.
Jesus was saying, as it were, “Look at the infant, in his weakness, and be like him.
Babies are naked, Babies do not trust, nor do they practice humility.
Babies are carried to Jesus.
They make no conscious decisions. They speak no words nor understand words.
If you come to Christ in your own strength the gate will be shut in your face for when you exalt yourself then you will be abased.
The characteristic of infants which Christ is bringing to our minds is not their goodness but their helplessness.
God has put in them the need to be helped.
They depend solely on others to care for them.
At first they cannot even turn over in bed and in order to get to walking they must first crawl.
Everything they first do shows the humble way.
And this is precisely what must characterize every person who comes into the kingdom — they come as those who are helpless and undeserving, entering into His blessings because of God’s goodness and grace, not due to their own merits.
Here is the child-like quality which must characterize all who would enter into His kingdom.
It is natural for an infant to receive his daily food and care and protection and love as the free gift of his parents.
He has not yet become proud and haughty and independent minded.
I believe that Jesus was using the coming of the children to Him to be blessed as an illustration of the way in which all men must come to Him for a blessing.
That is, if we would come to Jesus for a blessing, we must not come in our own strength (the babes were carried), we must not come through our own understanding, our own wisdom, our own good works.
We can only come to Christ in our helpless state, looking to Him and to His grace alone for there is no room for merit in the gospel message.
We must come out of our weakness and helpless state, not out of our own righteousness.
Here is the difference between all of those who came to Jesus and were “saved” and those who were “healthy” and thus never were saved, because they were too healthy, too good, to pious to need grace.
Matthew 9:12, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. 13But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
The righteous always have in their hands their own righteousness.
They do not depend upon God’s righteousness so they are not fit for the kingdom.
This verse from the hymn “Rock of Ages” says it all
Nothing in my hand I bring,