Helpful clarity on Jesus and children from Luke 18:15-17

Sun, 03/09/2006 - 16:46 -- James Oakley

Many thanks to Peter Davies, vicar at Audley for his permission to reproduce this morning’s sermon here. Very helpful, I thought, for how clearly he put things. Echoes of Rich Lusk at one point – which certainly is not a criticism!

I have to say that this familiar passage is such a shock to the system.

It seems fairly obvious that Jesus welcomed babies and told the disciples off for trying to keep them away.
He then says that everyone who wants to receive the kingdom should be like a little child.

Often this has been applied as a simple reminder that we as a church should be welcoming to children. But is that really what this about.

Any suggestions as to what it is to be like a little child? Not even a big child but with more emphasis on the baby end of the scale.

Let’s have a look at a baby.

What’s it going to mean for us to be like a baby? Utterly dependant

So what does Jesus do with these babies?

He touches them in blessing. Ah that’s nice!!!

What on earth does that mean?
Did he give them nice warm cuddly feelings?
Did he heal any problems they may have had from birth?

The only thing that Jesus has said about how he has blessed these babies to our ears particularly astounding.

He says, The kingdom of heaven belongs to these. They are made members of the Kingdom.
They have received membership as a gift from him.

Now this is shocking because we tend to say, what about repentance, what about faith.

But that is exactly the point. Repentance and expressed faith are those things that adults do. What in practice we often say then is the opposite of what Jesus says. We say of children you must become like adults, repent and believe. Jesus says, I have made these children who have been brought to me members of my Kingdom. They haven’t got the ability to express faith they aren’t aware of the fact that they are sinners. I simply do something that is impossible for men but is possible for God. And you adults have to be like them.

It is not repentance and belief that makes you a member of the Kingdom of heaven. But the gracious pronouncement of Jesus. Now repentance and faith certainly have a place in the life of adults – but we have to leave the ultimate gift of life as entirely the activity of Jesus for the helpless.

Three applications.
1) Don’t apply to your children the understanding that they cannot be Christians that is members of the Kingdom until they have expressed repentance and faith. Jesus welcomes children who are brought to him and declares them as recipients of the kingdom because they are helpless of themselves. Of course only children brought to Jesus for this purpose that this applies to.

2) Don’t turn repentance and faith into a work that earns the grace of God, and so stop grace being grace.

3) Do regard the very smallest member of our church community as truly belonging.

It’s not children who should be like grown ups but grown ups who should be like babies utterly dependant.

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Ros's picture
Submitted by Ros on

So will you be starting paedo-communion in Audley?

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