There is a short but familiar story in Luke 18:15-17 where we see Jesus receiving little children. Right before that, Jesus finished his his parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector with the words “those who exalt themselves will be humbled, but whoever humbles themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:14b) and then almost as an illustration of that statement, Luke describes a curious thing that the massive crowds surrounding Jesus had started doing.
Jesus was so popular now that people were bringing babies and little kids to Him and asking Him to bless their kids. The disciples were opposed to the practice but Jesus insisted that they come. But why did the disciples keep the kids from coming to Jesus? And what did Jesus mean in v. 16 when he said, “the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
Kids coming to Jesus sounds like a great photo op, it can’t hurt anyone if the kids get a little time with Jesus would it? Why are the disciples such meanies? It’s hard for us to appreciate today but children in Jesus day did not command the position of privilege that they do today. Children in Jesus day were not considered fully people, least of all babies. They weren’t powerful or important and they couldn’t accomplish anything of significance. They were, of course, loved and valued parts of their respective families but they couldn’t do very much for themselves. They were totally dependent on their parents and their siblings for everything.
Which is why Jesus says that the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. The Kingdom of God belongs to those who are acutely aware of their powerlessness. In the Kingdom way of thinking those with failing mental capacities, or those with weakening bodies move up in the Kingdom of God, not down. Paul reminds us in Philippians 2:5-8 that Jesus took the very lowest place in order that he would be first over everything.
Finally, Jesus reminds us in v. 17 that you can’t even enter the Kingdom unless you are able to act like a child: you must abandon your sense of entitlement and recognize your powerlessness if you are going to be able to receive the abundant life that Jesus offers.