Saturday, June 1, 2024

Luke 18:15-17 Like Little Children - June 2, 2024

 Luke 18:15-17 Like Little Children

Good morning! Turn with me in your Bibles to Luke 18:15-17, page 877 in the pew Bibles.

I’ve said it to you before but I want to remind you that the Gospel of Luke is arranged thematically rather than strictly chronologically. What that means is that the account in the text that we are going to look at this morning didn’t happen directly after what we read last week, nor was it right before what we will look at next week. 

The text that we looked at last week, the text we are going to look at this morning, and by God’s grace what we will look at next week, do share some common threads.

Let’s read the text and then we’ll pray.

15 Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

Let’s pray.

Now do your best to think about the text from last week about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, two men who went up to the Temple to pray. One man compared himself to others thinking that he was better than them and counted on his own religious efforts and self-righteousness to determine his standing before God. The second man compared himself to a holy God and saw that he was a sinner in need of mercy. Instead of raising his head and hands to heaven he bowed his head and beat his chest in humble repentance.

What made the parable new information to Jesus’ disciples was that they saw Pharisees as the good guys, spiritual leaders and teachers of God’s Law, while tax collectors were traitors and crooks.

This speaks to how people, myself included, tend to look at people’s stations to determine their worth. 

Jesus turned that idea on its head when He said that it was the humble and repentant tax collector that went home justified before God instead of the self-righteous Pharisee.

In next week’s passage we will look at a similar idea when Jesus meets a rich young ruler who counted on his wealth to give him worth. I don’t want to give any of that away.

Sandwiched in between these two events is our text for this morning.

I have to admit, at first blush I really thought this passage was concerned with the inherent value and worth of children, kind of a warm fuzzy thing. But as a dear pastor friend of mine often used to say, “A text without context is a pretext.”

The Holy Spirit inspired Luke to put this text right here for a reason and it isn’t to celebrate how cool CrossRoads church is for not putting the kids behind the glass in the nursery.

Some things to remember, in many cultures children do not have the same value as we consider them to have here today. In the First Century, they were on pretty much the same level as a slave.

Paul wrote in Galatians 4:1,“…the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father.”

The question here is the perception of worth.

15 Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them.

Asking rabbis to bless babies was not a new idea but the disciples thought, for some reason, that this was out of bounds. They may have thought that Jesus was too important to be bothered with these kids, or too busy, or in a hurry, we don’t really know.

What we do know is that at this point the disciples still did not understand the kingdom of God. They treated the children as if they were unworthy of the Savior, as an annoyance and an interruption.

What they were really saying without saying it was that until the children become like them they can’t enter the kingdom of God.

16 But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

What Jesus was saying without saying it was that the children don’t need to become like you to enter God’s kingdom, you need to become like them. 

This is where we get the concept of childlike faith. Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.

And what are little children like? Noisy, smelly, messy, loud… So far most of us are on the same page!

But they are also not proud, they are not self seeking, they are not malicious, they are humble, they do not pretend to deserve anything, they are innocent, and they are completely dependent on others to care for them.

But as RC Sproul wrote, “There is a difference between a childlike faith and a childish faith. A childish faith chooses to remain immature, but a childlike faith, the kind that Jesus calls for, is a simple, confident trust in, and dependence on, our Heavenly Father, a trust born of humility rather than arrogance.”

A simple, confident, trust, to such belongs the kingdom of God.

The kingdom of God has often been called an upside down kingdom because what the kingdom values is, most times, the opposite of what the world values. The world values our status, our station, and our stuff; this is what determines a person’s value in the eyes of this world. That’s the American dream! But as Alistair Begg said, “The American dream may prevent you from the kingdom.”

A childlike faith, a faith that is humble, a faith that confidently trusts in God for mercy and grace, seeking to bring glory to Jesus in all that we do, that’s the kind of faith that Jesus is calling us to here.

But a childlike faith, like Sproul said, is not a childish faith. Childlike faith can still seek to mature but remain that simple confident trust.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:20, 20 Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.

And also in Ephesians 4:11-16, 11 [Jesus] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Not proud, not self-seeking, not malicious, not pretending to deserve mercy, but humble, submissive, and utterly dependent on the Lord Jesus for forgiveness and provision. For to such belongs the kingdom of God.

Who is fit to enter the kingdom of God?

The Lord is not going to use the measuring stick that the world uses, wealth, power, influence, charisma. Look at the people just in chapter 18 of Luke alone: those who are persistent and cry out to the Lord for justice day and night, the humble but repentant sinner no matter how bad they might appear, those who believe like little children, those are the ones who will enter God’s kingdom.

Those who trust in their position like the unjust judge, or their own status and effort like the Pharisee, those who trust in their wealth like the rich young ruler, those who trust in the world’s definition of worth like even the disciples were guilty of in our text, these are the people who will not inherit the upside down kingdom of God.

If you would enter God’s kingdom, you must receive it like a little child, humbly, as a gift from our Father, we must trust that what the Bible says is true that we have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and that what we deserve is death because we have sinned, but God has given us the free gift of eternal life in His kingdom through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord. If we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead we will be saved!

If that’s you, confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord!