One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.
When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them. (NLT)
Very important people have gatekeepers: those who decide who gets to see the VIP, those who guard him or her against unwanted intrusions. Jesus’ disciples figured that parents and their little kids were such an intrusion. Jesus had other ideas.
This notion of our needing to become like children in order to live under God’s rule has to be carefully understood. Some commentators wax lyrical about the innocence and humility of children. Which suggests they have never had kids themselves! Children are often egotistic and not always innocent. So what does Jesus mean?
He is perhaps referring to the fact that young children are utterly dependent on others to survive. They need help, they are not independent entities. Unless we forgo our imagined independence from God we can’t truly belong to him. Unless he acts to adopt us into his family we have no hope of entering it.
And then he may be referring to the fact that children usually don’t have to worry about having to control events. Little children can trust that adults are doing that. Young children figure that someone else is looking after them so they can play and eat and sleep without taking excessive responsibility.
When it comes to embracing Jesus, becoming like a child is a very adult thing to do.