Sunday, July 9, 2017

Jesus Loves the Little Children

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. [7] 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:25-30 (ESV)
Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
This is how Jesus describes the little children to him the Father in heaven has revealed the kingdom. They are those who labor and are heavy laden.
The wise and understanding, these are the people who think they have it figured out. In Jesus day these were the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The learned, the upper crust of society. Today you find these types in every stratum of society. They are people who find God immoral. They know better than him.
That one is always sort of strange to me. The Ten Commandments have had quite the impact on our society. Jesus Christ has had quite the impact on society. Here we have a man who died for the sins of the world. He shed his blood for people of every stripe. Jesus died for the cultured and the uncultured. He died for the rich and the poor. He died for blue collar and white collar. For the healthy and the sick. The Albert Einsteins of the world, and for those suffering every form of mental illness, or downs syndrome. “Red and yellow, black and white they are precious in his sight,” I remember singing those words as a four-year-old in Ft. McMurray and simple understandings like that have transformed society’s notions of right and wrong, of justice and of mercy. Oh, it hasn’t put an end to racism and try as I may to understand another person’s culture and concepts of polite, I can still find it awkward, or rude. But when people think that Christianity is the problem, I find most often they are not aware of just how much Christianity is responsible for even what is left of their morals, even shaping the problem. Sure the Bible didn’t outlaw slavery. It can be hard for us today to read what the Bible has to say about such things. But I will tell you this, we wouldn’t have any qualms with slavery if it wasn’t for the Bible, if it wasn’t for the fact that Jesus died for the sins of the world. We would care less about racism if it wasn’t for the fact that we could teach our kids to sing “Red and yellow, black and white they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
The little children of the world, to whom the Father has revealed these things. This was a phrase Jesus would use for his disciples. Little children, oh how society has changed in that department. In the first century, little children were synonymous with heavy laden, this was before child labor laws. My parents knew of no such legislation. I remember being excited when I first learned my mom and dad were buying lake property until we pulled up to the three acres of thick woods bordering the swamp and learned that my brother and I would be helping my dad clear it. I thought fire made sense and would probably be the best way until I learned you actually had to control the burn. Ten or eleven, those five-gallon buckets were about half my size but they were the only way to get water to the property line, two at a time. I was lucky, I mean it wasn’t the way I really wanted to spend my weekends, but at least my dad was too busy during the week to make us work like that on a Monday. Though my dad did know how to farm me out to old timers in need of firewood. Kids in the first century were pretty much slaves. They say it takes a village to raise a child. It sounds so nice. But the truth is anyone in the village could lord it over the children of the village, make them watch the cows in the noonday heat, fetch the falling figs in the midst of a rainstorm, and in general do anything an adult sees needs to be done, but doesn’t care to do himself. And the kid would be paid in room and board if he or she was lucky.
Oh, Jesus really and literally meant that the kingdom, the mystery of Jesus Christ, was revealed to little children. The little children that were brought to him to bless, when the disciples were enraged. But he also meant it figuratively to mean the simple in the land who simply saw who Jesus was. They weren’t so invested in their theories as to who God should be, or what God should do to miss seeing what it was God was doing.  These were the type of people who most often didn’t have time except perhaps on the Sabbath to study God’s word. The Pharisees, the Scribes, the Sadducees represented a lifestyle of leisure. They had money, they wore fine robes and looked down on the rags other people wore. They could sit around and study God’s word and pay someone else to plow their fields and make them breakfast. I mean when I think about this I think about waitresses at restaurants, the single mom who can’t hardly afford not to work on a Sunday morning when all the people like to go get breakfast after church. And then the good majority of those same people complain that a person shouldn’t work on the Sabbath, but aren’t you glad they do, if at no other time than when you are on vacation and there isn’t any other option? It was that kind of relationship these people had with one another. You couldn’t be a Pharisee if you were poor. But it was to the little children, the overworked and heavy laden to whom the Father revealed the kingdom in Jesus Christ. They were the one’s who flocked to see John the Baptist at the Jordan. They were the ones who gathered to hear the Beatitudes when Jesus gave his Sermon on the Mount. They humbled themselves like little children before their Father in heaven, and then they saw what the Father was doing, then they found the rest they were looking for.
So it is that the kingdom is one of rest. No not the kind of rest the Pharisees had from physical labor, but rest for the souls of those who have tried their hardest to live up to God’s law and have failed. This was the chief difference between the little children and the wise and understanding. The “wise and understanding” used here with a bit of tongue and cheek, had thought they accomplished God’s law. The little children could not afford such luxurious delusions. They knew their sins, and the Pharisees piled on more. The yoke of the law can be heavy if you are going to try to earn God’s favor by pulling it. But the yoke that Jesus has is light. It isn’t a matter of earning God’s favor, but experiencing his love, his grace, his mercy, that which he poured out upon you as little children at the baptismal font. It is there that he assures you of his favor so that you no longer have to worry about it. Then we live in his love and living in his love we learn to love as he loves, even as he loves all the little children of the world.

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