Thursday, May 13, 2021

2021.05.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 18:15–17

Read Luke 18:15–17

Questions from the Scripture text: Whom did they bring to Jesus (Luke 18:15)? To do what to them? Who saw it? What did they do to the parents? Who called to them (Luke 18:16)? What does He command to be done to the children? What does He command not to be done to the parents? Why—of whom is the kingdom at least partly composed? Who else must conform to the children in what way (Luke 18:17)? How did the infants “come” to Jesus? So, how must each of us enter it? How else may we enter?

We see something here of the character of Jesus toward infants. Parents seemed to have good hope that their infants were welcome with Him (Luke 18:15). These parents knew what Jesus would do (in part) with their children: touch them. He would communicate Himself and His power and His blessing to them as implied and perceived by touching—which is a communication uniquely suited to the children’s own perception, not just the parents’.

They turned out to be correct (Luke 18:16). This is a great encouragement to parents today whose children are too young to come without help or even to help themselves come. Jesus is happy to receive those who are so unable as yet that they must be carried. He isn’t any more impressed with Pharisees (preceding passage) or young rulers (following passage) than He is with infants. 

We also see something here of the policy of Jesus, concerning infants. It’s easy to miss what Jesus says about infants in Luke 18:16 because of what He says about the rest of His people in Luke 18:17. But He does say both things, and we must receive both things. In Luke 18:16, He gives the command both in the positive (“Permit them”) and in the negative (“Forbid them not”) on the basis of their status (“Of such is the kingdom”). This “of such” is a statement of citizenship status; or, if we are using our common lingo, “membership” status. Jesus flatly says that they have a right to the King because they have a citizenship in the kingdom that is on equal footing with anybody else’s. 

Finally we see something of the policy of Jesus, concerning everyone. We’ve been done a disservice by the romanticized view that we have of children: implicit trust, playfulness, apparent innocence. But none of these were the way by which these infants (Luke 18:15) had “come” (Luke 18:16) to Jesus or received their citizenship status. 

In fact, many commentators point out that in neither the Greco-Roman nor Hebraic worldview were children associated with those things. Rather, they were considered little fools that needed a lot of training and a lot of providential preservation if they were going to survive their childhood long enough to come into an age of usefulness.

That further highlights Jesus’s obvious (even without this cultural knowledge) point: in order to come to Jesus, these infants had to be carried. It was not as if they had such small ability that they needed a large amount of assistance. Rather, the reality was that they had no ability at all, and for them to “come” to Jesus, the totality of that ability needed to be supplied by another.

In effect, Jesus is saying that unless the Holy Spirit carries us to Him spiritually in the way that these parents had carried their infants (Luke 18:15) and little ones (Luke 18:17) to Him physically, we’ll never come to Him at all. It’s another variation on the same theme as John 6:44 or Ephesians 2:1, Ephesians 2:5

Some point (correctly) to Luke 18:16 as validating putting the kingdom sign of the King’s authority upon kingdom citizens/subjects (cf. Matthew 28:18–20). This is what is sometimes called “infant baptism,” when we might more helpfully call it “kingdom baptism” or “covenant baptism.” 

But what Jesus is saying in Luke 18:17 is that, to understand the sign and thing signified correctly, we ought to understand every Christian baptism as an “infant” baptism. Professing or not, it was God the Holy Spirit who carried them into the visible kingdom of the earthly church. And if they are coming into the invisible and everlasting kingdom, then it will only be because God the Holy Spirit carried them there as well.

How does your interaction with infants mirror that of your Lord’s? What are you doing to help them come to Jesus in the means that He has appointed, since they cannot help themselves? How does His official statement about their kingdom status factor into how you view them? How has your coming to Him mirrored that of a helpless infant?

Suggested Songs: ARP87 “The LORD’S Foundation” or TPH195 “Shine Thou upon Us, Lord”

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