“He then took a little child.” Many in the pews will react to these words today in vastly different ways. Years ago, the action would have conjured up images of the gentle kind and loving side of Jesus. That is still a reasonable reaction. Others will immediately react and hurl abuse in our direction.
For a moment, recall the context. Jesus is trying to instruct the disciples on his forthcoming deliverance “into the hands of men”. And he didn’t need any particular enlightenment from his Heavenly Father to work that out! The disciples are already discussing the places of honour. His eyes must have been rolling. Remember, too, that in Jesus’ time, a child was not valued as being innocent; the child had no social status, no legal rights. In a sense, the child was in effect a ‘non-person’. Jesus upends that position by putting his arms around the child; this embrace a sign of acceptance of one who was considered a social non-entity, the child was worthy of respect and care.
Would they get the message? Things are going to be different in the Kingdom. At least that was the hope, even in this moment of sure frustration.
We’re here today pondering this incident because, eventually, millions of people got the message; some, a bucketful.
The child returns this year to haunt us a little but also to call us to re-engage with life and turn the tables on those who do evil. It is worth remembering that often the Spirit works through the least important member of the community. We don’t have to have the highest place at table to do good immense good!
We are all important because we all are children of God and if we allow, we too will feel the embrace of Jesus.