“I don’t have any keys, Pastor Mark.” (Luke, 4 years old)
No he doesn’t. A four-year-old has no need of keys. Doors open to him because of the adults in his life, who are in a constant state of vigilance regarding which ones he will enter and which ones remain closed. He may not have a key, but Luke will open any box, drawer, window or door he can if it is left up to him. He is in a constant state of inquisitiveness as he surveys the world around him. He voices all of his conclusions with confidence.
I once heard a man say that a king will never turn a key in a door. His entourage and his hosts open the doors wide before him. His aids keep watch and makes sure that he is never put in danger. It occurred to me that little Luke is a king!
Jesus said, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Mark 10:14-15)
Jesus’ call to childlike faith comes in response to those who are hindering children from coming to Him. His own disciples regarded the weighty matters of Jesus’ teaching to be “for adults only.” The surrounding stories are about matters of life that express the nature of faith. In the preceding story, adults were asking about the lawful grounds for divorce. In the following, a man was bragging about how well he kept the law, but was unwilling to sell his riches when Jesus’ told him it would save his soul.
All three of these stories are really about children. The first child is consumed by his discontent and wants to know how to break a commitment that is no longer convenient to him. The second child is trying to get to Jesus, but is being hindered by the adults who “hold the keys.” The third child wants be near Jesus, but not if it means giving up his toys.
It doesn’t escape me that the child who is most eager to see Jesus is hindered by those who are already close to Him. These children aren’t asking Jesus to solve their problems. They are simply seeking to be near Him. But the key holders are hindering them so as not to bother Jesus. Jesus makes it clear that they should not be hindered.
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.“ (Matthew 23:13)
And it does not escape me that the majority of Jesus’ prickly discussions in the Gospels take place when He addresses the religious leaders of His day. They made it very hard for the average person to approach God. Their behavioral requirements were so stringent that the path to God seemed out of reach. And to make matters worse, they were hypocrites who made an outward show while having nothing of the love of God in them.
If the only message we have when we speak of Jesus is that a person is not good enough yet to be in the presence of God, then we do not have good news at all. How is the church doing at bringing good news to a lost and broken world? As a pastor who has sat with countless people who were trying to unravel unhelpful hindering that took place in the church, I would say we have some learning to do. God is approachable and He calls people to come near and be restored. Let’s remember that the invitation of Jesus is good news…
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)