15 Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to him, saying, "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it."
In the name of + Jesus.
We use different English words to describe children: new-born, infant, toddler, and preschooler. Greek, the language of the New Testament, also has different words for different types of children. So what sort of children is Jesus calling to himself? And to what sort of children does Jesus say belongs the kingdom of God?
Infants. The littlest of children. Those who are unable to make decisions for themselves, but must be given to by a parent, grandparent, or someone else who will love them and provide for them. Jesus calls these receiving infants to himself, for it is to them that the kingdom of God belongs. Infants simply receive what is given them. That’s called faith.
Our Lutheran Confessions describe justifying (saving) faith with these words: “Faith is the divine service (latreia) that receives the benefits offered by God” (Ap IV (II) 49). Since Ephesians teaches that faith is a gift given by God (so that no one would boast!), faith is that which simply receives the gift. God gives His gifts. Faith receives the gifts.
But Jesus does not desire His Father’s kingdom only to be given to infants. He desires all to receive the gifts He freely gives. Which is why, He desires all to be present in His Father’s house, where the gifts are being given. It is there that infants, and toddlers, and even youth, and young adults, and those who have stopped counting their age act like children, and receive what their Father gives through His own Son. In order for you to be like a child, and to receive His Kingdom, our Lord established the ministry of Word and Sacrament. “Through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given (John 20:22). He works faith, when and where it pleases God (John 3:8), in those who hear the good news” (AC V, 2).
People often ask if we have “Children’s Church.” I understand what they are asking? And I know from where that question arises. I’ve learned to simply respond that “this Church is the Children’s Church. For it is the Church where Jesus gives His gifts to His children.” So let us all encourage young parents with the littlest of children. Let us help that mother who has her hands full. And even when those children are making noises that would tempt us to hinder them from being in the Divine Service, let us remember, that Jesus desires us to receive the kingdom like them. Jesus desires us to receive, by faith, the gifts He gives.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Give us grace to receive Your kingdom, O Lord, as babies welcome and trust their parents’ loving arms (TLSB, p. 1754).