Sermon Follow Up - Week 21, 2021
This is a brief little text that serves to move the eyes of our faith away from all the things that serve to weary people of Christianity; all the debates, all the politics, all the damage done by authoritarian pastors, all the hurt from church people, all the experiences of being shunned for asking real questions about life and God and eternity and pain and suffering, of feeling misunderstood and misrepresented and put in a corner or a box, or disrespected and unfriended and unheard and judged. It will serve to retrain our gaze onto the person of Jesus Christ himself, rediscovering his heart and becoming refamiliar with the only requirement to enter his kingdom.
The Sermon Text
“Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 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. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”” (Luke 18:15–17 ESV)
The Main Point of the Sermon
We must work to rediscover the enormous heart of Jesus and diligently remove every possible hindrance from a world who is in desperate need for a lovingly accessible Savior to rest their weary lives on.
Sermon Points, Quotes, and Application
Observation #1: Jesus is Accessible
In the ancient world childhood was not for sissies. No need to wax sentimental over children – they had a dangerous time of it. It is estimated that only 50% of children lived past age 10. If David Garland is right that six of every ten children died before the age of 16, then one might surmise the number of the parents who brought infants to Jesus might well lose them in their first year or so. Perhaps that mixed some urgency into their coming. Such mortality was not simply an Israelite problem – it's been estimated that in Rome, for example, 30% of all babies died within their first year, only 49% of children lived to their 5th birthday, and only 40% of the population lived to the age of 20. Childhood was more desperate than cute (Dale Ralph Davis).
Jesus has time for these little ones. Consider what the parents must have been assuming about Jesus. No one in that day would have really cared at all for these children. Especially an infant. There must have been something about Jesus that made them think he was accessible to them. That Jesus was approachable. Kindness in his eyes? A signal to call them over? Somehow they knew. Somehow, amid the craziness of whatever crowd was there, Jesus made eye contact and welcomed them in.
What do you assume about Jesus? Does he have time for you? Patience for you? How about that frustrating family member, or irritating friend/co-worker? How about the person who holds opposing idealogical, philisophical or theological opinions? How might your assumptions about Jesus' heart either help you encourage others towards Jesus, or serve to hinder them from coming to Jesus?
Observation #2: Jesus is Impartial
Throughout the generations there have always been the “don’t bothers” of society (like the widow, the tax collector, and the infant in Luke 18 thus far). Perhaps you’ve been one. Perhaps you currently feel like one. The haves and the have nots. Those who excel and those who don’t. The smart and the not so smart. The rich, the poor. What we’ve seen throughout our time in Luke, and now again in this brief eyewitness account is that Jesus doesn’t play the “don’t bother” game. Vintage Jesus is impartial. It seems that Jesus delights in desperate widows, in tax collectors and even the seemingly insignificant children.
Do you feel like a "don't bother" kind of person? An outcast? Misfit? How does the truth about Jesus' delight in the "don't bothers" encourage you? Is there anyone in your life whom you may have chalked up as a "don't bother" kind of person? Maybe someone "too far gone" spiritually. How might this understanding of "vintage" Jesus inform how you think of them? And how you might choose to interact with them?
Observation #3: Disciples Can Hinder People from Coming to Jesus
Disciples of Jesus have always seemed to be able to easily forget that we not only were in desperate need of mercy but that we are always in desperate need of mercy. To know that we are the widow. That we are the tax collector. That we are the infant. And on account of the mercy of God in Jesus we are always welcome to come to him. But somehow in the midst of all of our own comfort and joy in the mercy of God we can tend to be specifically skilled to set up hurdles for others to have to jump through to get to him. Christianity isn’t complicated, but for anyone who has their pulse on the days we live in, we certainly have worked to make it seem so. Rather than the requirement to come to Jesus being absolute dependence on Jesus’ mercy in a heart of repentance and faith, we incorporate all sorts of other things that seem to serve as hinderances to people coming to Jesus. Oft times today’s Christian seems exponentially more concerned with things like lifestyle, clothes, opinions, age, intelligence, and politics rather than showing the mercy of Jesus to an increasingly angry world. Our society is increasingly filled with people who have been somehow told by Jesus’ disciples that Jesus is inaccessible to them unless they do such and such and think this or that. But Jesus himself has said otherwise. Whether tax collectors or demon possessed people or prostitutes or lepers, or even infants in this text, Jesus says, “let them come to me and do not hinder them.”
Have you made it easy for others in your sphere of influence to come to Jesus? How so? Or have you been, however inadvertently, placing obstacles in their way? What might need to change in your speech, in your conduct, in your attitude to remove these obstacles as far as it depends on you?
Observation #4: Children are Valuable and Welcomed to Jesus
Jesus is accessible to the children. He is not partial to adults only. In the worship of the gathered church, Jesus welcomes all, children included, to come to him, depend on him, and worship him.
The covenant community’s very identity is wrapped up with worshipping its covenant keeping God. And this community consists of believing adults and their children. Therefore, the church lives out its theology when it encourages and even expects its children to participate in this central event. Jesus said, “let the children come to me.” It would be odd indeed, if we sought to uphold that principle in every respect except the central act of the covenant people of God (Jason Helopoulos).
Have you made it easy for your children to come to Jesus? Or have you been, however inadvertently, placing obstacles in their way? If so, how? How might you be able to help the children in your home and in our church, "come to Jesus?" (See below for some resources)
Observation #5: Child-like Faith Receives the Kingdom
We can’t enter by means of religion or good works. We can’t enter because we’ve been honest or a faithful spouse or a good citizen – as good as those things are. We can’t enter because we share some of the views God has concerning marriage or gender or justice or race or life. Holding what is believed to be a biblical view of an issue will never, ever qualify you to enter the Kingdom of God, nor will it qualify those people who are in your sphere of influence. Only when men and women, boys and girls say, God, be merciful to me a sinner and mean it with our whole heart are any qualified to enter. Think about this. A small child is completely dependent on his parents for everything – and that is precisely how we must be towards God to enter the kingdom of God.
[Jesus] does not refer to some inherent quality in children, such as their imagined receptivity, humility, trustfulness, lack of self consciousness, transparency, hopefulness, openness to the future, simplicity, freshness, excitement, or any other idealized quality that commentators often attribute to children. None of these virtues were associated with children in 1st century culture, and they reflect a contemporary, sentimental view of children. …In light of the preceding parable of the tax collector who prayed for mercy from God out of his helplessness, Luke must have had in mind the child's total helplessness and dependence on others (David Garland).
[Jesus] is accessible. For all his resplendent glory and dazzling holiness, his supreme uniqueness and otherness, no one human in history has been more approachable than Jesus Christ. No prerequisites. No hoops to jump through…The minimum bar to be enfolded into the embrace of Jesus is simply: open yourself up to him. It is all he needs. Indeed, it is the only thing he works with. You don't need to unburden or collect yourself and then come to Jesus. Your very burden is what qualifies you to come. No payment is required; He says, “I will give you rest.” His rest is gift, not transaction (Dane Ortlund, Gently and Lowly).
We do not come to a set of doctrines. We do not come to a church. We do not even come to the gospel. All these are vital. But most truly, we come to a person, to Christ himself (Dane Ortlund).
Do you feel tired? Do you feel that somehow your vision of this Jesus has somehow been obscured? That somehow he requires so much more of you than you could ever live out? He calls us to come and rest. To cease striving and come to him in utter dependence. To sit at his feet. To learn from him. To enjoy him now and forever.
“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 ESV)
RESOURCES FOR THIS WEEK
Listening Plan for this week
Help! I Don’t Know How to Teach My Kids the Bible
SONGS TO CONSIDER