Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.
There are times when the disciples are quite insightful, when they really “get it”, and then there are times when they really seem to miss the point entirely, and this is one of those latter cases. I suppose that we should be hesitant to be too critical of them, since I’m sure that each of us is probably guilty of missing the point often enough.
In this brief scene, Jesus is out among the people, and they bring some little children to Him for Him to pray over, and the disciples rebuked them. Maybe they thought that Jesus was too busy at the time to deal with a bunch of little ones, Matthew doesn’t say, but whatever their reason, it would appear that they have missed what Jesus was telling them in 18:5…
And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
Jesus insisted that the little ones be allowed to come to Him, and once again mentions that we must be as little children, the powerless, vulnerable and often exploited by this world, to enter the Kingdom of heaven. Yes, it would be accurate to say that little children are a metaphor for the “citizens” of His Kingdom. I have already commented on this in my remarks on 18:1-5, “The Greatest in the Kingdom” so I won’t repeat the whole thing again now, instead, let’s once again take a step backward to look at the whole picture.
We are still in that section of Matthew in which Jesus is educating the disciples, where they are the ones in the scene that He is primarily concerned with. Also, in this part of that section, He is teaching them the stark difference between His teaching of the Kingdom, and the traditional teachings of the Jewish leadership, so isn’t it interesting that this should happen, and isn’t it significant that Matthew has included it here?
I can’t prove this, and I can’t pass it on to you as an established fact, but I can tell you that my guess is that Matthew passed this little episode on to us because this is when they began to understand His teaching about little children; certainly, it was for the disciples’ education that these events took place when they did.
In the next scene, Jesus has a chat with a rich young man; see you then!