This is dedicated to those who suffered through my last missive. It’s short and hopefully, sweet.
Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” And after laying His hands on them, He departed from there.
Jesus is in Judea, facing the last few weeks of his life, before he is to be nailed to the cross. Nevertheless, he seems to be in good spirits. Well, at least towards the children, it seems that the disciples still can’t seem to get it right. Though they did have a small victory in the last passage, where hey understood the teaching of Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given.” Actually, the victory is the Lord’s, because, as always, it was revealed to them, they didn’t come to it on their own. Which is why I write; unless you are learning for yourself, you only know what you have been taught. How do we learn for ourselves, or better yet, how does God reveal it to us? Hebrews reads, “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.”
And how does Jesus speak to us? Through his Words, we call it the Bible. Is the Bible written like a manual to a 2006 Toyota Corolla? No, it has been written over hundreds of years, with multiple genres and although the words of God, it was written by many men, who’s personalities and aspirations are revealed. The Bible is literature and we need to read it in that way, considering the context, ascertaining the author’s aspiration to his audience, jiving with the genre, examining examples from the rest of the Bible and then divide rightly the word of truth.
For those who are brand new, we call this hermeneutical tool, the CAGED method. Context; Aspiration of Author; Genre; Examples; and Divide. If one gets their Bible study from a radio or TV mega-church pastor, one is probably starving. You don’t need a TV or mega-church pastor, you can read the Bible for yourselves. Problem: you might not like what it says. Healing, business deals, promotions, cash winfalls, promises of prosperity and the like, are not necessarily promised. What is promised is refining by fire. Also, before we get into today’s text, if you are not in a church that teaches to read the Bible the way in which it was written, find a new church. Or better yet, confront the church with hopes that it will see that we must study the scriptures in the way which they were written. Either way, be in a church that teaches the Bible, not the presuppositions of men.
Today’s text is a short paragraph found in Matthew 19. It is sandwiched between adultery and the “Rich Young Ruler.” It’s a small little snippet about some children who were brought to Jesus so that he could lay hands on them and pray for them. We are not told if they are sick, blind or anything else. Perhaps an Expository Exegesis of Examples will enlighten us.
Luke 4:40; “And while the sun was setting, all who had any sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and laying His hands on every one of them, He was healing them.”
Luke 13:13; “And He laid His hands on her; and immediately she was made erect again and began glorifying God.”
Mark 6:5; “And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them.”
Mark 7:32; “They brought to Him one who was deaf and spoke with difficulty, and they implored Him to lay His hand on him.”
Notice that all of the examples I used are in the genre of gospel, and all are part of the synoptic gospels. If we were to consult our Old Testament tutor, we would see that the “laying of hands” is usually associated with sacrifice or offering.
We will look at one example; “Then the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands on the head of the bull before the LORD, and the bull shall be slain before the LORD.” Although there is the “laying of hands,” and a sublime string, it doesn’t really fit the context. Yes, somehow the situations are related but not directly.
In the book of Acts, the “laying of hands” takes a few different forms. In one case people speak in tongues. However, people also spoke in tongues elsewhere, without the “laying of hands.” “Laying of hands” wad done to people before they were sent out on a missionary journey, to welcome people, and of course, to heal.
Based upon the genre and the examples, I am leaning heavily towards, the children brought to Jesus for prayer and the laying of hands, may have had some sort of infirmity.
But not so fast! I thought context was king? Let’s look closely at the context. “Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them.” The disciples are beginning to understand Jesus, and his parables, metaphorical meanings, teachings and miracles. They know that he is the Messiah, yet they keep missing the point and act like children themselves sometimes. But do we really think that they would turn away sick children, after all the healings they’ve seen?
I hate to say what the context is silent about, but I will anyway. The context of Matthew almost always describes the type of healing Jesus performed. It also usually details the infirmity, and it also states that it was a healing. We read none of this in the context. The context never says that the children were sick or otherwise disabled. Nor does it tell us that Jesus healed them. Expository exegesis enlightens but dividing rightly considers the context as superlative.
Plus, I intentionally left something out. And you probably know this. It was customary in the Old Testament and in the New, to lay hands on people simply to bless them. However, it is not as common as one might think. Nevertheless, based on the context, and a huge list of examples, with few proving my point, I believe that Jesus was simply blessing the children.
One thing that is welcome here, in my missives, as was in my Sunday School classes and at youth group, is the honest truth of how one feels. Right or wrong, we will work through it. Having written that, I want to be perfectly honest, considering the context; I want to slap me some disciples! Seriously, what is wrong with them? Consider the context.
The disciples allow the Pharisees, the very people who are seeking to put Jesus to death, full access to Jesus. Continuing in the context we will see a wealthy landowner given full access to Jesus but the disciples rebuke the children, hindering them from coming to Jesus. I guess they thought Jesus was too busy doing adult stuff. But Jesus is the one who is going to be beaten and berated, kicked and clobbered and nailed to the cross in just a few short weeks hence, he should be the preoccupied one with adult stuff. An aside: Jesus is the true Israel, the Messiah, the Son of God–notice how different (holy) he is than all of the other players up on the stage. The disciples were wrong and Jesus makes this clear.
Notice; “‘Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ And after laying His hands on them, He departed from there.” Jesus shut up the disciples and blessed the children. Taking a little more Vitamin E, we also notice Mark’s account; “But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
We have seen throughout Matthew that the disciples can be, shall we say, stupid. But are they really stupid enough to keep kids away from Christ? The short answer is yes, but the long answer is that it was probably how they were taught. Kids belong at the kiddie table. Samaritans, women, gentiles and children were all looked down upon as taught by their culture. Our culture is very different. In our culture we put children on a pedestal, if they are born and wanted, that is. Oops, I promised not to get political. (I can’t understand how a human heart that beats is political! Rather, it’s good and truth, vs. psuedo-science, lies and evil.) Even in the christian community, we place a special emphasis on the children, sacrificing of ourselves to teach the children. And I believe that is because of passages like this one. Christ came for every tribe, tongue, culture, color, men women and certainly, children.
This is not another passage that suggests we need to have child-like faith. We simply don’t find that in the Bible. To the contrary, when Jesus says, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these,” he is standing with the outcasts of society.
The disciples thought that Jesus couldn’t be and shouldn’t be, bothered by the children. But Jesus is not bothered by them, they are fellow brothers.
The Kingdom of Heaven has a narrow gate but it is open wide to every tongue, tribe, gender and age.