Like Little Children

Matthew 11:25-26 “At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”

What are the “these things” Jesus says have been hidden? John the Baptist’s disciples had just visited him with a question John sent from his prison cell: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” Was Jesus the promised Savior, the Messiah, really? “These things”, then, are the truth about Jesus’ identity and message. Jesus is the Son of God who came to rescue us from sin and death.

From some people the truth about Jesus had been hidden by his Father. He had hidden these things from the “wise and learned.” They came in two types in Jesus’ day. There were the religious conservatives, the Pharisees. They knew the Bible like the back of their hand. Unfortunately, they did not know themselves well enough to be able to see their own desperate need for God’s grace. Their great learning only puffed themselves up with self-righteousness.

Then there were the more secular Sadducees. They were the liberal elites of their day. They reasoned away much of what God’s word had to say. They were men of the world who considered themselves too sensible to believe in things like spirits and an afterlife.

Such “wise and learned” still live among us today. You probably know plenty of the second kind personally–someone with a college degree or two who accepts all the theories of modern science as established facts. They are skeptics of all things miraculous and associate belief in the supernatural with a low IQ. One such man was visibly shocked to learn that an otherwise educated man like me was a young-earth creationist who believed that Jesus was God.

Higher education and a sharp mind are a great gift from God so long as they remain subject to God’s Word and Spirit. But few things have the ability to blind us to God’s truth like putting too much confidence in one’s own intelligence and learning. Don’t think that we are immune to this kind of challenge to faith.

The first kind of the “wise and learned,” the Pharisaical moralist, we may not recognize so easily. They often sound so “biblical” and “moral.” One clue is the claim that they have discovered the key to a genuine Christian life, and that key is something other than Jesus and his cross.

I know of an evangelical leader from some years ago who was trying to promote fasting as the way to God’s heart. He said that he began his fast by meditating on God’s word and confessing his sins. But frankly, he claimed he didn’t have many sins to confess. His relationship with the Lord had grown so strong. If it had actually been growing, he should have been even more aware of the depth of his sinfulness and need for Christ. Somehow he was missing the place of God’s grace in his life. These things remain hidden from some, not because God has kept the information away, but because their own ideas get in the way of believing it.

Do you want to meet someone who knows Jesus? Ask a child about him. Their faith is eloquent in its simplicity. Who is Jesus? He is bigger and stronger than your best friend, and the bully who lives down the street, and even your dad or mom. There is nothing he can’t do. They don’t question whether he healed people, or stopped storms with a command, or made five loaves of bread grow until it could feed 5000 people. The Bible says so. They don’t question whether he is really God. It’s why the worship and pray to him.

How do they know Jesus loves them? He died to pay for their sins on the cross. They know what sin is, and they know it has consequences. Perhaps more than us adults, they have big people reminding them of what they have done wrong all day and making them pay for it. Jesus paid for it instead of them–not just one time, but every time. Yes, they know that Jesus loves them.

Want a picture of what this means to know and believe in Jesus like little children? Mark’s gospel tells us that, when Jesus told his disciples to change and become like children, he actually called a little boy or girl over to use as a visual reinforcement. Then he took that child in his arms and held it while he was speaking to them.

Put yourself in the disciples’ shoes for a moment. Picture what they were seeing. To be a little child, wrapped up in Jesus’ arms, surrounded by his love and protection–there is not a better place in heaven or on earth that you could be!

What Jesus has revealed are not abstract principles to debate or pick apart. He has revealed himself, the God who loves us without conditions, who died to cleanse us of our guilt, who lives to give us life that never ends. Put aside your pride and cynicism. Let go of your desire to be respected. Be his little children. There is no better way to know him.           

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