Jesus came down from the Mount of Transfiguration and set his path to Jerusalem and the cross. Matthew 18 opens with the disciples asking Jesus,
“Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. (Matthew 18:15)”
I have always heard these verses set in a discussion of the characteristics of young children. This weekend my adult son visited for the first time in 6 months to support me and visit my husband in memory care. My husband has dementia so I told him for several days that our son was coming. I prepared my son that his father may not remember him or be affect-neutral. As we walked in the room, my husband spotted our son and as we approached, he almost jumped out of his wheelchair and his face lit up with delight as he threw his arms open to hug our son. “…unless you change and become like little children,” said Jesus.
Is it that as we age, we become more childlike? My husband may or may not understand the events of life around him any more than a young child. He is dependent on aides for personal care, so humbling. He is loosing the ability to even stand up on his own two feet. But he recognizes at some level those who love him and are kind to him. I am learning the gift of presence. He does not spend a lot of time talking with people but we enjoy being together.
I think that Matthew opens this phase of Jesus’ ministry with this story because as Jesus walks to the cross, he becomes more and more a person in the hands of other – not because he cannot, he is God, but because he does not. There is a childlike quality about approaching the cross.
As we approach our devotional time today, we might reflect on our countenance in prayer. Are we like a child having a temper tantrum about our wants or are we more like an elder leaning out and raising our arms for a hug as we learn to trust the care of God? Blessings.