Following the Little Ones to Jesus - 30 December 2018

Following the Little Ones to Jesus
Genesis 17.1-14; Luke 18.15-17
Lord Jesus, shape and sculpt our hearts and mindsets that in real humility we may receive the kingdom of God like little children do. And help us to better grasp the value of our own baptism, as well as Christian baptism for infants and children. For those who find this subject difficult, help them to see clearly why we biblically do this, and why it is important. And if they are still unconvinced, may they at least be grateful that we are trying to follow you and your Scriptures, and may all of us be grateful for the Gospel of Grace displayed in baptism. Amen.

Do you ever get frustrated because you have ideas in your head that are clear as day to you, but you can’t get them into someone else’s head? That happens at our house quite regularly. For example, Anna gets this picture of what she wants in her mind’s eye. It makes good and solid sense to her but then when she communicates it to me it rarely gets into my head. She’ll say something and my mind immediately pulls up a picture completely unlike what she’s describing. And then we both get frustrated because I see a picture that is completely different from the picture she has. So recently she took a very helpful step and drew it out (see the picture at top)…This is the way it is when we start talking about Christian baptism, and especially Christian baptism for infants and children. I get it. I was on one side of the fence for years and was even a minister in a particularly rigid sect that said you had to be baptized their way to be saved; and now I’m on the other side of the fence for very biblical reasons that are as clear as day to me. But I realize that what’s clear to me may not come to you as clear, because we may have different frames of reference, experiences and expectations. / Today I’m going to present to you one of the reasons that caused both Anna and I to rethink and embrace Christian baptism for infants long ago, and it’s in this episode in the Gospel according to Luke. Here our Lord encourages parents to bring their little ones to Jesus, challenges those who kept the little ones from Jesus, and finally our Lord tells us to follow the little ones to Jesus.

Bringing Little Ones to Jesus (15a and 16a). Infants: brephos – “unborn child, embryo; baby, infant.” it’s the same word used in 1.41 and 44. The idea is that these were the smallest and youngest of children. These were babes who had to be carried and don't appear, at least on the surface, to have the intellectual ability to “believe”- as adults think of “believing”. So what does Jesus want to happen to these infants? Does he want the parents to wait until they have reached some foggy age of accountability? No, but instead “let the children come to me” (16.9) How can they come to Jesus? They are brought on the mamma’s hips and in the daddy’s arms. The parents come to Jesus bringing their babies to Jesus! [a] Jesus is setting the pattern for New Testament discipleship: Parents come to Jesus, and they bring their children to Jesus. Not-so-surprisingly this is Old Testament pattern of discipleship (Gen 17). Our Lord and his spokespersons are quite liberal in showing us how much of the imagery of the OT stays the same, and where it has changed: Temple, Priesthood, sacrifices, etc. But it’s very interesting that the pattern of discipleship didn’t change (Acts 16.31ff). [b] We baptize them not because we’re certain their saved, not because we’re certain they already believe, but because we’re certain of what God promises regarding our children (Genesis 17 and Luke 18). Thus, the focus of our first two baptism vows: “1. Do you acknowledge your children’s need of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, and the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit? 2. Do you claim God’s covenant promises in their behalf, and do you look in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ for their salvation, as you do for your own?” [c] We are to teach them, coddle them in the arms of the Faith of Christ by catechism, Scripture reading and memorization, drawing them into the communal, mutual, public worship of God, etc. That’s the intention of our 3rd Baptism vow. / Therefore, our Lord beckons us to bring our little ones to Jesus and warns about keeping the little ones from Jesus.

Keeping Little Ones from Jesus (15b and 16b). Yet the disciples seem to have thought too adultishly of Jesus and of Jesus kingdom-program. They wanted Jesus to be too busy for little children, they wanted Jesus to focus on them, in all of their adult superiority. But Jesus makes a solid, strong and smashing edict: stop forbidding the children from being brought to me and coming by their parents. This point should bring those who doubt that Christian baptism belongs to our children and infants, to go slow, and maybe start to doubt the certainty of their doubt. And this should cause all those who scorn Christian baptism for infants and children to quiet down, step back, and rethink their scornful certainties on their knees before God: “Jesus, you said “to such belongs the kingdom of God!” Is it just possible I’m actually wrong?” And it should caution those who want to exclude children from the communal, public worship of God. / Not only does our Lord invite us to bring our little ones to Jesus and warns us against keeping the little ones from Jesus; but then – to our surprise – he tells us we’re to be following our little ones to Jesus.

Following Little Ones to Jesus (16c-17). [a] Jesus explodes our rationalistic notions about children believing and belonging. “for to such belongs the kingdom of God” …. “receive the kingdom of God like a child”. Follow the little ones to Jesus! [b] But how do the little brephos, the infants receive the kingdom? Its by grace alone! And isn’t that what we have pictured for us in baptism? We don’t have pictured faith, we have pictured the Gospel of Grace! Oh yes! Follow the little ones to Jesus! [c] This episode is surrounded by 2 scenes (9-14 and 18-25) that show what happens when someone is too full of themselves and not willing to follow the little ones to Jesus…

And so, as you witness Mxxxx Exxxxx Cxxxx receiving Christian baptism, remember your baptism, which is a good thing to do as we end one year and jump into a new year! And as you witness this child receiving Christian baptism, hear our Lord calling you to come, follow this little one to Jesus.


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