WHY HE LOVED THE LITTLE CHILDREN - THE FIRST SHALL BE LAST
Jesus loved children with tenderness and sinners with compassion; the pure and those who stood in dire need of purification. His hand willingly caressed the floating hair of the newly weaned child and did not draw back from the perfumed tresses of the prostitute. He drew near to sinners because they often had not the strength to come to Him; but He called children to Him because children know by instinct who loves them, and run willingly to Him. Mothers brought their children to Him to have Him touch them. The Disciples, with their habitual roughness, cried out on them—and Jesus once more was obliged to reprove them, "Suffer little children, and forbid them not to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven." "Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein." Matt. 19:14; Luke 18:16.
The Disciples, bearded men, proud of their authority as mature men and as understudies of their future Lord, could not understand why their Master consented to waste time with children who could not yet speak plainly and could not understand the meaning of grown people's words. But Jesus set in their midst one of these children and said: "Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. . . . And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a mill-stone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." Matt. 18:3.
Here, too, the transposition of values is complete. In the Old Law, the child was to respect the grown man, to revere and imitate the old man.The little child was to take the grown person as his model. Perfection was supposed to lie in years of maturity, or, better yet, in old age. The child was respected only as containing the hope for future manhood. Jesus reversed these ideas; grown people were to take their example from little children, elders were to try to become like infants, fathers were to imitate their sons. In the world as it was, as it is, controlled by force, where the only valued art is the art of acquiring riches and overcoming others, children are at the most only human larvae. In the New World announced by Christ, which will be governed by fearless purity and innocent love, children are the arch-types of happy citizens. The child who seems an imperfect man is thus more perfect than the grown man. The man who imagines that he has come into the fullness of his time and of his soul is to turn back, despoil himself of his complacent complexities and return to his first youth. From having been imitated he becomes an imitator, from his position as first he becomes last. "So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen." Matt. 18:4; 20:16; Mark 9:35; Mark 10:31; Luke 13:30.
Jesus reaffirms His own likeness to a child, and declares with no hesitation that He is identical with the children who seek Him out, "And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receives me." Matt. 18:5. The saint, the poor man, the poet, present themselves under this new form which sums them all up: the child, pure and candid as the saint, bare and needy as the poor man, marveling and loving like the poet.
Jesus loves children not only as unconscious models for those who wish to attain the perfection of the Kingdom, but as the actual mediums of truth. Their ignorance is more illumined than the doctrines of learned men; their ingenuousness is more powerful than the intellect which shows itself in reasoning words. Only a clear and untarnished mirror can reflect the images of the revelation.
"I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and halt revealed them unto babes." Matt. 11:25; Luke 10:21. Their own wisdom stands in the way of the wise, because they think they understand everything. Their own intelligence is an impediment for the intelligent, because they are not capable of understanding any other light than that of the intellect. Only the simple can understand simplicity, the innocent, innocence, the loving, and love. The revelation of Jesus, open only to the purest souls, is all humility, purification and love. But man, as he grows older, becomes more complicated, more corrupt, prouder, and learns the horrible pleasure of hatred. Every day he goes further from Paradise, becomes less capable of finding it. He takes pleasure in his steady downfall and glories in the useless learning which hides from him the only needful truth.
To find the new Paradise, the Kingdom of innocence and love, it is needful to become like children who have already what others must strive and struggle to regain.
Jesus seeks out the company of sinners, of men and women, but He feels Himself with his true brothers only when He lays His hands on the heads of the children whom the Galilean mothers bring to Him as an offering.