What a day it must have been! When parents brought their little children to Jesus. It captured the attention of all three synoptic writers. Can’t you see the smiles? And hear the giggles? And feel the excitement?
Unfortunately, the disciples threw “cold water” on their good intentions. The text says they “rebuked those who brought them.” Maybe they thought they were protecting the Master. That He was too busy. Or had more “important” matters. Or just needed a break from the pressures of His ministry.
Whatever the reason, Jesus didn’t like it. Not at all. Mark says, that “he was greatly displeased.” Then Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.” Indeed Jesus loved the little children. Many lessons can be learned from this occasion.
But one act is often overlooked. The Scripture says, “And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.” What a beautiful sight. What a precious picture. What a touching moment. Jesus holding the little children in his arms.
Jesus said He was “the good Shepherd.” We’ve all seen the artist’s rendering of Jesus holding the little lamb. It’s a wonderful metaphor that shows the tenderness of Jesus. His kindness. His compassion. His empathy. And how He welcomes us with open arms.
But his arms were not just extended to little children. And to sheep. But to sinful people. Like impetuous Peter. Scorned Mary Magdalene. The immoral Samaritan woman. Like the repulsive lepers. Or dreaded demon-possessed people. And the woman caught committing adultery. To the least likely of society. To the outcast. And castaways. To folks whom the religious leaders had little use for. To these Jesus opened wide his arms of acceptance. Of Love. Of Mercy.
But there is another scene of Jesus’ open arms. Not very pretty. Or attractive. Or alluring. In fact, it’s hard to look. Because the sight is ugly. Gruesome. Bloody. It’s the Friday Jesus was crucified. He’s hanging on the cross. His body beaten. His head bruised. His muscles aching. His breathing labored. And his arms. Those arms are extended wide. Those inviting arms that once welcomed the little children are now stretched between two thieves. His arms are aching. His shoulders pained. His muscles throbbing.
On that Friday the arms of Jesus extended to embrace all of humanity. Jews and Gentiles. Slave and free. Men and women. One arm reaches back into history to forgive the sins of those under the patriarchal period and Moses’ law. And the other arms reaches forward to everyone else. To those on Pentecost. And in Samaria. And throughout the Roman world. And to people in the 21st century. All across America. And the world. From Canada to South America. From Africa to Asia. From Europe to Antarctica. And to Ken Weliever where he may be. And to you. Those outstretched arms are inviting sinners to come to the cross.
But for a short time, those arms were without life. For three days they laid folded still in the grave. And it appeared to the casual observer that tender touch of Jesus was forever finished. His arms would never hug again. His hands would never ruffle a child’s hair. Or extend to welcome “the least of these.” But they were wrong.
On Sunday, the Savior arose. His arms once more outstretched to the apostles. The disciples. The women who followed. Doubting Thomas. And to hundreds of others who witnessed once again the power and outstretched arm of the Lord.
And so this Lord’s day, we gather to celebrate He who held the little children in his arms; whose arms stretched across history to bring us together in one family; and whose arms gently and warmly welcome us into His fellowship.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman