“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:3-4
Our firstborn Felix has recently begun to take more interest in reading children’s Bibles with us. I am very grateful that my wife Neva has been the one diligently trying again and again to introduce the stories from these Bibles to him. As Felix hears these stories for the first time, his joy and wonder has grown my own faith, showing me more of what it looks like to humble myself like a child.
A few nights ago, Felix and I were reading some simple stories from the gospels. This particular children’s Bible is mostly pictures, with only a few short paragraphs to summarize the story. We soon found ourselves in the parables of Jesus, and as I read stories about birds, flowers, and seeds, I could see his eyes lighting up with both delight and confusion. I imagine he must have been thinking in his own little toddler way, “What do birdies and flowers have to do with this Jesus Dad keeps talking about?”
We soon found ourselves reading about when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples (John 13:1-20). In our recent studies of the New City Catechism, we have been singing about how Jesus is both human and divine. I wanted to try and use this moment with him to impress upon him how amazing it is that Jesus, being God, would stoop down and wash the dirty, stinky feet of his friends.
I asked Felix, “Is Jesus God?”
“Yeah!” he said with enthusiasm.
“So, if Jesus is God, does that mean he is the Creator?”
“What did Jesus create?”
He paused, unsure. Our catechisms came in handy. I started singing Question #2 from the New City Catechism, “What is God?”
“God is the creator, of everyone and everything!” Felix finished the song for me.
“So Jesus, who made you and me, and everything we can see and touch, he really washed the dirty, stinky feet of his friends?”
“Yeah…” His voice carried a hint of mystery and amazement.
“ Wow, he must really love his friends, don’t you think?”
We turned the page and found that Jesus was now praying to his Father in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46). The picture showed Jesus praying, the disciples sleeping, and a beam of light coming from the dark sky conveying the Father’s attentive ear.
A new, daunting challenge was before me: How could I explain to my 2 ½ year old, who I just reminded that Jesus IS God, that Jesus is now praying TO God?
“What’s that!?” Felix asked, pointing to the beam of light coming from the sky.
“Well,” I said, “That is a light showing us that as Jesus prayed, his Father in heaven was listening to him.”
Felix was silent.
“Do you remember?” I asked with a straight voice. I then began to sing New City Catechism #3, “How many persons are there in God?”
“There are three persons in one God,” he began, but then started to speed up as he always does to finish the song, “The Father! The Son! The Holy Spirit!”
“That’s right! This picture is showing us that Jesus, who is God, is praying to his Father, who is also God. God the Father loves his Son, Jesus. And God the Son loves his Father.”
“Yeah…” This time, his voice was filled with total confusion.
“But you know what? God loves you and me too. If we put our faith in Jesus, then we can know God’s love forever. Did you know that?”
I hope he meant it.
I have been thinking a lot lately about these questions: Does Jesus really surprise me anymore? Or do I go through my days, my ministry, or my Bible reading acting as if I have him all figured out?
I think part of what Jesus meant by telling us to humble ourselves like children is to accept that we will never have Jesus, or his kingdom, completely figured out. Not in the slightest! We need to accept that as we grow in our biblical knowledge and our knowledge of all that Jesus has done for us, there will be even more that we do not know.
As we grow in our relationship with Jesus, do we still open ourselves up to new possibilities as he advances his kingdom in our lives? When we read our Bibles, do we pray with hopeful expectation that Jesus will reveal himself anew to us in surprising new ways? Do we have hopeful expectation that he will, through his Holy Spirit dwelling within us, produce new fruit that we never thought possible?
In my case, it took the wonder of my toddler to remind me just how crazy it is that God would love us enough to wash feet. And not just wash feet, but even lay down his life for his friends.
His compassion surprised me all over again. I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
How about you?