There are two key thoughts here:
- Jesus was talking about actual children. His rebuke of the disciples when they didn't welcome children, but pushed them away, was clearly an example of that.
- He was also using children as a metaphor for disciples. Because children in Jesus' culture were powerless, without rights, and vulnerable, they became the symbol for disciples who are powerless, without rights, and vulnerable. This characteristic of disciples is the deeper issue that will dominate the rest of the chapter.
On the surface, disciples who are powerless in this current world's view may not have anything to offer the community. But Kingdom thinking is upside down to "the way men think." To be on the side of God means to be on the side of welcoming, accepting, and receiving "little ones" whether they are actual children or disciples who are little in the sight of the world. Because Jesus adamantly rejected the normal channels to fame and fortune and instead walked the way of the cross — the punishment reserved for the powerless, those without rights, and those who were vulnerable — his disciples should welcome and care for those like their Savior!
Forgive me, O God, for judging people on the surface out of a selfish desire for what they can give me or how they can help me or make me feel comfortable. Open my heart to receive the "little ones" you place around me each day. Give me more of your shepherd's heart. In the name of Jesus, the Shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep, I pray. Amen.