Two-thousand years ago: As Jesus was traveling around, crowds gathered to hear his teaching. As he was talking, “People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them,
'Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it. And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.'” (Mark 10:13:16)
Today: As Jesus is traveling around, crowds gather, important leaders want him to come speak in their beautiful churches; all are eager to hear the teacher’s wisdom. Suddenly, as far as the eye can see, there is a huge crowd of children slowly coming toward them. Some are trying to walk, some are crawling, some are being carried. Most are stunted — their bodies and brains haven't developed properly because of a lack of food, and the necessary protein, vitamins, and minerals it provides.
All of them — 2.6 million every year — are slowly dying from malnutrition.
As the mass of children approaches, the important people speak sternly, trying to turn them away. Jesus is busy, he has places to go, important people to see, vital things to teach; he can’t be bothered by hungry, dirty, fly-covered children.
Suddenly, the outraged voice of God splits the heavens:
“Let these children come to me, don’t stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to them.”
The kingdom is where a banquet will be spread for all people (Isaiah 25:6-8), where there will never again be an infant that lives but a few days (Isaiah 65:20).
And, turning to the children, Jesus takes them in his arms, lays his hands on them, and blesses them.
Duane Shank is Senior Policy Advisor for Sojourners. Follow Duane on Twitter @DShankDC.