Monday, April 5, 2010

The Crumpled Red Poppy

Preface: It warms my heart that Jesus would surround himself with little children, taking them in his arms, validating their existence and importance. Remember, women and children were viewed as second class citizens, definitely not deserving of time and attention of most rabbis. On that particular day when Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me..." there were parents and children of all types present. Their stories are not revealed. But there had to be many worthy of being heard. Though our story is imagined, Jesus' accepting love and comfortable, relaxed way with children remains unchanged. After all, Jesus created children, how could he not enjoy them?

A young mom tells us what it was like to have her precious little daughter blessed by Jesus.

"I held onto my Lydia tightly as I made my way through the massive crowd. She looked so sweet--all fresh and clean, dressed in her very best. We were going to receive a blessing from Rabbi Jesus. She proudly clasped a red poppy in her chubby little hand, so excited to give it to Jesus. In the distance, I could see other parents already gathering. Then, as I got closer, I overheard Jesus' disciples harshly rebuking the moms and dads who had brought their children to be blessed. Everyone looked duly chastised as they were told Jesus had many more important matters to attend to. Their loud, stern and unfriendly tone actually startled and frightened some of the little ones and made them cry.

"Had I misunderstood what Jesus was really like? I had previously observed his respectful and loving interaction with both young and old, especially the powerless and those regarded as insignificant. This was a huge letdown for me. Normally I am ridiculously intimidated by rabbis, but I had truly expected Jesus to be different. So, deeply disappointed, I turned around to go back home. Our society doesn't validate children, especially fatherless little girls like mine, and I wondered why I had ever thought otherwise. Lydia realized we were leaving and put her head on my shoulder, crying softly, still clutching her prized red poppy.

"But I stopped in my tracks when I heard Jesus rebuking the "rebukers"! He told his disciples to let the little children come to him and not to hinder them because the kingdom of God belongs to them! He said whoever does not receive the kingdom like a little child will never enter it. It was amazing! As the disciples backed off, parents hesitantly stepped forward with their kids. I turned back and joined them

"As we gathered around, Jesus knelt down and reached out to coax a wobbly toddler, with a runny nose and tattered clothes, to come to him. Then all of a sudden, a playful young boy standing behind him pulled away from his father's hand, ran to Jesus and jumped on his back, throwing his arms around his neck. Everyone froze, waiting for Jesus' reaction. With an enormous grin on his face, Jesus stood up, held onto the boy's arms and twirled him around. Within minutes, Jesus was surrounded by giggling children, tugging on his sleeve, hanging onto his leg--all wanting to get in on the action. After a while, Jesus took each child, one by one, in his arms, cradling the infants and lifting the others high into the air before blessing them.

"And as for my own little bundle of joy, well, we waited our turn. Then Jesus very graciously accepted the bright red poppy Lydia offered to him, even though it was a little crumpled by that time. Sensing her shyness, he gently picked her up and for a few treasured moments they marveled at the beauty of her little gift, both deciding it was their favorite flower. Then he blessed her. Unaccustomed to special treatment, his blessing made us both feel so cherished.

"The 'littleness' of these children contrasted sharply with the well-meaning, but overbearing reaction of the disciples. These precious ones, so used to being ignored, pushed aside, even mistreated, not only received a blessing and validation from the humble Messiah, but were lifted up as tender examples of the very essence of the kingdom of God."

Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-15; Luke 18:15-17

(c) Joyce Catherwood 2010