9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
15 Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
He was a fellow of a certain age, an age I am getting closer and closer to all the time, so I know what this means. He was the pastor of a congregation with a preschool. When you have preschoolers in the room, a great deal of the action happens on the floor. He was of that age in which getting onto the floor and particularly up off the floor was getting to be harder. And yet, time and again, I saw him on the floor interacting, laughing, playing, and simply being with those preschoolers.
Jesus speaks of humility today, particularly the spiritual humility of repentance. The Pharisee lacked it, but so did the disciples who imagined that the Lord Jesus could not be bothered by these little children. The tax collector had it. He realized his miserable state and turned to God for forgiveness for all his sins. Jesus tells us that everyone who cries out to God helpless before his or her sin, helpless like a little child alone in a dangerous world, that person is heard and forgiven.
The tax collector went home justified. The children left blessed. Both had received the very kingdom of God. My colleague in ministry who spent a part of every day on the floor with small children was also humble. Though he had degrees and an office, though many people listened to him preach on Sundays, he was willing to bend low to serve a child. He knew that Christ had endured far more than a few aches and pains in service to him. He knew that these little ones were important to Jesus. He knew that he too was far more like them than dislike them when it came to his own sin. He was helpless too. It was not too far to the floor to spend this time with them. He was not too proud to be found there.