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Downside Up

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away. Matthew 19: 13-15
In March this year, a Report was released about the position of children under the self-styled Islamic State. It’s by the Quilliam Foundation but it hasn’t been given a great deal of attention in the UK or in Jersey. That’s just as well in a way because its findings are horrific. Young children in the caliphate are being indoctrinated, brutalised and trained to kill.

The Report was also very clear in describing how modern warfare in general is also seriously responsible for child brutalisation and radicalisation. Here’s one quote: Modern warfare kills, maims and exploits children more callously and more systematically than ever before.

How do you think young children in Syria feel when a bomb (in particular dropped by a country outside Syria) destroys their primary school and kills many of their school friends?


‘The tragedy of war is that it uses man’s best to do man’s worst.’ (Harry Emerson Fosdick, American pastor, 1878-1969)
Matthew, Jesus’ first century AD biographer of Jesus Christ, decided to include in that biography a short statement which highlights men’s views of children in those days – and also Jesus’ position. 

This is what happened. Parents were bringing their young children to Jesus so that he could place his hands upon them and pray for them. Jesus’ disciples ticked off these parents. 

Why did they try to stop Jesus placing his hands on them and praying for them? We’re not told – so it seems that Matthew wants us to think it through. Please think. Was there something - some inner bias or bent - inside these disciples that led them to tell these parents not to bother Jesus with children?
Did they perhaps regard themselves as too important to be bothered with children – and regard these activities of Jesus with children as giving nil advantage to themselves? The disciples, at this particular time, were hoping to see Jesus establish an earthly kingdom in which they would be on the Council of Ministers. Surely, in that case, there was nothing to gain by wasting time in this way?

And yet, when one thinks about it, what Jesus was doing with these children who were brought to him was to place his hands on them and pray with and for them.... This Jesus, Son of God, healer of men, women and children, teacher of extraordinary things like “love your enemies” – would that not be something exceedingly precious? 

In fact, these two things, Jesus placing his hands upon a person in fellowship with him or her – and praying with and for every aspect of their lives – is what he wishes to do to all when he says “Come to me you who labour and are burdened and I shall give you rest.”

Look now to what Jesus said, “Allow the little children to come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven is such children as these.” The kingdom of heaven [which Jesus came to bring] is such children as these. The kingdom of heaven is children like this who come to Jesus and on whom he places his hands and prays.

In the Middle East and elsewhere this morning Islamic State is training children to become cannon fodder. Also non-Syrian armies with huge firepower are destroying children. Even those who survive the explosives will live their later lives damaged by the authority and power of men and of religion.


‘What a fine looking thing is war! Yet ... what is it but murder in uniform?’ (Douglas Jerrold, dramatist and writer, 1803-1857)
Matthew wrote one more short sentence about the little children who had been brought to him so that he could place his hands upon them and pray with and for them. “He laid his hands on them and went away.”

We may have caught a glimpse of what Jesus’ followers at that time were really like – inside – before he died for them and rose again. We’ve glimpsed what Islamic State men – and other world leaders - are really like – inside. But what was Jesus really like – inside? 

His concern extended to the very people all around him whose hardness of heart causes so much pain. That’s why he died. 
Richard Syvret

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