Luke 18:15
And they brought to him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(15-17) And they brought unto him also infants.—See Notes on Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16. St. Luke, for some reason or other (possibly because he had recorded like teaching in Luke 16:18), omits the previous teaching as to divorce. The use of the specific word for “infants” is peculiar to him. The use of the word in Luke 1:41; Luke 1:44; Luke 2:12; Luke 2:16, where it is rendered “babe,” shows that it includes the very earliest stage of childhood, and so is not without its importance in its bearing on the question of infant baptism, so far as that question is affected by this narrative.

Luke

ENTERING THE KINGDOM

Luke 18:15 - Luke 18:30
.

In this section Luke rejoins the other two Evangelists, from whom his narrative has diverged since Luke 9:51. All three bring together these two incidents of the children in Christ’s arms and the young ruler. Probably they were connected in time as well as in subject. Both set forth the conditions of entering the kingdom, which the one declares to be lowliness and trust, and the other to be self-renunciation.

I. We have the child-likeness of the subjects of the kingdom.

No doubt there was a dash of superstition in the impulse that moved the parents to bring their children to Jesus, but it was an eminently natural desire to win a good man’s blessing, and one to which every parent’s heart will respond. It was not the superstition, but the intrusive familiarity, that provoked the disciples’ rebuke. A great man’s hangers-on are always more careful of his dignity than he is, for it increases their own importance.

The tender age of the children is to be noted. They were ‘babes,’ and had to be brought, being too young to walk, and so having scarcely yet arrived at conscious, voluntary life. It is ‘of such’ that the subjects of the kingdom are composed. What, then, are the qualities which, by this comparison, Jesus requires? Certainly not innocence, which would be to contradict all his teaching and to shut out the prodigals and publicans, and clean contrary to the whole spirit of Luke’s Gospel. Besides, these scarcely conscious infants were not ‘innocent,’ for they had not come to the age of which either innocence or guilt can be predicated. What, then, had they which the children of the kingdom must have?

Perhaps the sweet and meek little Psalm 131:1 - Psalm 131:3 puts us best on the track of the answer. It may have been in our Lord’s mind; it certainly corresponds to His thought. ‘My heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty. . .. I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with his mother.’ The infant’s lowliness is not yet humility; for it is instinct rather than virtue. It makes no claims, thinks no lofty thoughts of self; in fact, has scarcely begun to know that there is a self at all. On the other hand, clinging trust is the infant’s life. It, too, is rudimentary and instinctive, but the impulse which makes the babe nestle in its mother’s bosom may well stand for a picture of the conscious trust which the children of the kingdom must have. The child’s instinct is the man’s virtue. We have

‘To travel back

And tread again that ancient track,’


regaining as the conscious temper of our spirits those excellences of humility and trust of which the first faint types may be seen in the infant in arms. The entrance gate is very low, and, if we hold our heads high, we shall not get through it. It must be on our hands and knees that we go in. There is no place in the kingdom for those who trust in themselves. We must rely wholly on God manifest in His Son.

So intent is Luke in pointing the lesson that he passes by in silence the infinitely beautiful and touching incident which the world perhaps knows better than any other in our Lord’s life-that of His taking the infants in His arms and blessing them. In many ways that incident would have been peculiarly suitable for this Gospel, which delights to bring out the manhood and universal beneficence of Jesus. But if Luke knew of it, he did not care to bring in anything which would weaken the lesson of the conditions of entering the kingdom.

II. We have self-renunciation as the condition of entering the kingdom.

The conversation with the ruler {vs. 18-23} sets forth its necessity; the sad exclamation to the bystanders {Luke 18:24} teaches its difficulty; and the dialogue with Peter as representing the twelve {Luke 18:28 - Luke 18:30}, its reward.

{1} The necessity of self-renunciation. The ruler’s question has much blended good and evil. It expresses a true earnestness, a dissatisfaction with self, a consciousness of unattained bliss and a longing for it, a felt readiness to take any pains to secure it, a confidence in Christ’s guidance-in short, much of the child spirit. But it has also a too light estimate of what good is, a mistaken notion that ‘eternal life’ can be won by external deeds, which implies fatal error as to its nature and his own power to do these. This superficial estimate of goodness, and this over confidence in his ability to do good acts, are the twin mistakes against which Christ’s treatment of him is directed.

Adopting Luke’s version of our Lord’s answer, the counter-question, which begins it, lays hold of the polite address, which had slipped from the ruler’s lips as mere form, and bids him widen out his conceptions of ‘good.’ Jesus does not deny that He has a right to the title, but questions this man’s right to give it Him. The ruler thought of Jesus only as a man, and, so thinking, was too ready with his adjective. Conventional phrases of compliment may indicate much of the low notions from which they spring. He who is so liberal with his ascriptions of goodness needs to have his notions of what it is elevated. Jesus lays down the great truth which this man, in his confidence that he by his own power could do any good needed for eternal life, was perilously forgetting. God is the only good, and therefore all human goodness must come from Him; and if the ruler is to do ‘good,’ he must first be good, by receiving goodness from God.

But the saying has an important bearing on Christ’s character. The world calls Him good. Why? There is none good but God. So we are face to face with this dilemma-Either Jesus Christ is God manifest in the flesh, or He is not good.

Having thus tried to deepen his conceptions, and awaken his consciousness of imperfection, our Lord meets the man on his own ground by referring him to the Law, which abundantly answered his inquiry. The second half of the commandments are alone quoted by Him; for they have especially to do with conduct, and the infractions of them are more easily recognised than those of the first. The ruler expected that some exceptional and brilliant deeds would be pointed out and he is relegated to the old homely duties, which it is gross crime not to do.

A shade of disappointment and impatience is in his protestation that he had done all these ever since he was a lad. No doubt he had, and his coming to Jesus confessed that though he had, the doing had not brought him ‘eternal life.’ Are there not many youthful hearts which would have to say the same, if they would be frank with themselves? They have some longings after a bliss and calm which they feel is not theirs. They have kept within the lines of that second half of the Decalogue, but that amount and sort of ‘good thing’ has not brought peace. Jesus looks on all such as He did on this young man, ‘loves’ them, and speaks further to them as He did to him. What was lacking? The soul of goodness, without which these other things were ‘dead works.’ And what is that soul? Absolute self-renunciation and following Christ. For this man the former took the shape of parting with his wealth, but that external renunciation in itself was as ‘dead’ and impotent to bring eternal life as all his other good acts had been. It was precious as a means to an end-the entrance into the number of Christ’s disciples; and as an expression of that inward self-surrender which is essential for discipleship.

The real stress of the condition is in its second half, ‘Follow me.’ He who enters the company of Christ’s followers enters the kingdom, and has eternal life. If he does not do that, he may give his goods to feed the poor, and it profiteth him nothing. Eternal life is not the external wages for external acts, but the outcome and consequence of yielding self to Jesus, through whom goodness, which keeps the law, flows into the soul.

The requirement pierced to the quick. The man loved the world more than eternal life, after all. But though he went away, he went sorrowful; and that was perhaps the presage that he would come back.

{2} Jesus follows him with sad yearning, and, we may be sure, still sought to draw him back. His exclamation is full of the charity which makes allowance for temptation. It speaks a universal truth, never more needed than in our days, when wealth has flung its golden chains round so many professing Christians. How few of us believe that it gets harder for us to be disciples as we grow richer! There are multitudes in our churches who would be far nearer Christ than they are ever likely to be, if they would literally obey the injunction to get rid of their wealth.

We are too apt to take such commands as applicable only to the individuals who received them, whereas, though, no doubt, the spirit, and not the letter, is the universal element in them, there are far more of us than we are willing to confess, who need to obey the letter in order to keep the spirit. What a depth of vulgar adoration of the power of money is in the disciples’ exclamation, ‘If rich men cannot get into the kingdom, who can get in!’ Or perhaps it rather means, If self-renunciation is the condition, who can fulfil it? The answer points us all to the only power by which we can do good, and overcome self; namely by God’s help. God is ‘good,’ and we can be good too, if we look to Him. God will fill our souls with such sweetness that earth will not be hard to part with.

{3} The last paragraph of this passage teaches the reward of self-renunciation. Peter shoves his oar in, after his fashion. It would have been better if he had not boasted of their surrender, but yet it was true that they had given up all. Only a fishing-boat and a parcel of old nets, indeed, but these were all they had to give; and God’s store, which holds His children’s surrendered valuables, has many things of small value in it-cups of cold water and widows’ mites lying side by side with crowns and jewels.

So Jesus does not rebuke the almost innocent self-congratulation, but recognises in it an appeal to his faithfulness. It was really a prayer, though it sounded like a vaunt, and it is answered by renewed assurances. To part with outward things for Christ’s sake or for the kingdom’s sake-which is the same thing-is to win them again with all their sweetness a hundred-fold sweeter. Gifts given to Him come back to the giver mended by His touch and hallowed by lying on His altar. The present world yields its full riches only to the man who surrenders all to Jesus. And the ‘eternal life,’ which the ruler thought was to be found by outward deeds, flows necessarily into the heart which is emptied of self, that it may be filled with Him who is the life, and will be perfected yonder.Luke 18:15-17. They brought unto him infants, &c. — The contents of these verses we had Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; where see the notes. The passage very fitly follows the story of the publican, as a confirmation of the truth which was to be illustrated by that parable, that those shall be accepted with God and honoured, who humble themselves, and that Christ has in store for them the choicest and best blessings.18:15-17 None are too little, too young, to be brought to Christ, who knows how to show kindness to those not capable of doing service to him. It is the mind of Christ, that little children should be brought to him. The promise is to us, and to our seed; therefore He will bid them welcome to him with us. And we must receive his kingdom as children, not by purchase, and must call it our Father's gift.See the notes at Matthew 19:13-30. Lu 18:15-17. Little Children Brought to Christ.

15. infants—showing that some, at least, of those called in Matthew (Mt 19:13) and Mark (Mr 10:13) simply "little" or "young children," were literally "babes."

touch them—or, as more fully in Matthew (Mt 19:13), "put His hands on them and pray," or invoke a "blessing" on them (Mr 10:16), according to venerable custom (Ge 48:14, 15).

rebuked them—Repeatedly the disciples thus interposed to save annoyance and interruption to their Master; but, as the result showed, always against the mind of Christ (Mt 15:23; Lu 18:39, 40). Here, it is plain from our Lord's reply, that they thought the intrusion a useless one, as infants were not capable of receiving anything from Him. His ministrations were for grown people.

Ver. 15-17. See Poole on "Matthew 19:13", and following verses to Matthew 19:15, See Poole on "Mark 10:13", and following verses to Mark 10:16, where we before met with this piece of history. And they brought unto him also infants,.... As well as grown persons, that were sick, to be healed by him:

that he would touch them; in order, as some learned men think, to cure them of diseases that attended them; for one of the ways by which Christ healed persons, was by touching them; nor do we read of his touching in common for any other purpose, or of persons desiring him to touch them, or theirs, but for this end; in Matthew 19:13 it is read, "that he should put his hands on them"; and so the Arabic and Persic versions here read, in order to pray over them, and bless them: but neither in one place, nor the other, is any mention of their baptism, or of their being brought for such a purpose; nor can it be concluded from hence;

but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them; the persons that brought the infants; See Gill on Matthew 19:13.

{f} And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: {4} but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them.

(f) The children were tender and young in that they were brought, which appears more evidently in that they were infants. (Ed.)

(4) To judge or think of Christ after the reason of the flesh is the cause of infinite corruptions.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Luke 18:15-17. See on Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16. The peculiar source of which Luke has hitherto availed himself, which supplied the material from Luke 9:51, now ends, or Luke leaves it, and becomes substantially synoptic again, following Mark especially, although, while he does so, he still has special passages of his own (see especially Luke 19:1-10). The place and time of what follows as far as Luke 18:31 are, according to Luke, still the same as of what has preceded (from Luke 17:11).

καὶ τὰ βρέφη] their children also, so that not merely the people themselves came to Him. The word itself marks out the children more specially (infants, Luke 2:12; Luke 2:16) than παιδία in Matthew and Mark, the latter of whom Luke follows, although omitting his conclusion, Luke 18:16, to which abbreviating treatment no special purpose (in opposition to Hofmann, II. 2, p. 194) is to be imputed.

ἅπτηται] the present tense, brings the situation before us.

Luke 18:16. προσκαλ. αὐτά] He directed His call to the infants themselves (probably: come to me, little ones!), and then spoke to those who carried them, etc.Luke 18:15-43. SOME SYNOPTICAL INCIDENTS OF THE LATER TIME. Lk., who has for some time followed his own way, now joins the company of his brother evangelists. The section following is skilfully connected with what goes before, the link being the supreme value of humility.15-17. Jesus and the Children. A Lesson of Humility.

15
. they brought unto him also infants] Rather, their babes. It seems to have been a custom of Jewish mothers to carry their babes to eminent Rabbis for their blessing; naturally therefore these mothers would bring their children and babes to Jesus. See Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13.Luke 18:15. Καὶ τὰ βρέφη) also infants. Therefore they hereby recognised (acknowledged) the humanity of Jesus. [These things occurred beyond Jordan, on His journey towards Jerusalem: Matthew 19:1; Matthew 19:13.—V. g.]Verses 15-30. - Jesus and the children. The young ruler refuses to give up his riches. The Lord speaks of the reward of them that leave all for his sake. Verse 15. - And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them. Our Lord's noticing children is several times alluded to in the Gospels. There was something evidently in his look and manner which singularly attracted little ones to him. SS. Matthew and Mark both recount this blessing of the children immediately after the teaching on divorce. Our Lord thus sanctifies the bond of marriage and its legitimate offspring. It was a silent but powerful reply to the mistaken inference which his disciples had drawn from his words. They had said, "It is not good to marry" (Matthew 19:10). But when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. Something of what the Master had said concerning the marriage state affected the disciples. Had he not just (see Matthew 19:10-12) been claiming high honour for the solitary life where there were no family ties to claim attention? Surely, then, these women and their children had better stand aloof: what had that grave and earnest Teacher of theirs to do with these? He had higher and more important matters on his mind f Infants (τὰ βρέφη)

See on 1 Peter 2:2.

Touch

So Mark. Matthew has lay his hands on them and pray.

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