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Did Jesus tickle his disciples' feet? Theology for children
Well, did he?
This is the question that my four year-old asked me while I was giving him a bath one day. Usaully I tickle his feet while I am washing them, and we had just talked about in church when Jesus washed his disciple’s feet. My first reaction was “of course not,” but then I got to thinking about all the parts of the Bible that make it clear, children were very important in the ministry of Christ. After searching through the Gospels, I noticed a common thread when Jesus spoke of children. More often than not, the disciples were trying to stop the insignificant children from getting in Jesus’ way, and Jesus was trying to explain that children are not insignificant, and neither is the way they see the world.
How does the Bible view children?
In all the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) Jesus tells his disciples to stop blocking the children, and let them come to Jesus. He wants the children to be near him, to listen to him, and to be loved by him. Many parents brought their children to be blessed by Jesus.
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 to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:13-14, Mark 10:13-15, Luke 18:16-17
And then there is more too...
There had to be a reason that Jesus wanted people to understand the gift that children receive from God. Adults have slowly pushed themselves into believing that a child like faith is something only for children. But Jesus makes it clear it is something needed to truly enter into the kingdom of Heaven.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,” (Matthew 18:1-5, Mark 9:36-37, Luke 9:47-48)
And the last piece from the Gospels tells us that even the smartest people on Earth cannot grasp the simplicity of faith that a child knows and understands.
Jesus says, “I thank you Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understand and revealed them to little children” (Matthew 11:25, Luke 10:21)
The world view: Adult vs. Child
With all of this being said, we still come back to what do I tell my four year old boy when he asks if Jesus tickled his disciples feet. The event in question is marked as one of the holiest, most sacred times in the life of Jesus. He is washing his disciples’ feet, some think at the Last Supper, and it was probably a solemn event. But as we look at how Jesus viewed children, maybe there is a place for acting like a child, understanding the joy of being loved like a child loves. Not worrying about the stresses of the adult world: of work and money, politics and war.
Children see the world from a far simpler philosophy. Maybe the world could be a little better if we followed our own children’s way of living. It is good to share if you have two of something. Don’t hit people, it’s not nice. Say you are sorry when you do something wrong. A hug can solve most problems with life, and always take a nap when you feel grumpy.
So, what did I say?
Yes, children are held high in the Gospels, and in the eyes of Jesus. So what did I tell my son? I looked him in the eye, and said, “Of course he did. Jesus liked to tickle his disciples’ feet.” Who knows, maybe my son understands Jesus more than my degree in Theology could ever teach me. Looking at his faith, I know he understands God’s love at such a level that I can only dream. A child-like faith, and maybe more child-like actions could make our lives a better place to live, and certainly would change the way we look at others in this world. The last thing that came to my mind is the children’s song, “Jesus Loves the little children of the World, all the children of the World, Red and Yellow, Black and White, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the World.” Yes, I think he does, and I think we as adults too often think that just because they are young or inexperienced they have nothing to offer us. Jesus believed in them, he valued their life and their presence. And so, whatever you may believe about Jesus and his disciples, my son has me convinced, yes, Jesus tickled his disciples feet, because he knew that being a child in the eyes of God is a good thing.
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