While rummaging through boxes in the basement, I came across an old issue of the Magnificat. On the cover is a painting by the renowned Russian landscape painter , Vasily Baksheyev, entitled “Christ Blessing”. Looking at this painting, I can’t help but recall the story in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark in which people were bringing children to Jesus that He might bless them. When the disciples rebuked them, Jesus became indignant and said, “Let the children come to me and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:14. Then, in verse 16 we read, “And he took them in His arms…”
Since becoming a parent, I have contemplated this passage at length. I wonder how desperate the parents must have been just to have Jesus draw near and bless their child, how humiliated and angered they must have felt by the disciples’ rebuke, and how much more they must have loved Christ after He rejected societal norms and the opportunity to exhibit His importance and superiority over them, chosing instead to give His entire attention to their children.
But now what strikes me the most about this passage (and the Bakshayev painting) is the thought of all the little children going into the arms of Christ and how the typical image of a stoic Jesus doesn’t seem to fit into this story. Anyone who has children can tell you that children do not easily go into the arms of someone who is stern and detached. Children do not run up and offer flowers to people with whom they do not feel safe and by whom they are not encouraged and loved. Children are drawn to gentle, fun-loving souls who are affirming of them and enjoy their presence.
There is no sign here of the stoic, aloof and emotionless Christ that so many would have us believe Jesus to be. Certainly, there are times in which Christ must be stern (Jesus turning tables over in the temple, for instance), but this is not that time. And if we only envision Jesus as sorrowful and distant we fail to see Him as He truly is.