Everything about Jesus’ bearing emanated affection for Eli. A warm atmosphere of love surrounded Him, enveloping the little boy and everyone listening. Eager ears leaned in, concentrating on His teaching. Thirsty spirits had even now begun to respond to His truth. He was communicating to them not only through His words, but also through His voice, through His piercing gaze, and through His powerfully welcoming demeanor. Even in just hearing His introductory statement, they could already discern how momentous His message was: Jesus was appealing to their deep hearts, beckoning them all to become His Father’s little ones. He was inviting every hungry soul to belong.
Jesus then lifted Eli up in His arms. He kissed the child’s rosy cheek and continued, “And whoever welcomes a child like this in My name welcomes Me” ². His eyes gave away His overwhelming love for the boy.
His voice grew fiercely protective. “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him to have a huge millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the open sea!” ³. He held Eli even closer as He spoke these words.
Fathers and mothers in the crowd observed closely. They could tangibly perceive Jesus’ protectiveness of the child in His arms. The way Jesus was holding him brought to mind their own daughters and sons. How the instinct to guard and shelter rises up aggressively within, at any threat of hurt to our little ones!, they thought. Watching Jesus, they could perceive that He would go to any length to shield the little boy in His embrace from any harm.
They leaned in, wanting to capture every nuance of what Jesus was imparting. Their hearts too were beginning to burn. Somehow, they were also identifying with Eli. Hadn’t Jesus explained to them how good, how loving, how caring, how attentive the Father is? Ripples of revelation spread out through the crowd. Hearts’ eyes were opening to see the image of Daddy God in Jesus. How tenderly He held Eli!
Holy Spirit was breathing the meaning of the Teacher’s assertions deep into their core. Jesus was longing for them, too, to be held and cherished as God’s little ones, just like He was holding and cherishing the small boy. They thought about His words. “…One of these little ones who believes in Me…” He had said. Their spirits came alive with His implication – He was referring to every one of them whose newfound faith was springing forth as they listened to His captivating words! Each of the hungry hearts knew: they were His little ones!
² Matt. 18:5, GWT
Part 3 tomorrow!