The Kingdom of God is sometimes thought of as some sort of “out there” or “up there” reality. It’s the stuff of heaven, an unclarified vision of eternity to come. But when Jesus teaches on the Kingdom, He addresses the most common, fundamental dimensions of our lives: money, marriage, children, broken relationships, grudges that we hold, etc.
In ch19, Jesus continues to teach about the sanctity of the marriage relationship. As the most sacred of human covenants, marriage exists to reveal the character and glory of God. The Bible holds up a Trinitarian understanding of marriage (God, husband, wife) that reveals God’s Triune nature as Father, Son, and Spirit. This is why divorce is spoken of so strongly in Scripture — this kind of rupture is unnatural, like the Son rejecting the Spirit or the Spirit abandoning the Father.
Jesus intentionally seeks out the young in order to lay hands on them (to confer a blessing on them) and to pray over them. It’s important to remember that the ancient world was not nearly as “kid-friendly” as our Western culture. Until they were old enough to work the fields and earn their keep, children were a liability in the ancient world. But Jesus has a counter-cultural understanding of children, seeing their helplessness and their vulnerability. Though they are young, they intrinsically understand their dependence upon their parents for life.
This contrasts with the next character we meet in the Gospel, the rich young ruler. Jesus speaks to his pious heart, commanding him to embrace the same posture of humility and dependence as the small child. “Sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven,” (v21). The young man hears this and he walks away sorrowful. We’re left with this tragic portrait: young children playing around the feet of Jesus, peaceful in His presence, while the young ruler walks back to the materialistic trappings of the world he has created for himself, incapable of relinquishing his dependence upon these possessions.