Then he embraced the children, and, placing his hands on them, gave them his blessing.
in every situation
to set in place
beyond the pale
In today’s litigious context any return of Jesus would not run afoul of any charge of blasphemy or insurrection. In their place it would only be necessary to whisper about inappropriate touching.
A serial “laying on of hands” as a benediction (“G*D bless you”) in a public setting may reduce the likelihood of an accusation but certainly does not remove it.
In his arms probably refers to a position on his lap rather than to his simply lifting them up from the ground while he was in a standing position (as a Rabbi he was probably teaching in a seated position). This difference is important in some languages.
Position is not only important in language, but in deed.
Malina243 sees this scene differently,
The picture is one of peasant women, many of whose babies would be dead with their first year, fearfully holding them out for Jesus to touch. Jesus’ laying his hands on children to protect them from or clear them of the evil eye (this is the main malignancy from which parents have to protect their children in the Mediterranean) is offered as a model for how to enjoy God’s patronage (=entering the kingdom of heaven). The argument is that God’s patronage belongs to those ready and willing to be clients.
The Greek would favor Bratcher and the cultural context would lean toward Malina. This reminds us to temper our tendency toward literalizing that which we call scripture with its setting. Barth has famously said, “take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible” (Time magazine, Friday, May 31, 1963). This has been rephrased in many different ways. My preference is to either add an additional phrase, “and interpret your reading of the Bible from life around you” or to altogether drop the second sentence. If there is not a partnership critique or loyal-opposition relationship between our belief structures and our lived experience we will find the whole of our life unhelpfully warped. Favoring either part paralyzes a parabolic appreciation of life.