JESUS LOVES THE LITTLE CHILDREN
Jesus Blesses Little Children
13 Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 15 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” 16 And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.
Here’s an appropriate question to ask as we dedicate 17 young ones to the LORD: what did Jesus actually think about children?
Our passage gives us two clear examples in answering our question. The first is that children were brought to Jesus (10:13). The second aspect to the passage is that Jesus wanted to bless the children (13).
The passage doesn’t specifically tell us that it was parents bringing the children to Jesus, but that is a logical assumption. What is sad however, is that not every parent cares about their children’s spiritual wellbeing, and that could have been the case with some of them. Both types of people and their interactions with children or lack thereof actually guides our approach to the way we treat kids at FloodGate. We love kids and invest significantly in their care and nurturing, facilitating their discipleship. It’s why we have Zip Lines, 40’ Inflatable Obstacles Courses, VBS, etc.
Jesus and the Children
The ministry of Jesus often included children and the disciples. In the preceding chapter, Jesus was accosted by a distraught father with a perplexing challenge, have compassion on us and help us (Mark 9:22). This is in response to the disciples’ failure to cast an evil spirit out of a child who would convulse and fall into fire pits. Jesus responded by asking how long the child had been afflicted. The answer was disconcerting, as this was a lifelong malady. The father’s request included him, the boy and the Villagers, as everyone would benefit the boy’s deliverance. The man’s question was a type of left handed compliment, as it demonstrates his frustration with the disciple’s inability to bring respite while the Scribes looked on. The dad doesn’t give Jesus much credit when it comes to ministry. Jesus responded to the challenge with an attitude that said, “I can… believe it!” when Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
The end result of the 3rd convulsive episode becomes a mini motion picture depiction (a Short) of what will come with the death and resurrection of Jesus, as the boy appears to be dead. As Jesus lifts him up, life returns. Mark chooses his words carefully here and it lets the theology of the Gospel shine brilliantly. Satan’s last triumph will be the death of Jesus, but the apparent victory will be a canard, as it will be an illusion. Jesus will rise victoriously and satan’s power will be broken, as will the power of death and the Grave, Death, where is your sting? Hell, where is your victory? 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus (1Corinthians 15:55-57).
The ending of the story is a lesson Christ for the disciples and us. Jesus had really given them an anointing to cast out demons and they had a large measure of success, And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits… And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them (Mark 6:7, 13). But they did what many of us do when dealing with the anointing and authority that Jesus has imparted to us. They acted as if it was their power to use on command without remaining dependent on the faith-reliance we are supposed to exhibit on Jesus, our source for faith and authority. The church of Mark’s day was being told what we would be wise to heed, our charismatic power is not supposed to be taken for granted. Ministry power needs to be backed by prayer and fasting.
As the Church, we have to be proactive in our approach to kids, as not all parents know Jesus and conversely are not raising their children to encounter the LORD in their homes. It’s why you see kids getting dropped off at church during VBS or Wednesday night to get the kids sat for a time. Others don’t understand the importance of teaching their kids about Jesus, preferring to wait until they are older so that they can decide for themselves about going to church or the practicing of faith. In my opinion, this is nonsensical, as we don’t wait to take our children to get well checkups, dental visits, clean up their messes or other critical care aspects of life, do we?
The children were brought to Jesus. That’s what we are doing today. We are bringing the kids to Him to enable Jesus to bless them. It was a common thing during the time Jesus lived for people to bring children to a Priest or Prophet for blessing and people in antiquity believed that touching a holy man, even his clothing, brought blessings, even healing (Mark 5:28). It was a Children Dedication Service like today. As a Prophet of God, parents would want Jesus to pray for their babies and to tell them how much loved them and wanted to give them a special blessing. What we see here is the general attitude of the people about Jesus. He was accepted as a Prophet and that He was anointed by YHWH, and that they wanted their children to share in Jesus blessing and anointing.
Hindrances to the Children
The #1 hindrance to the children receiving Jesus blessing: Jesus Disciples! The disciples rebuked the people who were bringing the children. This was probably to an attitude of superiority, as they thought Jesus was too important to be bothered by the little ones. They were the WC Fields of their day, “go away kid, you bother me.” This is a typical adult reaction to kids, as many people see them as a nuisance, a hindrance to comfort and attention, and most of all, troublesome. You can almost hear them saying, “can’t you see that the Master is too busy to be bothered by your snot nosed rug rats? He has more important things to do so leave Him alone! Jesus is busy teaching US, so He doesn’t have any time to waste on your children,” In short, the disciples were wrong in trying to keep the kids away from Jesus.
A second type of hindrance was neglect, and this speaks to the churches pervasive view of children. Sometimes without actually realizing it, we become the hindrance to the children, just like the disciples. Children get neglected by the church in a multitude of ways, like the teachers not preparing adequately to teach their lessons with the same gusto we would if we were teaching adults. Another way happens when we treat Children’s Church, VBS, Wednesday Family Night, Youth gatherings or other young oriented events as just being times to occupy time and keep the kids from interfering with the “adult” worship. Still others view the kids as non-productive because they can’t contribute to the church financially. They are liabilities, not assets in this equation. An expense and not a source of revenue.
Being Like Jesus
Let’s be like Jesus and not the Disciples. Jesus response is important to note, He became flushed with emotion (turned red) and indignation, when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased. Mark is the only writer to include the vivid description.
Don’t hinder the kids, suffer them to get as near to Jesus as possible. The Disciples were negative. Their example was that little children weren’t important to Jesus. What type of example are we setting when we fail to consistently bring our kids to church, to VBS, or other kid’s friendly activities? What type of an example are we setting when we only occasionally attend ourselves and the main thing our kids about the precious fellowship of the saints is negative, and we are only there as long as there is nothing more important to attend or occupy our time?
This kind of behavior becomes a form of negative reinforcement. Friends, don’t become a negative force in your family’s life. There are enough negative influences that they will encounter in this world like violence, drugs, sex, peer influence, to name a few. Become forces of positive influence.
The point our Scripture’s today is really about the failure of the disciples, not the children. Jesus used His love and appreciation for the kids to illustrate the Kingdom, thus the double use of basellia tou theou. It actually highlights a parallel truth, when you accept my kids, you accept me. When you reject my kids…
The disciples didn’t want the kids to come. Jesus used their ignorance of the true nature of the Kingdom to teach them humility and grace. The disciples must have thought that were especially important, after all, they were the “in” crowd, part of Jesus’ posse. They saw themselves as more important than the children. They saw Jesus as being more interested in them over a group of kids. They were the ones who did the important things like tithe, teach, sing, serve, mow the lawn, attend the nursery. Those things are important, but like Mary and Martha, there are more important things to attend to in the faith life.
What we take away from this is that children model an acceptance of the reality and the gift of the Kingdom that alludes most adults.
They know how to receive without effort or work, which is Jesus point precisely. This is why every adult has to become like a child to properly receive the Kingdom.
Historical note of interest: some Christian traditions Catholic and Protestant assert that this story was placed in the scriptural account to authorize infant baptism. That isn’t the point and the assertion is wrong. Jesus finds children no less worthy of His embrace and blessing as any adult. And in this case, they are even more worthy than the disciples with their attitude of eslf importance over children.