Jesus and the Children
- Tell how Jesus showed his love for children.
- Understand that Jesus loves and blesses children.
- Express love to Jesus.
This story seems so warm and inviting, but it's important to hear the radical teaching about the kingdom of God that lies beneath the nice surface.
For example, why would the disciples want to turn away people who were bringing their little children to Jesus? Were they being mean? Didn't they like children? The fact is that the disciples were merely acting out of an attitude toward children that was common in their time and place.
These days, children are often the center of attention, and we think their chatter is cute. Whole chains of stores are now devoted to items for babies and small children. We dress them in the latest fashions and shell out hundreds of dollars for toys and games.
In Jesus' day it was quite different. One rabbi, a contemporary of Jesus, said, "Morning sleep, mid-day wine, chattering with children, and lingering in the places of the common people destroy a man." Children were nonentities, and were not all that important until they grew up and proved themselves. So it's understandable that the disciples might have wanted to help Jesus out by shooing away the kids so he could get on with the important business of the kingdom.
But Jesus is indignant: "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." In fact, he says, "anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it" (10:14-15).
What is he talking about? Our natural assumption is that Jesus is speaking of some childlike qualities to which we, as adults, can aspire: innocence, fresh-faced playfulness, honesty, vulnerability, and ready displays of affection. Yes, we ought to be more like that, we wistfully think to ourselves; we ought to be more childlike. Who can resist a toddler's play, a baby's smile?
On the other hand, if you spend more than fifteen minutes with the dear little ones, you're reminded how noisy, clinging, manipulative, and self-centered they can be. You have to keep an eye on them all the time to keep them out of danger, and to keep them from endangering other children and pets.
In this story, Jesus does not hold children before us as examples of the beginning of the Christian life. They are examples of its goal. It's not when and how a child will grow up to be like us, but when and how we will become like them.
We are to become like children because of their helplessness. The one universal quality of all children is that they come into the world utterly unable to make their own way in life. They have to be held and fed and cleaned and watched over constantly.
That's exactly the childlike quality Jesus points to when he calls us to become like little children. It's the humility of knowing that we can't save ourselves or make ourselves worthy of the kingdom. Becoming like a child means we trust completely in our heavenly Father to provide what we need in this life and the next. Notice how Jesus puts it: it's not about achieving the kingdom of God, but receiving the kingdom of God. Becoming like a child means being ready to receive God's love and salvation as a gift of grace.
And then Jesus did what we all love to do with little ones---he held them and hugged them. And that too is a picture of the kingdom: being held and hugged in the arms of God.
Children's ResourcesDwell's colorful, engaging resources come in a variety of formats designed for use in church and at home. Order them here.
OptionalNeed something for younger children? Many churches use the God Loves Me program for ages 2-3. Learn more.
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