“And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’ And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.” (Mark 10:13-16)
This is a great passage of scripture, and I think it really shows how seriously Jesus takes ministry to children. Usually, when this passage is preached, the emphasis is on verse 15 where Jesus says, “…whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” which is an important point –but I don’t want to park there today. Instead, I want to look a little further back.
Children In Bible Times
Let’s start at verse 13. “And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them.”
It was a custom for parents to bring their children to Rabbi’s and holy men to ask to bless them, so it wasn’t totally strange that they would be doing this. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, was in his final days of teaching. They were on crowd-control. They were tired from the journey, worried about what would happen when they got there, and were probably trying to give Jesus some space to do more important things. They had a lot on their mind, and so did Jesus. So it only makes sense that they would try to only let the most important people, the sick, the local leaders, the ones that needed Jesus most, through.
After all, these were only kids, people 12 and under. Children weren’t treated very well in ancient society. It wasn’t as bad among the Jews, but the treatment of children was very bad among the pagan nations. Evil. They were, essentially, non-persons – property of their fathers or their slave-masters. In Roman culture,
“…an infant could be abandoned without penalty or social stigma for many reasons, including an anomalous appearance, being an illegitimate child or grandchild or a child of infidelity, family poverty, parental conflict or being one of too many children.” (source)
This was normal then, so the disciples weren’t being offensive to the crowd. Everyone would have understood that kids weren’t as important as adults. Everyone would have realized the disciples were doing the right thing in letting the important people come first. Everyone unerstood why the disciples “rebuked” the parents who were wasting Jesus’ time.
But there was someone there that didn’t agree with what the disciples were doing.
Jesus was Indignant
“But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them…”
A fascinating word pops up there to describe what was going on in Jesus heart and mind when He sees his disciples rebuking the people who were trying to bring their children to Him… “Indignant”. It’s the Greek word “AGANEKTEO” which is a very descriptive word.
Its the word used to describe how the Pharisees felt when Jesus rode into town on the donkey and they heard the crowds crying out “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Matt 21:15), They were “Indignant”. It’s the word used of the disciples when they saw James and John ask to be Jesus’ top-disciples (Matt 26:8). It’s the word used of the ruler of the synagogue who saw Jesus heal the man on the Sabbath (Luke 13:14).
The Greek version of the Old Testament uses the word to describe how the brothers of Dinah felt when their sister was seduced and defiled. They were “indignant and very angry” (Gen 34:7). And it’s used over and over to describe God’s feelings toward unrepentant, stubborn hearts:
“But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation.” (Jer 10:10)
It’s a powerful word, full of emotion, and here’s it’s used to describe how Jesus feels about people who get between Him and the children who want to come to Him. I hope you get an appreciation for that word. You can’t read these words of Jesus in a grandfatherly voice that says, “Oh, it’s ok. Let them come to me…” No, these are words of rebuke! “Peter, James, John, all the rest of you — GET OUT OF THEIR WAY and LET THE CHILDREN COME TO ME. DO NOT HINDER THEM…”
Jesus didn’t see these kids as less important than the adults around them. He didn’t see them as less significant than the leaders, parents or disciples. No, He saw them as exactly the kind of people that He had come to be with. They were weak, helpless, dependent and in need of a saviour, a defender, a redeemer and friend. And as he look at them He saw a group of people who were coming to him with pure intentions, just longing to be with Him, to discover Him, to know Him, to be blessed by Him. They didn’t want a show, they wanted the One who was there. These parents just wanted the touch of Jesus in on their children’s lives. These children just wanted to be around Jesus.
And then He saw His own disciples getting in their way and rebuking them for coming, it enraged Him.
And what did these kids see? They saw Jesus look square at his disciples and rebuke them for not letting them come to him. This could have been the first time in their lives that they were treated as the highest priority. These adults were getting yelled at because they were telling the kids to go away. I can just imagine the looks on the 10 and 12 year old boys that had been rebuked just that morning for breaking a dish or not doing their chores. Now they’re looking at each other, eyes wide and mouths open as they watch Jesus tear a strip off these adults for getting in their way. That probably made their day.
Children as a Commodity
We can criticize ancient cultures for how poorly they treated children, but it’s not much better today, is it? A lot of people still treat children as commodities and excess baggage. They are drains on our finances. They are problems to be eliminated. They are property to be shown off or discarded when they are inconvenient.
In Canada 100,000 lives lost to abortion every year. About 25,000 babies were murdered in Ontario last year – and the government, your taxes – paid for it. No, we’re not talking about the extreme cases of rape and incest, or the women or baby has health problems – that only accounts for about 7%. Let me give you the top reasons for why women have abortions – and this is from an abortion advocacy group!
“Relationship Issues” – Her parents and/or the man who impregnated her doesn’t want her to keep it. This isn’t condemning the woman, but more often the man. He finds out she’s pregnant, dumps her and runs, or says he’ll leave her if she has a baby.
Another reason is “Financial and Practical reasons”. In other words, I can’t afford a baby, so it’s better to kill it. According to one sight I read 21% of women said they aborted because they couldn’t afford a baby. Just to be clear, that’s over 20,000 babies a year, murdered because they would be too expensive. 16% said they aborted because “their life would change too much”, 8% said “they have all the children they want”. These children aren’t seen as babies, but commodities. If we want it, then it’s a celebration with parties and balloons. If we don’t then it’s just dispose of it.
Another popular reason is that the woman isn’t “ready to provide for and meet the physical and emotional needs of a child.” Especially if the child has some sort of special needs. In their deranged minds, these men and woman think, “I’m not ready for responsibility. I won’t do a good job with this kid. I’m not ready for this level of commitment. I’m still living my own life and this will mess me up. And since I’m not ready – it’s better for the child if I kill it in advance.”
CBC reported this week that deadbeat parents – 97% of which are dad’s – owe 3.7 billion dollars in support payments for their kids. So not only are these men running away from the women and children before they’re born, but even after! They can’t even be bothered to send the most minimal, financial help– even after the courts of ordered them to. Reminds me of 1 Timothy 5:8,
“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
If you don’t take care of your family – including your kids, you’re worse than a pagan. No Christian should ever be a deadbeat mom or dad.
But this is happening every day. Dad’s abandon their women and children, and mom’s killing their babies – not for health reasons or because of incest and rape – but because they don’t want the baby to affect their lifestyle. The height of selfishness and pride meted out on helpless children. These people idolize their life so much that they are willing to give the blood sacrifice of their own babies to the god of their lifestyle.
It’s no different than the Israelites who saught to appease the false god Molech who demanded that they take their newborn babies, place them on the arms of the carved idol, and watch them burn to death. (Lev 18:21) Let me read to you a description :
“It is believed that idols of Molech were giant metal statues of a man with a bull’s head. Each image had a hole in the abdomen and possibly outstretched forearms that made a kind of ramp to the hole. A fire was lit in or around the statue. Babies were placed in the statue’s arms or in the hole. When a couple sacrificed their firstborn, they believed that Molech would ensure financial prosperity for the family and future children.” (source 1, source 2)
It’s the same, isn’t it? Sacrificing babies so that the parents can have more money for themselves and perhaps their future children.
This is what made the worship of Molech so reprehensible to God, and such a danger to the Israelites. They are warned in the law not to do this (Lev 18:21) and are commanded to destroy anything that has to do with Molech. Over and over the Israelites and their kings fell into the worship of Molech – but why?
Because some people are able to overlook the preciousness of their baby when it means they have to make personal or financial sacrifice. For some terrible reason there are people choose money, comfort, and lifestyle over the life of their child. (Click to tweet this quote)
The dads who abandon their children so they can live free from responsibilities are worshippers of Molech. The women who kill their children because they don’t want to change their lifestyle are worshippers of Molech. The parents who choose their work, their toys, their retirement savings, their vacations, over having children are worshippers of Molech.
Jesus prioritizes children and gives them high value. Demons are the ones who tell us that kids aren’t important – or are less important than we are.
Just Kids? Not to Jesus
“And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.” (vs 16)
Every kid that came, in succession, was held, hugged, and blessed. Jesus was ministering to these kids.
“He took them into his arms.”
This wasn’t just a formal dedication ceremony. How many times have you heard the word “just” used to describe ministry to children and youth? It’s just Sunday School. It’s just the youth group. The adults have gathered for worship – what are we going to do with the kids? Who cares as long as their quiet and not interrupting the sermon, right? After all, they’re just kids. It’s not like they’re important, right?
They don’t tithe. They don’t sit on the leadership boards. They don’t contribute to the potluck. They interrupt. They ask dumb questions. They’re noisy and need to be removed. They’re annoying and need to be distracted. Just get them out of here so the important adults can have their time with Jesus.
But what did Jesus do? He angrily rebuked the adults with that attitude, told them to get out of the way, brought each child into His arms, prayed for them, blessed them, laid His hands on them, and loved them. One by one He ministered to them and showed them how high of a priority they are to him. They weren’t in the way. Not at all.
Within a few verses Jesus will be walking into Jerusalem. The Triumphal Entry is in the next chapter. Did Jesus have a lot on His mind? You bet! Did He have places to be? Absolutely! Did Jesus stop everything to show love to the kids, and teach us that children are a huge priority to Him? Definitely.
God Loves Kids
Why did He stop? Not only to teach us something. He stopped because Jesus is God and God loves kids.
“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” (Psalm 127:3)
“Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers.” (Proverbs 17:6)
When Jesus saw these kids, He saw a reward, a gift, and a blessing from Heaven. Children and grandchildren are not a burden, they are a gift! Hearing a woman is pregnant is never, ever bad news. (Click to tweet this quote)
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139:13-16)
Do you see the delicacy and intimacy with which God is involved in the design of every single baby? God knows every single one of those kids from the atomic level up. He knows every thought, every dream, every fear, every joy, every tear.
It was an absolute joy for Jesus to wrap His arms around these children because He knew that God had specially created every single one of them to be exactly who they were. They were special creations, and Jesus took great joy in them.
Don’t Mess with Jesus’ Kids
And with that in mind, I want to turn somewhere else to look at Jesus’ attitude toward kids.
“And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you discussing on the way?’ But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, ‘If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.’ And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.’” (Mark 9:33-37)
Now skip to verse 42. Nowhere in the narrative does it say that Jesus has moved. This is the same conversation. Presumably, it could be a little baby, cradled in in his arms, or a little toddler sitting on his lap… and Jesus looks from the child to the crowd around Him and says,
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” (Mark 9:42)
In the account of this story in Matthew 18, in the next verse Jesus says,
“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!” (Matthew 18:7)
How serious does Jesus take the ministry to children? He says that it would be better that we would die than to cause a child to turn from God. There are massive, eternal consequences waiting for people who cause children to fall away from faith, who teach them falsehood, or who tempt them to sin. Woe to anyone who leads a child away from Jesus.
Only a few verses later in Matthew 18, the same child still cradled in Jesus arms, we read Him saying,
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones.” (Matthew 18:10a)
To “Despise” means “to look down on”, “think little of”, “disrespect”, or “take lightly”.
Can you see Jesus looking at this little baby or a toddler, stroking his little cheek, and looking directly at the people around Him and saying in a very serious tone, “Don’t take the ministry and care of these children lightly, because God doesn’t. Don’t disrespect these kids. Don’t look down on children, no matter how small.” And then He tells them why.
Keep reading in verse 10,
“For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”
This isn’t just a verse about guardian angels, it’s a threat. These aren’t fat little cherubs that float around baby-cribs. These are the divine armies of God, terrible in power and terrifying to all who see them. God assigns these special guards to look over His little ones and no one gets away with anything when it comes to them. God gets a full report of everything everyone does or says to that baby, that toddler, that child.
And then He tells a story we’re all very familiar with.
“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” (Matthew 18:12-14)
Does that shed new light on this story? The picture Jesus paints is one of a shepherd who searches high and low for his lost sheep and then celebrates when he finds it. But God isn’t looking for lost sheep, is He? No… He’s saying, “This is how I guard these little ones. Even more than a good shepherd loves the littlest lamb, I love these children. I don’t want any of them to fall away from me. I have my eye on all of them. Each of them has an angel to protect them. I love them with a jealous, passionate love. So. Don’t. Mess. With. Them!”
Now, go back in your mind to our first story where the disciples are rebuking the parents and children for coming to Jesus. Can you see why He was so angry? Someone is messing with His kids.
Our God Given Responsibility to Children
And the bad news is that people are really messing children today. Deadbeat dads, abortive moms, abusive parents, divorcing spouses, neglectful churches. This is a terrible time to be a kid. Judgment is coming on those who mess with or don’t look after the children of this world, but in the meantime they have been given to us, God’s church, as a joy and a responsibility. And not just our own biological children! Taking care of fatherless children is a major theme in scripture. Let me close with a few scriptures to remind us of our responsibilities to kids.
In the Garden of Eden, in Genesis 1:28, God blessed Adam and Eve and then said, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion…” Having children was our first job, taking care of the world our second. I can’t see how that has changed. Those of us who have the ability also have the responsibility to have kids, by the command of God.
Canada has one of the worst birth rates in the world! We don’t even want kids! What a moral bankruptcy that has come upon us that having kids would be seen as such a terrible thing.
And when we have those kids, we have a responsibility to teach them. To the Israelites God said in Deuteronomy 6:4-9,
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
God commands parents to make sure their children are absolutely saturated with the reason for their existence—to “love the LORD [their] God with all [their] heart and with all [their] soul and with all [their] might.” Everywhere they go, in their daily conversation with mom and dad, in their education and hobbies and decisions – written on the very walls of their homes – is the reminder that they exist by the will and for the pleasure of God. They don’t exist as an extension of us, parents. They’re not little you’s and me’s. They are created in God’s image.
Proverbs 22:6 says,
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
That’s tells us that we need to be consistent, for their whole young lives. We don’t have the right to get exasperated and give up on guiding and training the child. And it means we don’t leave it to others either. God gave those kids to us, and so it’s our job to train them up. If we leave it to the world to do it, then the world will certainly train them to be worldly. If we give them to the pagans to train, they will become pagans.
It also means that we believe that we need to be diligent. We’re can’t just turn them loose to figure themselves out. “I’ll let them decide for themselves what religion, or gender, or whatever they want to be” isn’t an option. If we want them to grow up to be good, strong,, studious, hard-working, faithful, men and women of Christian character, then we need to train them up in the way they should go! That means that we guide them along that way.
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)
This means that when we parent – and by extension when we grandparent or minister to children — we do it with abundant love, grace, sensitivity and care.
Without a doubt, we are to take their life and rearing seriously, and to guide them diligently. We have been given the right and privilege of being the “fountains of domestic authority” but that doesn’t give us license to let our passions run away with us so we make their lives miserable. We don’t over-indulge them and let them become sinful, spoiled pigs, but we don’t make their life miserable either. We pour out love and grace, living with a good temper and reasonable expectations.
I know we’ve covered a lot today, but if you take away anything, please remember how much Jesus loves children, and so we are to love them too. They are a priority to Him, so they are important to us. They are a blessing, a joy and a responsibility that we have been given. So let us embrace them, hold them in our arms, bless them, and thank God for them.