Let the Little Children Come (Luke 18:15-17)

People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (New International Version)

I happen to believe that kids are closer to the kingdom of God than most adults.

Us big people have developed a lot of baggage over the years. And all that stuff tends to obscure God’s kingdom and the light of Christ within us.

Kids, however, especially small children, still haven’t discerned any veil between the seen and unseen worlds. They freely move between them both without any problem.

So, of course, Jesus wanted to be around children. If he had any homesickness at all, I’m sure the presence of kids made him feel at home more than anywhere else on this earth.

Jesus is our Immanuel, God with us.

The kingdom of God is here within us.

The disciples of Jesus had some difficulty with Christ’s branding of the message because it was not exclusive enough for them. They wanted limits on the us part.

Kids are part of that mass of people that God is with. Children deserve as much or more attention than adults. More than simply saying that we care about kids, we need to be like Jesus. He let the children come to him and was intolerant of anyone preventing kids from doing so.

Since the disciples were, ironically, still living in a small world, they rebuked those who brought little children to Jesus.

We aren’t specifically told why the disciples rebuked the adults bringing children to Jesus. Maybe the children were making a lot of noise and were being a nuisance in the middle of Jesus’ teaching. Perhaps the disciples had Jesus on a tight time schedule and this bringing kids to Christ thing was causing a delay. It could be that the disciples simply saw children as an interruption to the “important” work of ministry. 

I tend to think that the disciples simply failed to appreciate the children. The dominate view of kids in the ancient world was to see them as potential adults. Kids were pretty low on the ladder of society. The disciples likely saw no reason for children to be involved in what was happening.

The babies and toddlers and small children were brought so that Jesus might place his hands on them and pray for them. That still seems to me to be the best reason to bring kids to Jesus. 

“This story teaches us that Christ does not receive only those who voluntarily come to Him of a holy desire and moved by faith, but also those who might not yet be old enough to realize how much they need His grace….  From this we gather that His grace reaches to this age of life also….  It would be cruel to exclude that age from the grace of redemption.”

John Calvin

“Jesus does not only save repentant adults; he also saves dependent children and all those whom we think are incompetent to respond to Jesus.”

Frederick Dale Bruner

Jesus flat out rebuked his disciples for hindering the little children from coming to him. He wanted just the opposite of what was taking place. Why? Because the kingdom of heaven belongs to such little people as these. 

As mentioned, children were at the bottom of the societal pecking order in the ancient world. Their place in that society was to be respectful and quiet, to speak only when spoken to, and to never interrupt an adult.

Yet, Jesus took the time to touch them and pray for them. He invited this interruption to his schedule. Christ bluntly told his disciples that they were the ones being the hindrance, not the kids.

I baptize all sorts of people, including kids and babies. Why? Because in baptism, I recognize that the smallest ones among us can come to this holy sacrament. I understand that in baptism the Holy Spirit begins and initiates the process of salvation that will take that little one from infancy to adulthood and eventual death. I discern that, ideally, the child grows to live into their baptism by recognizing by faith that Jesus died and rose from the dead and grants grace and forgiveness to all who come to him. 

In that process of salvation, of coming to know Jesus, we have the sacrament of the Lord’s Table to strengthen our faith and demonstrate to us that the saving work of Jesus that has been accomplished. It is a Table of grace for all the members of Christ’s Church. 

In my Reformed Christian tradition, we believe that Jesus is not physically, but spiritually present at the Table.  Because Jesus is present, we are able to receive the grace available to us as Christ’s members. So why, in light of this reality, and the words and practice of Jesus toward children, would we ever hinder and prevent the smallest members among us from participating at the Table?

Here’s a thought: If Jesus himself were serving communion in a church, and a group of 2-year-old children came toddling up to the Table to see Jesus, would you stop them from doing so? Or much like the disciples, would you rebuke those bringing children to Jesus?

As for me, I’d rather not be rebuked by my Lord.

Jesus gave children the three gifts they most need: time, touch, and prayer. Parenting and teaching are holy vocations, and we have the wonderful privilege of bestowing these same gifts on our children, grandchildren, and students.

Time, touch, and prayer are ways we bless children. And, what’s more, as God’s children, we are all to approach Jesus and spend time with him, allow him to touch us, and interact with him through prayer. 

May we all have the humility to bend down at eye level to the littlest among us so that we and others will know that the kingdom of God is among us.

Leading Kids to Jesus

 
           This is the real New Year for both school and church.  As kids start back to classes, churches across the country are all gearing up for their Fall ministries.  When it comes to the Christian education of children, church teachers have a responsibility that is more than following a curriculum; they have a wonderful opportunity to lead their students to Jesus.
 
Every person’s spiritual journey is unique, including children.  Every teacher’s relationship with his/her kids is different.  There is no “how-to” formula that can replace the leading of God’s Spirit in our own hearts as we prayerfully seek to follow God by leading children to Jesus.  Through all the things teachers do in the classroom, we are seeking to bring kids into a living, growing relationship with Jesus Christ, while continually recognizing that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to convict and convince a child to respond to the gospel. 
 
As we look for ways to lead kids to Jesus Christ there are few pitfalls we need to avoid.  One pitfall is that we can manipulate kids to make a commitment they are not yet ready to make.  For example, younger kids are eager to please their teachers.  We need to ensure that children understand what they are doing so that it is not a meaningless commitment.  The second pitfall, on the other hand, is to ignore clear signs of a child’s desire to express a commitment to Jesus.  We need to avoid missing a God-given opportunity to direct a child to an age-appropriate avenue of faith in Christ.
 
The best ways to be assertive in bringing children to Jesus are to:  pray for them; present the gospel in forms they can understand and respond to; answer their questions; make sure they understand the content of the gospel; allow them to express their desire to be a Christian; help them to pray; and, follow up with them.  For older kids, asking questions is helpful and effective:  Why do you think Jesus wants to be your Savior and Lord?  How can that happen?  What do you like about Jesus?  Do you want to give your life to Jesus and follow him?
 
It is exciting to have a spiritually sensitive child desire to follow Jesus.  When a child comes to a point in which the Holy Spirit is truly working within them, pray with the child, inviting him/her to pray.  Offer to help if they need it with a simple prayer like this:  Dear Jesus, thank you for loving me.  I know that I disobey you and do wrong things.  I am sorry for my sins.  I know that God loves me and forgives my sins.  I want to love you more.  Amen.  Encourage older kids to write out a simple prayer so that they can think about it before praying with them.
 
As a church teacher one of the great things about leading a child to Jesus is that you are already an important person in that child’s life.  Thus, you are in a significant and strategic position to point the child toward growth in Christ.   You have an established relationship in order to help the child understand that a lifelong walk with Jesus will have ups and downs, but that Jesus will always be there.
 

 

      If you are already a teacher or leader of kids within a local church, then think intentionally and prayerfully about your role and influence for this coming educational year when it comes to leading children to Jesus Christ.  If you are not in an actual position to teach or lead, maybe God is speaking to you about stepping up to be a teacher in your church; or, perhaps God wants you to come alongside certain children or teens in order to speak into their lives with grace, love, and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Whatever role God is leading you toward, take heart that the majority of Christians today were influenced in some vital manner through a faithful Sunday School teacher, a caring youth leader, or an attentive lay person who desired to see a child know Jesus.