Let me say right off that there are more than 3 things to learn from Jesus – but, there are three staggering things we need to pay attention to and learn from in Matthew, Mark and Luke’s account of Jesus “blessing the children”. Why staggering? Well, because they are obvious but not focused on, clear but overlooked, simple but hard to do . . . you get the picture. Nothing that follows should blow your mind.
Here are the verses :
Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.
Matthew 19 : 13-14
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “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.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.
Mark 10 : 13-16
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.”
Luke 18 : 15-16
Now, each account is different – just a few nuances that give us – perhaps – a full picture of what is going on here. From what precedes this event and what comes after it in each gospel this certainly appears to be the same event being recounted. Matthew and Mark have an account of Jesus being asked questions about marriage and divorce followed by Jesus and the children and all three have “the rich and the Kingdom of God” following on after these verses. What is exactly the same in each account is this line from Jesus,
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God / Heaven belongs to such as these.“
Here then, are my three things :
#1. People brought the children to Jesus.
Is this staggering? Well – think about it for a minute. These were children who couldn’t bring themselves. Those who brought them wanted them to meet Jesus. These children, even if they wanted to, couldn’t get to Jesus without help. They were reliant and dependant on others bringing them. In fact, it looks like the reasons for bringing the children is motivated by the adults with them, what they have seen of Jesus, what they desire from Jesus – it’s what they want for the children in their care. They want their children to meet with, to encounter Jesus.
Where, today do we encounter Jesus? In our worship – through the preaching of the word, the breaking of bread, through fellowship and sung worship. In our lives – our daily coming and going, the ins and outs, the ups and downs. However, it still seems that in many churches while the adults are encountering children are colouring. In the lives of those who have the care of children bringing them to meet with Jesus, that place of encounter – just doesn’t seem to be a priority.
The place where faith is mostly discovered, grasped, lived and practiced IS the home!
The way that we hold on to an adult faith is through living in and being part of a worshipping community with every generation – not segregated from each other.
Why aren’t people bringing the children to Jesus?
Is it because our culture has corrupted us? Do we believe – even from the earliest age – that our children need to “find their own way?” Will we teach nothing? Model nothing? Guide them nowhere (here, look at this iPad)? Are they being lost because of our lethargy. According to the research quoted above, most of us who take our faith seriously think it is more important that our children have good manners than whether they know Jesus.
We need to be people who actively and intentionally bring children to Jesus. It is not good enough to simply say “they will find their way” . . . there are many ways, but there is only one way. His name is Jesus.
#2. People brought the children to Jesus.
Ok, can you see what I am doing here? This one statement has three staggering truths in it. I say staggering, because generally they seem to be things the church struggle with – here we go then. These are babies and toddlers we are talking about. These children are not teenagers, they aren’t running around, messing about or causing a disturbance – despite the response from the disciples that would suggest this. Nope, these are really little people. In fact Luke makes it most clear – “babies” – in other words the tiniest infants. The words used by Matthew and Mark talk of those who are “little children under training” – we aren’t talking serious schooling here, this is more like the “potty training” end.
These are actual children. Real ones. Unfortunately, a rarity in many of our churches. 48% of Anglican churches for example have fewer than 5 children under the age of 16. The thing is children FILL many of our churches every week . . . just not in services. They are at mid week toddler groups. The most undervalued missional activity of the church. Why is that?
They’re only children and, generally, mostly with their mothers (who are only women and we have enough of those).
This is so unbelievably shocking I can’t quite believe I’ve typed it. This ministry in many of our churches out “reaches” any other missional activity of the church. It out reaches Alpha (What? No, not Alpha!) . . . read the following then, and gasp :
For more information about this, read the Jubilee Plus Report Summary on the impact of Church based toddler groups.
#3. People brought the children to Jesus.
I’ve read and re-read these passages and I didn’t spot a “hand off” – apart from to Jesus. The disciples get in the way and then are told to get out of the way. That is pretty much their activity in a nutshell. Stopping people getting to Jesus with their children.
There are some fabulous things being done week after week through Sunday School, Junior Church, Creche . . . activities, worship, prayer for and with our smallest participants – sometimes with their parents, sometimes not. However, this should not be instead of bringing children to Jesus. We should not abdicate as parents and carers, there is no “hand off” to those we perceive to be closer to Jesus. Neither are children somewhere else whilst the disciples and the other gathered adults (oh, by the way, the “disciples” with Jesus were likely to be 15 – 22 year olds, young people in other words) meet with Jesus. Here, when children are present – they are front and centre with Jesus, children in the midst of the action.
Children being held, blessed and prayed over by Jesus Himself.
Oh wow but this is fabulous.
Let’s be people who bring children to Jesus.