As might be imagined, I am often intrigued by the sort of topics that fall to me to be taught in my Sabbath School classes. Today, I happen to have a class assigned about three passages where Jesus Christ blessed little children. Let us, in the interests of comparative analysis, examine these passages and see what lessons we can gather from them as time permits. The first such passage is Mark 10:13-16, which reads:
“Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. 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. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.”
The second such passage is Matthew 19:13-15, which reads:
“Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.”
The third such passage is Luke 18:15-17, which reads:
“Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.””
In many ways, these passages from the synoptic Gospels are very similar. All of them recount the initial rebuke of the people bringing children to Jesus Christ to be blessed. This is understandable if very mistaken. The disciples thought, like many people do, that Jesus was surely too busy as an important leader to be burdened with children. Many people ignore children and act as if they and their concerns were not important. I remember being a child myself and it was a terribly unpleasant time. Since I have not been allowed to forget what life was like when I was small, I have always sought to use that knowledge for good and not for evil by showing concern and care for the well-being of whatever little ones happen to be around me. Children suffer greatly in life, not least because their well-being is often secondary to the squabbles and interests of the adults who are supposed to care for them, and the fact that this neglect opens the opportunity for exploitation. Jesus Christ set a model of showing an interest in children, of blessing them and paying attention to them, in a way that sought their dignity and well-being, and not any sort of selfish desires of His own. It is a good model to follow for the rest of us, lest we be more like the disciples in considering children unimportant.
It is remarkable indeed that Jesus Christ was greatly displeased at the discouragement being given to the little children and their parents. Of course Jesus Christ cared for little kids. Have you ever gotten to know any delightful rapscallions? They are truly a joy to get to know, with their enthusiasm, their guileless friendliness, and all of the other ways that make one wish one had a happier and more innocent youth to remember. When the Messiah said that we must enter the Kingdom of God, it is obvious what is meant–we do not enter the Kingdom of God as if it is something that belongs to us as a just payment of wages, nor do we enter it cynical and full of life’s cares and woes. We enter it in innocence, with wide eyes and enthusiasm, with loud voices and hugs for our dear friends, and lots of questions that show interest and curiosity and that merit the best answers possible in honest and appropriate ways.
In God’s eyes, we are all His little children, with the care and gracious understanding that one gives to those who are small and inexperienced in life. Yet sometimes we act as if we are so important and beyond such care. How can we look into the pages and scripture or the wide expanse of the universe and see ourselves as anything more than young and small beings with great potential, but a long path to go before we reach our desired goals. What seems so obvious with children appears much less obvious when we mistakenly consider ourselves too important to reflect on ourselves as children of God, because we are in too much of a hurry to grow powerful before we have grown wise and good, and too keen to drop the observant nature and persistent curiosity and open affection that make children such a delight to get to know.