Though we grown-ups tend to forget it, being a kid is sometimes tough. Children can feel unimportant when they are overlooked or dismissed by the grown-ups around them. How often as parents have we told our children, “Not now, I’m too busy,” or “Sorry, I don’t have time right now; I’m working on something very important”? Who can blame a child for thinking he doesn’t matter much in a grown-up world?
The disciples didn’t think children mattered much to Jesus, or to his ministry. They knew he was the Christ, the King of Israel, and they understood he was on his way to Jerusalem to establish God’s Kingdom on earth. If there was ever a work that was important, or a man whose busy schedule was sacrosanct, it was the Lord’s.
Accordingly, when parents kept bringing their children to Jesus for his blessing, the disciples rebuked them (Luke 18:15). It was their job – or so they thought – to protect their Master from such annoying disturbances and trifling distractions. What did the Kingdom of God have to do with babies and toddlers?
Everything, as it turns out! When Jesus saw that his disciples were turning away the parents with their children, he was “indignant” (Mark 10:14). And he declared, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the Kingdom of God” (Luke 18:16). The Kingdom Christ came to establish, and the salvation he came to accomplish, are not for adults only. But his grace and reign extend also to children, even to those too young to understand.
One author put it this way: “Another gospel would have resulted and not that of Jesus, and another church rather than his church, had children been kept from Jesus and Christianity been made into something for men alone.”
Because the Kingdom of God belongs to “such as these,” we parents have an obligation to do what the parents were doing then: bring our children to Christ for his blessing.
This means first of all recognizing that our children are not ultimately ours, but belong to God. We have been entrusted to love and care for them, but they are not truly “ours”. God is their Creator and, we trust, their Redeemer. Therefore, as Hannah gave her son Samuel to the Lord, we must to the same – at least in our hearts and attitudes towards them. Our children belong to Christ.
It also means presenting our children before the church to receive the sacrament of baptism. This is how we bring our little ones to Jesus for his blessing today. We offer them to receive from him the sign and seal that they are members of God’s covenant people, and therefore have a rightful claim to the Kingdom of God.
Bringing our children to Christ also means instructing our little ones in the Christian faith. Fathers have a special responsibility here: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Parents (especially dads!), we must not only take our children to church, but we bring church into the home by leading our families in the teaching and worship of Christ.
Perhaps most challenging, we bring our children to Christ for his blessing when we, by the grace of God, exhibit the child-like humility and faith that Jesus calls for: “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Luke 18:17). If we as parents are not walking in humble reliance upon Christ, seeking forgiveness from others when we hurt them by our sin (even – or perhaps, especially – from our children), we will only hinder our little ones from coming to the Savior. Children can see through hypocrisy as well as any adult.
If we ourselves do not come to Jesus for his grace and mercy, how can we possibly lead our children to him?
Praise God that Jesus was not too busy or too important for children! His Kingdom belongs to them as well as to adults. And thank God his grace is sufficient to cover our sins, both the sins of children and the sins of grown-ups. He is the Savior of sinners of all ages.
Soli Deo Gloria!