“Let the Little Children Come to Me”
(Mark 10:13-16 – Pentecost 20 – October 7, 2018)
Mark 10:13-16 – 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, put His hands on them, and blessed them.
Dear children of God through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ:
Probably all of us have heard the familiar words of the hymn by C.H. Woolston:
Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world;
Red and yellow, black and white,
They are precious in his sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.
Truly, every child is loved and precious in the sight of Him who is Creator and Redeemer of all.
The Bible teaches that Jesus is active in creating every human being, giving life to body and soul from the beginning. According to John 1:3-4, He is the Word of God who spoke at creation: “All things were made through Him… In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” As the Son of God, He was there with the Father and the Holy Spirit, to form Adam from the dust of the ground and breathe into his nostrils the breath of life, thus creating his body and soul. He was there when Adam’s rib was taken and used to form Eve. He was there to institute marriage between man and woman and give the creative command to our first parents: “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 2:7, 21-24; 1:28).
To this day, Jesus is there as each and every child is conceived. Psalm 139 expresses the wonders of the Lord’s creative love from the moment of conception: “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.” These words describe the focused work and purpose of one who weaves together a fine garment. God weaves together each part of the body, from the moment the embryo is conceived and a living soul is created, through the minute formations of inner parts such as cells and organs, to the developing frame of skeletal bones. The Lord’s design and purpose for each beloved and precious child does not stop at birth. The Psalm goes on to describe His loving care over one’s whole life: “And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.”
So the Lord Jesus gives life to “All the children of the world”; and truly, “They are precious in His sight.” In our text, He says with eternal love and purpose for all: “Let the Little Children Come to Me.” 1) “Do not forbid them,” 2) “For of such is the kingdom of God.”
1) Do not forbid them
Why would anyone want to keep their children from Him who gave them the gift of life? Furthermore, why would anyone want to forbid their children from coming to Him who alone can give them eternal life?
Our text says: “Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them.” These loving parents, grandparents, and caregivers wanted Jesus to touch and bless their children. They recognized who He was, as the promised Messiah whom God had sent. They recognized the need for their children to be blessed by this Savior of fallen sinners.
Scripture teaches that every precious child desperately needs Jesus’ blessing of salvation. After creation, when our first parents fell into sin, all mankind fell with them. The perfect image of God was lost; since then, each generation of Adam’s children is conceived and born in his sinful image (Genesis 5:3; Psalm 51:5). God’s blessing of life in a perfect creation was replaced with the curse of life corrupted by sin, death, and evil. Yet God promised that a certain Seed, born of woman, would come in the power of God to crush Satan’s head and redeem fallen mankind (Genesis 3:15). He would restore the blessing of Paradise lost. Later, God narrowed the promise more and more through Abraham and his descendants: “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” That Seed is Christ (Genesis 22:18; Galatians 3:8, 16).
Jesus came to win God’s blessing of salvation and eternal life for every fallen child of Adam. As the Son of God, He is not created but eternally-begotten of His Father. Yet to win our salvation, He humbled Himself to be conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary. He developed as a tiny embryo, a newborn infant, a little child, a teenager, and a man; whose perfect life from the womb to the cross covers our sinful life from conception to death. As God in our flesh, Jesus showed His power over Satan’s kingdom, sending the Tempter fleeing and casting out his demons. Jesus showed His power to overcome the corruption of sin, healing the sick and raising the dead. Thus Jesus showed His authority to forgive sins, healing the soul and giving eternal life in His Kingdom. On the cross, He bore all our sinfulness in His own body and soul. He paid with His precious life to redeem us from condemnation, death, and hell. He rose again to give us the blessing of His forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life.
As the Lord and Giver of Life carried out His ministry on earth, parents heard of Him healing little ones. The Canaanite woman, whose daughter had been hopelessly demon-possessed, found her child restored immediately by Jesus’ Word (Mark 7:29-30. Jairus, whose twelve year-old daughter had died, saw his child raised from death by Jesus’ words: “Little girl, I say to you, arise” (Mark 5:41). Indeed, who would want to keep their child, or any child whom they love, from the blessing of the Lord and Giver of life, the Savior of fallen sinners?
Resistance to His blessing often comes from the least expected ones, as it says: “But the disciples rebuked those who brought them.” The disciples wanted to turn the little ones away. They felt that Jesus had more important things to do in setting up His Kingdom, a kingdom they imagined in all too worldly terms; so they thought He had no time for children. They thought little children were too immature to benefit from Jesus’ ministry, and they did not need a Savior.
How sadly, many keep children from the blessing Jesus would bestow on them, because they feel there are more important things in the worldly kingdom they seek. The extreme version of this is expressed in the awful record of abortions. How many millions of human lives have been ended in the womb, as the Lord was forming them by His loving design and purpose?
Sadly, many keep children from the blessing Jesus would bestow on them by not bringing them to Baptism and His Word. They do not believe that Baptism is a true means of grace, in which children are washed of sin, born again of the Holy Spirit who gives faith, and joined to Jesus in salvation and eternal life (Acts 2:38-39; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21). Many believe children are born in a state of innocence and are not responsible for sin until a certain age; or that they are incapable of faith until they reach an age of accountability and can make a decision to follow Christ. So they forbid the little children from receiving Jesus’ full blessing in baptism.
And though others bring their children to baptism, they forbid them from coming to Jesus by not continuing to teach them in His Word (Matthew 28:19-20) – by bringing them to church, Sunday school, catechism, etc. Many go to great ends to see that their children develop health and fitness for their body, but care little for the faith and health of their eternal soul.
Like the disciples, have we ever been guilty of turning little ones away from Jesus? Here we include, not only the children we have known, but anyone who has seemed little in our eyes when it came to caring for their spiritual needs. It may be that person we have overlooked in sharing Jesus, because they seemed innocent enough in their own way, or not ready to understand the Gospel. So we felt no urgency to bring them to know the only Savior of sinners. Or it may be that person with whom we refused to share Jesus, because we looked down on them as below our class or status, or somehow repulsive to our taste, and we had no desire to bring them to Jesus, to share His forgiveness and love and eternal life.
Resistance to Jesus’ blessing often comes from the least expected ones. Have we at times even forbidden ourselves from His blessing? Have we refused to come as little ones, small in our own eyes, humbly confessing our sins and seeking His grace? Have we neglected the full blessing of His Word and Sacrament ministry, and the forgiveness and faith He wants to give?
2) For of such is the kingdom of God
When Jesus’ disciples were turning the children away, it says: “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.'”
Here the loving admonition of our Savior is brought home to us. He includes not only the little ones we know, but also you and me. He includes every soul to whom He has given life from conception according to His eternal love and purpose. Jesus has come to redeem fallen sinners, and He wants all to be part of His Kingdom. He does not want a single soul to be lost.
When it comes to being little children, not only do we all begin life that way physically; no matter how young or old we are, we become spiritual children of God through faith in His Son. In fact, this is the only way to enter His kingdom, by a childlike faith. Here Jesus teaches that children can indeed have saving faith. Earlier in Mark 9:42, Jesus referred to “these little ones who believe in Me.” In Luke’s account, which is parallel to our text, it says “they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them” (Luke 18:15). Here Jesus holds up the childlike faith of even these littlest ones as a good example for all of us.
Childlike faith is humble trust. It is more than just the ability to express words when we come to a certain age of reason. An infant, even in the womb, responds to the voice of its parents. It knows them long before it can say, “Mama,” “Dada.” A little baby cries out for its parents’ love, trusting them to provide. Likewise, whether we are young or old, faith is a humble trust worked in us by the Holy Spirit. It is a relationship by which we know God as our Father through faith in His Son. Faith is a relationship He has graciously given us by His Spirit. Romans 8:15-16 says: “You received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.”
An infant in the womb or a little child cannot work to provide conditions for itself to live. This is a gift given by God through its parents and caregivers. Likewise, with humble childlike faith we confess that, as sinners, we cannot by our works provide the conditions for our own life and salvation. We look up to the hand of our heavenly Father to provide every good and perfect gift for our body and life (James 1:17). Above all, we look up to Him as the one who has provided for our eternal life, through the work of His Son. With childlike faith we come to Jesus, small in our own eyes, humbly confessing our sin and unrighteousness. We plead only His precious blood that takes away our sin and His perfect life that counts for our righteousness.
As little children came to Jesus, “He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them.” So also Jesus takes you and me into His arms and blesses us with all the gifts of His Kingdom. He lays His hands on us and says: “I forgive all your sins. I release you from Satan’s power. I heal you for eternal life. Blessed are you, for yours is the kingdom of God.”
Dear children of God through faith in His Son, truly we are blessed. Jesus loves the little children; Jesus loves you and me. We are precious in His sight. He who formed us in the womb by His loving design and purpose, He who gave His life to win our eternal life, watches over us day by day. He lays His hand on us, blessing us in body and soul. And at last, He will welcome home as children of God with His tender words: “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.