“Jesus Loves the Children”
Throughout many years in ministry, I have seen both positive and negative reactions to God and to His message found in the Bible. Some have embraced God's love for them and have accepted His Son's free gift of salvation, and that is always exciting to see. On the other hand, many have rejected God's invitation. They have refused to submit to Him and to His son, Jesus Christ, and become a part of His spiritual family. In those situations, there seems to be a common theme as to their negative reaction. It revolves around one's pride. Oh, many are unwilling to humbly recognize their need for the Lord or for what He freely offers. They are not able to come to Jesus in a spirit of humility, recognizing their need for Him. In many cases, they believe they have their spiritual life all figured out and there is no need to learn anything else. Oftentimes that leads to the hardening of one's heart, to the point they can no longer receive the Good News message. In the lesson today, on “Key to the Kingdom,” we will look at Jesus’ involvement with children. He welcomed the children who came to Him because they were willing to put their trust in Him. He wants us to do the same. However, before that happens we are to eliminate our pride as we come to Him in a spirit of humility. Today we will study about the importance of humbling ourselves before the Lord so that we can enter into the kingdom of heaven. I hope you will stay tuned to this station and that you will open your heart and your Bible as we now study together.
In today's world, many of us tend to see children as sweet, full of fun with lots of excitement, and we look forward to spending time with those youngsters. In our eyes, young children, and especially our children or even our grandchildren, are very special. They are smart, they are able to get along with others and, in many cases, they are unaware of the many bad things going on in the world around them. We might see other small children with their parents or grandparents and consider them the same way. A smile may come across our face and we say something nice about how cute they are or about their good behavior. Well, that was not the typical view people had of children some 2000 years ago, in the day of Jesus. Oh, certainly their own parents enjoyed being around them and considered them to be very special. The general public, however, did not take such a view. And yet, there are a few instances in the New Testament where people brought their children to Jesus. They wanted Jesus to touch them, to speak to them. They wanted Jesus to bless them or pray for them. In some cases, they wanted Jesus to heal their children or maybe even raise them from the dead. And on occasions like that, the disciples of Jesus would not allow that to happen. They would rebuke the parents for bringing the children in the first place and then they would simply send the children away. Well, that was highly unusual, it would seem for us, but yet that's what naturally and normally was done so long ago. Perhaps it was because the disciples saw the children as nothing more than a bother or a nuisance, perhaps even a distraction. Maybe they thought Jesus was only interested in adults and He really had no connection with or anything to say to the children; that His focus was only on the adults and conversations they needed to have with one another. We see that taking place here in the gospel of Mark chapter 10; notice verse 13: <People were bringing little children to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them.> And that same story is recorded also in Matthew chapter 19. Can you envision that happening? The parents are bringing their children in hopes that this would be a very special day, a very special occasion, something that the children and they would remember for a long, long time; but then, the disciples act as somewhat an interference. “No, you can't do that,” they would say, rebuking the parents, sending away the children. How disheartening that must've been to those parents. But maybe the disciples thought, in their mind, it was socially improper to do such a thing. Maybe they thought the children would distract Jesus from doing something which was really more important. And they might even say or do something that would embarrass themselves or their parents; and certainly they did not want those children to embarrass Jesus in any way. I remember, a number of years ago, hearing a phrase used by parents, and perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, also; maybe even use it yourself: Children are to be seen, not heard. Well, the idea behind that was, “Well, we recognize you as a child and you have parents, and that's good, but we have conversations to talk about here. Don't distract us as adults. Why don't you go outside perhaps and play with other children like yourselves?” Well, maybe that was the attitude these disciples had toward those the children, but they did not express that attitude with a mean spirit or intent, but rather out of respect for Jesus’ position as a teacher. Jesus was God's representative. He had come with a very specific purpose, here upon the earth, and the disciples did not want Him to be distracted from it. And so, for one reason or another, the disciples simply did not want the children to receive Jesus' attention. Well, as you can imagine, that did not set well with Jesus. He was very displeased. In fact, He even became angry with His disciples. We notice that response in the next verses, here in Mark chapter 10. Look at verses 14 through 16. <When Jesus saw this, He was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. And 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.> Now again, Matthew records basically the same response. Yes, Jesus was upset with those disciples. He rebuked them. He scolded them. And He said, “Let these children come to Me.” And when they did come into Jesus’ midst, He held them in His arms. He blessed them. Perhaps He told some stories and they smiled and laughed; and, they enjoyed being with Him and, no doubt, He enjoyed being with the children. Evidently, Jesus saw something in the children the disciples did not see. They overlooked something that was very important, as they focused primarily on the adults. You know, it was opposite from the disciples view. Jesus wanted the children to be both seen and heard. They were special, they were important and they needed Jesus' attention, just like the adults. Oh, it warms our heart to read about these interactions Jesus had with children. We know today that children are needy and important. They are dependent upon someone to take care of them. They cannot take care of themselves. They need a parent or a grandparent or some other significant adult in their life to guide them in the right way, to help them make some important decisions, to see about and provide for the basic necessities of life. Yes, they and we know, children cannot do many things on their own and they need help. I'm reminded of those songs that we sing about children and Jesus. Maybe we've taught them to our own children. “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight.” I love that phrase, “Children are precious in the sight of Jesus;” and they are. And it does not matter the color of their skin, red, yellow, black or white, or anything else, Jesus wants children to come to Him. That other little song, “Jesus loves me. This I know, for the Bible tells me so. They, the little ones, to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong.” Indeed, children are weak and vulnerable, but Jesus is strong. He is the rock and provides the foundation for the life of a child. You know, the scene here in Mark might remind us of times we can spend with our own children or grandchildren. It might remind us at times when we can influence the lives of youngsters who are in our life; and, hopefully make an impact for good upon them, to bless them in some way, to help them get along in life. The question still remains, however, as we look at Mark chapter 10, why did Jesus even say, let the little children come to Me, and why would He take time to bless them? Well, the answer might in part be, children we're not likely to question and challenge Jesus like some of the adults did. Think about the ministry of Jesus. Oftentimes, He was approached by so called experts in the Law, or the teachers of the Law, and they would try to trap Jesus in saying or doing something that went against their traditions or that went against their interpretation of the Law. They would challenge Jesus. They would question Him about His authority, or some of the other things that He was doing. And, no doubt, Jesus got tired of that. Jesus got tired of the adults always trying to trap Him and question Him and challenge Him about what He was doing and about His authority and ministry upon the earth. Well, obviously Jesus wanted a break from some of that, and the little children did not know anything about that. They did not know how to trap Jesus or challenge Him or question Him. They were innocent. They did not want to entrap anyone. And still today, for the most part, children are like that, eager and willing to listen and to learn. They want to do what is good and right. In many cases, little children are innocent and they are humble and they simply want to be led and instructed in the way they are supposed to go. But then going back to Mark chapter 10, what did Jesus mean when He said, “The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”? Well, in part the answer might come from Luke chapter 10. Notice these words from Jesus himself, in verse 21. <At that time, Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise You Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what You were pleased to do.”> Jesus, through God's Spirit and His direction, has some special things to share with the children, and that's what He did. But at the same time, the Bible oftentimes compares those who believe in Jesus and who follow Him to children. Why is that? Well, again, sincere followers of Christ are willing listeners and learners. They are eager to do what is right. They come to Jesus with a spirit that is innocent and humble; not trying to question or challenge Jesus, but rather to learn from Him how it is that we are supposed to live as we follow in His footsteps. And they are unlike those who might have much learning and education and who might believe that they've got most everything figured out. Perhaps you know someone like that. Maybe you know someone who, who has some education and learning and they believe they've got all the answers. They know the way things are supposed to be. They have an attitude that says, “Well, I believe I've got God figured out and, and this is the answer.” A number of years ago, I was serving a church in a small community. Not long after I was there, a deacon came up to me, and I'll never forget what he said. He said, “Bret, I really don't think you can teach me anything that I already don't know about the Bible.” I thought to myself, “Well, you're probably right.” Not only I nor anybody else could do that because of that man's attitude. He had an attitude of pride, an attitude or a spirit that said I've got this figured out and I believe I know all the answers. Well, once again, a child does not know that he or she does not know. They are humble enough to keep learning. They keep asking questions. They want to know more and more about Jesus Christ, and we admire such things about those children. We admire and we appreciate their innocence and they're humble spirit. Think about the words of Jesus from the gospel of Matthew chapter 18. He is being followed by a number of people who are thinking very seriously about being one of His disciples. And He turns to them and He makes this statement, in verses 3 and 4: <”Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. And therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”> What a statement! Jesus turns to the adults and He says, “You're not in a position to be My followers or My disciples because you need to have an attitude change. You need to look at the condition of your heart. You, who are trying to trap Me or challenge Me or question Me, you don't have the spirit of a willing learner or listener. And oh, how I would hope that perhaps you would change your heart.” Now, when Jesus said, “Take the lowly position of a child,” He was referring to one's humility. He was referring to an attitude of submission and a willingness to learn. Well, that speaks volumes to us today, doesn't it? We think about, what is my attitude? What is the condition of my heart? Do I believe I have everything figured out or is there something else I need to learn from Jesus, and do I have a soft and innocent enough heart to listen to what He is teaching me? Oh, these snapshots about Jesus’ interaction with children are important, and they teach us some very valuable lessons. Let me offer three for our consideration. Number one: Jesus willingly receives those who humbly come to Him. That's good to know, isn't it? Jesus doesn't turn us away when we, with a humble spirit, come to Jesus and say, “I want to know more about You. I want to really know what it means to walk with You on a daily basis. What is it that You have done for me and how can, through You, I make a connection with my God in heaven.” Yes, that is the humble spirit Jesus invites all of us to possess. But then secondly: Jesus cares for those who are weak and vulnerable. We see that throughout Jesus’ ministry. He sees those people who are struggling, who are weak spiritually, who are vulnerable to all of the bad things in the world around them, and He loves them. He offers His assistance. He offers His healing and His salvation. And as we think about who we are, maybe we are weak and vulnerable spiritually. Oh, Jesus sees us, and receives us as well. But then here is number three: When we rely upon Jesus, He will bless us. We see that with the children here in Mark chapter 10. Jesus took those children in His arms and He blessed them and He loved them. He let them know that they were significant and important. That's what Jesus does with us. When we depend upon Him and rely upon Him for the basic necessities in life, even the salvation that we need, Jesus recognizes our need and He blesses us. He takes care of us and He provides for us. Jesus wants nothing more than that to happen with each and every person. You know, when I think about Jesus’ invitation and His openness to receive those who have that innocent and humble spirit, I'm reminded of that great invitation from Him in Matthew chapter 11, beginning with verse 28: <”Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”> Oh, Jesus is the master teacher, gentle and humble in heart. And as we come gently and humbly to Him, He will teach us and love us and provide for us exactly what we need. Oh, as children depend upon their parents, so too are we to depend up on Jesus. And it is only when we humbly come to Jesus and trust Him in every aspect of our life, we will become one of His children. And that trusting faith brings us into a saving relationship. With a humble spirit we confess our sin to the only One who can do anything about our sin problem. When we come to Jesus with a child-like spirit, humble and innocent and willing to learn, it is then that Jesus can teach us about who we are and what He has offered for each and every one of us. Jesus made a very important and inviting statement in the gospel of John, chapter 6 verse 37: <”Whoever comes to Me, I will never drive away.” Isn't that good to know! When we come to Jesus with the heart of a child, He won't rebuke us, He won't turn us away, He won't scold us, but He receives us with open and welcoming arms. My prayer for each and every one of us today is that we will come to Jesus with that spirit, willing to learn, willing to understand who He is and what He has done for us, so that we can receive that love, that forgiveness and that salvation. Yes. My prayer today is that as we recognize Jesus loves the children, that He loves us, because of our child-like humble and receptive heart.
My wife and I are privileged to have a preschool age granddaughter. Now, as most of you can verify, children that age are lots of fun and provide lots of excitement; and yet, on occasion they sometimes find themselves in a mess, and that eventually leads to them getting into trouble. And yet, most children that age are eager to do what is right and they quickly say, “I am sorry.” Yes, they want to be pleasing and acceptable in the eyes of parents or grandparents or teachers or perhaps any other person in authority. And that comes from their sweet spirit. They have an attitude that is humble and submissive and that really wants to do what is right. Maybe that's why Jesus said, “Allow the little children to come unto Me, for to such belong the kingdom of God.” As parents and as grandparents, we try to teach our children many things; and, that is good. But maybe there is something that we can learn from those little children, and that is to have an attitude of humility, an attitude that wants to learn and be submissive, an attitude that says, “I want to know Jesus Christ as my Savior.” I think about learning that kind of thing from little children. Maybe it's time that we have that humble and submissive spirit, or attitude, ourselves, and that we look forward to receiving the Good News message of Jesus Christ, receiving His salvation, so that we too can enter into the kingdom of God. I would encourage you today to think about your attitude and how it is that you can humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and receive that free invitation that He has for you to come unto Him.
Thank you for being our guest today on “Key to the Kingdom.” It is heartwarming to see Jesus welcoming the children who were brought to Him. Yet, all of us are to have that same humble spirit, as we too depend upon and trust Him. This message is available in several different formats on our website. Go to keytothekingdom.com, and there you can download it without any cost or obligation. On the site, you will also find previous lessons and other study materials. I trust you will find something that is of interest and that will be beneficial. Two minute messages with a personal application, along with one minute daily devotional thoughts are available. Our statement of belief and information about our work in India is there as well. I do hope you will take a few minutes to see what is freely offered. If you call the number on the screen, we will be happy to get in touch with you. We also have a Facebook® page. Many are following us there, and we would welcome you to find and “like” us, also. It is our pleasure to share these messages from God's Word, and we are thankful you join us each and every week. We do hope they offer encouragement, as you seek to daily walk with the Lord. I invite you to join us again next time as we continue to study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom.”