DUNCAN/The Kingdom and children
Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew 19:13-15, where the Lord Jesus instructs us about the nature of the kingdom, the character of the kingdom that He is preaching and bringing in, and He focuses especially on three subjects, marriage, children and possessions. This week we turn to an important incident in Jesus’ ministry regarding the blessing of children. In this text, the Lord Jesus will show us two important things regarding children and the kingdom. First, we must aspire to child-like lowliness and humility if we want to be in the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Second, that children in the New Testament also have a special place in Jesus’ kingdom. We must strive to bring our children to Christ
I. We Must Aspire to Child-Like Lowliness and Humility if We Want to be in The Kingdom of Jesus Christ
We read in Matthew 19:13, “Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them.” We don’t know exactly why Jesus Christ’s disciples were refusing these parents, the passage, Mark, nor Luke tell us. We must infer what that objection was from verse 14. We read Jesus saying here, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” It may have been that the disciples thought that Jesus was too important to be bothered with children that would have been too young to understand His message. Perhaps the disciples thought that Jesus was too great a personage as the Messiah of Israel to be bothered with these children. Perhaps it was their concern that by praying for and blessing these children, it would delay the Lord Jesus on His journey toward Jerusalem. Perhaps they thought that this request was too similar to a current practice that was done by the people, whereby they took their children to the scribes and asked the scribes to bless their children. And perhaps the disciples thought, “O well, you see they are equating the Lord Jesus with the scribes and that’s a bad thing, it sort of offends us, and so we’re going to keep them away.”
Whatever the case is Jesus’ response in verse 14 indicates that close to the heart of the lesson that He wanted to convey, was the lesson of humility. Jesus wants to make it clear again that the kingdom that He is setting up belongs to the humble. Think how often He continually presses that truth home to the disciples. Chapter 18 opened up with that declaration that the one who is great in the kingdom is humble. Once again Jesus says if you want to be in My kingdom, you’ve got to have child-like humility. Jesus is using this event as an opportunity to instruct His disciples in the necessity of humility. Children were loved in Jesus’ time but they were socially powerless. The disciples were so eager to get on with the business of setting up the kingdom, that they had little time for these little people who wield little power.
But the Lord Jesus stops to bless and to pray for these children and in so doing says to the disciples that they must adopt the posture of these children, in humility if they are going to grow in the kingdom. For gospel humility, even in the dark providences of life, recognizes that behind a frowning providence is the smiling face of our loving God and Father. And gospel humility accepts from the hands of the Lord the trials, the losses and crosses that He brings into our experience and asks His Holy Spirit to help us endure.
II. Children in The New Testament Also Have a Special Place in Jesus’ Kingdom. We Must Strive to Bring Our Children to Christ
Now these parents are taking their children to Jesus. These parents are believing in some measure on the Lord Jesus Christ. The passage does not tell us how much they knew or how much they understood, but they apparently recognized Jesus is the one that they wanted to bless their children. So, the Lord Jesus welcomes these children to Himself, and He prays and He blesses them. Jesus responds to the faith of these parents with His favor.
In light of this message that we must bring our children to Jesus, there are two practical applications. The first in this passage has something to do with our understanding of baptism. This passage is not speaking about baptism, but it is speaking about the principle of the inclusion of children in the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. And so, it is a foundation point for our understanding of infant baptism because children are part of Jesus’ kingdom. Therefore, they are to receive the sign of membership and union in that kingdom. Many, many years ago Calvin would say this, “That Jesus embraced children, was a testimony that Christ reckoned them in His flock.” And hundreds of years before that, the early church father, Basil, said, “The apostle praised Timothy who had known the holy Scripture from infancy, and he also instructed that children are to be reared in the discipline and correction of the Lord. So, we consider every time of life, even the very earliest, suitable for receiving persons into the community of faith.” This passage shows us that Jesus considered that the children of believers had a part in the covenant of grace and that truth undergirds our practice of baptism.
The second is a call to lead your children in worship and to pray with and for them. Begin today to read your children the Bible. Begin today to pray with them and for them. Begin today to sing with them the songs and hymns of our faith. This passage reminds us that Jesus thought the children of the kingdom were important enough to stop and bless and lay hands on and pray for. Do we pray for our own children? We must present our children as we can to Christ. We do this by praying for them before, at, and after their birth, by kindly bringing them to the ordinance of baptism with faith and much joy in such a privilege, and by training them up in God’s holy fear, we might be instruments in their embracing the promises of God.
Happy is the church whose infant members are cared for as much as the oldest communicants. The blessing of him that was crucified will surely be on the church. He put His hands on the little children. Do we long to see the day when our children embrace the savior in His promises? Do we long for that day? Well, if we do, what are we doing about it? Jesus has taught us of the role of children in the kingdom of God. Let us heed His words.