Jesus' Desires For Children
Various Passages
By Paul Robison

A Christian college president told these two stories (Shank).  One is about Timmy, and the other is about Eddie.  "Timmy grew up in a public housing project.  His mother worked hard to hold the family together, but could not provide all the things [her] children needed.  One summer she sent Timmy to a local church for Vacation Bible School.  Timmy didn't have shoes, but it didn't seem to matter since it was summertime.  But the people at the church stopped him at the door.  They would not teach children without shoes."  On a Sunday morning in the last 1950s, a preacher brought ten-year-old named Eddie up to the pulpit with him. "Eddie have you ever been to the church of Christ?"  "No, sir."  "Eddie, we love everybody here, and you are welcome as the President of the United States."  Then the preacher sent Eddie out and told the congregation of his conversation with the juvenile court judge.  Eddie's crime was that he was unloved, unwanted, and uncared for.  "Preacher," the judge said, "I'm going to have to send Eddie to reform school just to get him off the street.  Nobody gives a hoot about Eddie."  Then the preacher looked into the eyes of the members: "As you get into your fancy cars and go to your big fancy houses where you have your fancy clothes, I want you to think about Eddie.  I'm not against nice cars, big houses, or fancy clothes, but what about Eddie?"  And then he began to preach his sermon.  About half way through, and man in the audience jumped to his feet.  "Hold on, preacher, Eddie has a home.  We'll take him until you build a children's home."  That was the beginning of a church that relinked the Gospel with children.  How does our congregation feel towards children?  Are our desires for children the same as Jesus' desire for them?  The Gospels give us a very interesting and surprising picture about how Jesus regarded children.  "What He does with them, how He responds to them, how He regards them, [and what He says about them] will be instructive [for us]."  Let's look quickly at His desires.
 
Let's look now at Matthew 7:11: "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!"  Jesus prefaces this remark by saying that if your son was to ask you for something to eat; you wouldn't give him something that would hurt him.  Parents are to provide for their children's necessities.  The children have no income to buy food; they are dependent on someone else to provide it for them.  The first desire of Jesus is this: "Give to them!"  The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 5:8: "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."  Paul also wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:14: "For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children." Give to them!  One of the great blessings that we have as parents is to give to our children.  And before we start thinking of our giving in terms of materials goods, why can't we think of giving our children spiritual blessings?  Give them a Christian example!  Let them hear your pray, let them see you reading the Bible, and let them know that going to church takes precedent over all other activities.  Give them a mama and daddy who deeply love one another and serve one another.  Give them an ear that really listens, a heart that takes time to try to understand them, and a mouth that never talks about the sacred in vain nor teaches foul language.  Give to them those good, eternal gifts that only a Christian can offer!
 
Next, look at Matthew 14:21: "Now those who had eaten were about 5000 men, besides women and children."  Matthew shows us that children were in the crowd when Jesus fed 5000 people.  You may recall, it was actually a child who provided the initial food.  But the next desire of Jesus is this: Teach them!  Mark's account tells us that Jesus began to teach them many things (Mark 6:34), and Jesus didn't tell the women and children to go home.  No, Jesus taught them all.  Just for the record, don't you think some of those children were barefoot?  Yes, there were probably some squalling babies and children who had some trouble sitting still.  But none of these things distracted our Master; He just kept right on teaching them all.  Teach them!  Someone gave this advice: "[Diligently thread God's Word] through the [fabric] of family life, [at all times until] God's Word becomes the natural point-of-reference for anything that may come up in the family.  And through the Word, Jesus takes up His dwelling in the family--... it is this presence of Jesus which is the goal of our teaching. ... We live in an age when a thousand sirens beckon for the ears and minds of our children.  It is not enough to teach them a code of ethics or a few rote prayers. ... Jesus [must] engage their loyalty and fire their imagination.  And this is the only antidote to the powers of darkness and corruption which are loose in the world today" (Christenson).  A poet writes: "And you who teach this Christian way to live, may feel sometimes you're asked too much to give; but ... someday you will reap eternal joys, because you lead to Christ [your precious] girls and boys" (Hodge). Teach them!
 
Next, let's turn to Matthew 18, starting with the first verse: "At that time, the disciples came to Jesus saying, 'Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will be no means enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'"  Jesus' third desire is this: "Imitate their humility!"  Someone made this remark: "Jesus shocked the disciples by setting a mere child in the place of honor beside Him. Children in Jesus' world had no status; they were the weakest and most vulnerable in society" (May, Poterski, et al).  Children can sometimes teach us.  One preacher explained a child's humility in this way: "Being a child means to be moldable, easily changed.  A child is teachable, entering the world uninformed. ... Children are dependent, unable to provide for themselves.  Children are innocent of the adult world's evil, unscarred by sin. ... Jesus recognized that childhood was a needed and critical part of life in which children are led and guided into adulthood. That part of human development must be recaptured by each adult to enter the kingdom of God" (Shank).  Greatness in God's kingdom comes to those who see themselves as having no status, as being moldable and teachable, and as being totally dependent upon God.  Are we totally depending upon God?  Imitate their humility!
 
Now look at verse 5 of Matthew 18: "Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me."  Did you know that "receives" in this passage means "giving hospitality, serving, and honoring as a guest" (May, Poterski, et al)?  It means more than just giving a child a “Hi!” and patting their head.  It means helping the Eddies in our city like that couple did in that other church.  Jesus' next desire is that we welcome them or care for them.  You know, the least that we can do when children visit us is acknowledge them, welcome them, and help them find the class where other children of their same age are gathered.  When we go further and invite a child into our home and take care of them because of Jesus’ love, then we are really serving Jesus Himself.  It’s like Jesus said in Matthew 25:35: “I was a stranger, and you took Me in.”  Are we ignoring our Eddies?  Welcome them or care for them!
 
Now look at verse 6 of Matthew 18: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believes in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”  These “little ones” probably includes adults who are babes in the faith or new converts.  But it is interesting how this teaching follows that in which a child is used as a visual aid.  The positive side of causing one to sin would be to strengthen one’s faith.  So, it is Jesus’ desire that we strengthen everyone’s faith.  Strengthen them!  Another preacher puts it this way: “We must include children in the way we look at church.  From budgeting to bulletins … children must be a part of the focus on how to do church.  We must keep an Eddie near the pulpit to remind us that the Gospel includes children. … The church is not a place to isolate us from the cries of hurting children, but a center from which God sends out rescue teams.  [Strengthen them!]  Different institutions make up our society. … But none [of them] deals with the real issue.  Governments … cannot change hearts.  Education … can’t remake the soul.  Industry … will not change character.  Medicine … cannot repair the spiritual heart. … Only the church can point the way to change human hearts. … When we seek out the lonely and hurting children of our world with the Gospel, we will bring about a transformation in the life of each child we reach.  And by changing that child, God will be well on His way to changing other parts of our sinful world” (Shank).  Strengthen them!
 
Now turn to Matthew 19:13: “Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them.”  The people wanted Jesus to pray for their children, and He did not refuse their request!  He took some time to pray for them.  This shows us Jesus’ next desire: Pray for them!  If Jesus took time to pray for children, shouldn’t we take time to do the same?  We do this for our graduating seniors each year, but why have we never done this for all our children here?  Why couldn’t we ask God also to help all their parents to be effective in instilling the faith and to be on guard against all that would destroy their faith?  Pray for them!
 
Now look at verses 14-15 of Matthew 19: “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.” Doesn’t this show us that Jesus’ next desire is this: “Lay hands on them!”?  The apostles laid hands on the deacons at their appointment (Acts 6:6), and church leaders laid their hands on Barnabas and Paul before their mission (Acts 13:3).  The laying on of hands was not really to show affection.  Remember in another sermon when we learned how the Jews blessed their offspring and that meaningful touch was often involved?  That’s what’s happening here, as we’ll see later.  Would it be unscriptural for our elders to lay hands on our children and bless them? Lay hands on them!”
 
Now look at Matthew 21:14-16: “Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple saying: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ they were indignant and said to Him; ‘Do you hear what these are saying?’ And Jesus said to them: ‘Yes, have you never read: “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise?”’”  Jesus’ next desire is this: “Let them offer their praises!”  The Jewish children praise Jesus, and He does not rebuke them.  In fact, He shows how such praise had fulfilled a prophecy!  Jesus accepted children’s praises!  Let them offer their praises!  If you want to be inspired, try coming to our Vacation Bible School or be with us when we have the people from the Recycling Center here.  Both groups give it their all when they sing praises to God!  Your heart is filled with joy at their joy!  Let them offer their praises!
 
Now look at Mark 5:40-41: “And they ridiculed Him.  But when He had put them all outside, He took the father and mother of the child, and those who were with Him, and entered where the child was lying.  Then he took the child by the hand, and said to her: ‘Talitha, cumi’, which is translated, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise.’”  Since the age of miracles has ceased, we can’t raise children from the dead, but it is interesting here that Jesus goes to this child’s home.  Perhaps this is another desire: Visit them!  At her father’s request, Jesus went to where this child lived. Even after hearing that she was dead, Jesus continued His journey until He arrived.  Visit them.  Visiting let’s people know that we love them.  A personal visit let’s children know they are important to you.  And what a joy it is when a child shares with you a toy, a picture, or another object of importance!  Ask a child to give you a guided tour of their home.  It might surprise you to hear some of their insights!  Visit them!
 
Now look at Mark 10:15: “Assuredly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” The next desire of Jesus is this: “Learn from them!”  A preacher gives this insight: “When Jesus called adults to be like children, He meant to be moldable and open like children.  Luke’s account of Jesus and the children falls between two events that have similar themes. [We hear the humble prayer of the publican and see the rejection of Jesus by the self-sufficient rich young ruler and the disciples' sacrificial spirits.]  In the middle is the call to be like children, moldable like the publican who knows his limits, and open like the disciples who have committed all to Jesus” (Shank).  Being moldable means that we are willing to learn and being open means being willing to consider our relationship with Jesus as the supreme relationship where He calls all the shots because He is our Lord and Master!  “Assuredly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”  Learn from them!
 
Now look at verse 16 of Mark 10: “And He took them up in His arms …” This action shows us Jesus’ next desire: “Touch them!”  Or we might say: “Show them affection through gestures of proper touch!”  Jesus was not afraid to hold these children for some time.  The text doesn’t reveal how many or for how long, but it does show that Jesus used touch in a good way to communicate His love for these children.  Touch them! Three doctors made this affirmation: "Touch is important for everyone's physiological health and is an expression of affection, appreciation, and valuing between two people.  Touch builds interpersonal bonds and actually improves brain chemistry" (Purvis, Cross, Sunshine).  Touch them!  Some educators made this statement: “Everyday touching--physical contact with others--is valuable and a critical component of healthy development for all children.  Touch is important for building healthy attachments to [others].  Healthy attachment[s are] important for learning how to relate to others.  Touch reduces stress and supports brain development. … Positive, appropriate touch may lead to greater mental and physical development in children” (
http://parenting.
uwex.edu/parenting-the-preschooler/... pdf).  Touch them!
 
Now notice the final words of verse 16 in Mark 10: “And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.”  Here we see clearly how the laying on of hands is linked with the Jewish blessing.  The last desire is: Bless them!  Let’s review the parts of the Jewish blessing once again: a special situation or special touch, a planned spoken message, a special future is emphasized, and the person being blessed is highly valued (often some kind word picture is involved).  Bless them! Jesus gave these children a future vision and a challenge.  Let’s bless our children in the same way as we point them to the future!  Bless them!  If we highly value our children and if we truly believe that they will make a difference in the future and maybe even do greater work than we have done for God’s kingdom, why don’t we express this verbally to them through blessing them?  Bless them!
 
“What happens to a child, and to a child's faith is a matter of great consequence to [Christians].  The truth about children is … in [Jesus'] sight, their worth cannot be exaggerated. … Like Jesus' first disciples, we need children in our midst, showing us how to trust our gracious God and encouraging us live [Christian] values by welcoming, respecting, and serving the least among us, who are [the] greatest in God's eyes” (May, Posterski, et al).  Have you forgotten the importance of children to Jesus or do you need prayers to be a better example before them?  Do you need to obey the Gospel and become a Christian by repenting and being baptized to have all your past sins forgiven?  Humble yourself as a little child!  Jesus loves the little children and Jesus loves each of us as well. Put your hand in His hand.
 
Sources
Christenson, Larry. The Christian Family Minneapolis: Bethany
    Fellowship, 1970.
Hodge, Charles. Teachers Searcy: Resource Publications, 1991.
May Scottie, Beth Posterski, Catherine Stonehouse, and Linda Campbell.
    Children Matter Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005.
Purvis, Cross, Sunshine. The Connected Child New York: McGraw-Hill,
    2007.
Shank, Harold. Children Mean the World to God Nashville: 21st Century
    Christian, 2001.