Summary: Children are important to Jesus, and they can receive Him as their Savior at a very early age.
“People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciple rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth; 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, and put his hands on them and blessed them” (Mark 10:13-16).
In the ancient world, children had no status. Back then a person could literally throw children away by exposing unwanted infants at birth. There is a famous letter written in 1 B.C. by a poor laborer to his pregnant wife in Alexandria, advising her to keep the child if it was boy and to cast it out if it was a girl. The unscrupulous would collect exposed children and raise them to be gladiators or prostitutes and even disfigure them to enhance their value as beggars (David E. Garland, The NIV Application Commentary: Mark p. 385). This was the world that Jesus lived in—a world that didn’t have time for children.
We may think we’re much different than the disciples (who tried to keep the children away from Jesus), but maybe some of us resemble them than we would like to admit. Sometimes we hinder children from coming to Jesus. How? At least three ways: (1) By our attitude—“Children are a bother” (messy; noisy; don’t put money in the offering plate; waste of time, money, and energy to reach them); (2) by our example—“Do what I say, not what I do” (children can learn hypocrisy and negativity from the example of others in the church—especially parents); (2) by our theology—“Children can’t understand the gospel and be saved.”
Three reasons why you and I should not hinder children from coming to Jesus:
1. Jesus values children just as much as adults.
“People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them” (v. 13a). Notice that it doesn’t say “parents” were bringing them to Jesus. I’m sure most of these people were parents, but probably some were not. Bringing children to Jesus is for everyone, not just parents. Some of the greatest ministers to children are those who never had children. Among them was Jesus.
“But the disciples rebuked them” (v. 13b). “Them” refers to the people bringing the children to Jesus. Why? We don’t know for sure. Maybe they thought Jesus was too busy or too tired to be bothered with children. They probably held the view of their culture: “Children should be seen and not heard.”
What was Jesus’ reaction? “When Jesus saw this, he was indignant” (v. 14a). To be “indignant” means to be “angry or annoyed at the unfairness of unreasonableness of somebody or something” (Encarta Dictionary). The King James Version says “he was much displeased.” Jesus wasn’t just a little upset; He was very angry (in a good way).
Why was Jesus indignant? Because He loves the little children. To Him, they are not a bother; they are not unimportant; they are not a waste of time. Jesus wants to bless the little children.
How old were these children? Here we read that they were “little children.” Some of them were small enough for Jesus to pick them up in His arms. Luke writes in His Gospel that some of them were “babies” (18:15).
2. Jesus invites children to come to Him.
a. Children are more likely to come to Jesus.
Compare: “Make them [adults] come in” (Luke 14:23) and “Let the little children come to me.” Maybe I’m making too much out of the word “let,” but it’s a fact that leading an adult to Christ is much more difficult than leading a child to Him.
Surveys conducted by the Barna Research Group of Ventura, California, have determined that if a person does not accept Jesus Christ as Savior before the age of 14, the likelihood of every doing so is slim. Based on a nationwide (U.S.) representative sampling of more than 4200 young people and adults, the survey results show that people from ages 5 through 13 have a 32% probability of accepting Christ as their Savior. Young people from the ages of 14 through 18 have just a 4% likelihood of doing so, while adults (ages 19 through death) have only a 6% probability of making that choice (Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations & Quotes, pp. 99-100). The older a person gets without becoming a Christian, the less likely they are to ever do so. [I head that 83% of those who come to Christ do so before the age of 18.]
Application: One of our main strategies as a church should be to reach young people for Christ.