By Katie T. Kennedy, Crosswalk.com
There are quite a few references to Jesus and children in the Bible. He gave us examples of his encounters with children to learn from. He showed us how important children are to Him.
Sometimes we take our kids for granted. We get frustrated or lack patience when dealing with them. Or, we expect too much from them. Either way, we lose focus. Let's lift our eyes to look at how Jesus interacts with children and see what we can learn.
Who Is the Greatest?
In Matthew 18:1 and Luke 9:46, the disciples argue about which of them was the greatest. The disciples understand greatness in terms of human endeavor, accomplishment, and status. To teach the disciples, Jesus calls over a little child. That was not exactly the response they were looking for.
"At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" (Matthew 18:1)
Jesus called a little child over to him and placed the child among them. And He said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." (Matthew 18:3-6)
"The humility of a child consists of childlike trust, vulnerability, and the inability to advance his or her own cause apart from the help, direction, and resources of a parent." (Study Bible)
As adults, we tend to want to do things with our own knowledge and strength. We struggle with being dependent on others, let alone relying on a God we can't see. Children have a dependence on us whether they like it or not. They can't reach things, they don't drive, they have limited experience, and they lack resources.
While we may have the knowledge, resources, and ability, we get caught in the trap of doing things with our strength. Sometimes we lack humility and won't acknowledge we don't know everything.
You welcome God into your life by being kind to children, your own, and others. You are caring for what God cares about. Our goal is to love, guide, and teach our children. Hopefully, our example shows them how to live a godly life, not causing them to stumble.
Let the Children Come
"People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples 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. 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." (Mark 10:13-16)
Luke 18:17-18 and Matthew 19:13-15 give us similar accounts. These few verses give us much insight into the heart of Jesus. First, the people recognized Jesus as someone significant. They desired Jesus's blessing over their children. Parents and grandparents showed their respect for Jesus through this action. We want the best for our children, and these folks wanted their children blessed by Jesus. They recognize Him as someone special.
The disciples then step in, thinking they are doing what's best for Jesus. They try to stop the children from seeing Jesus. To their defense, I'm sure people were bombarding Jesus. The disciples believed they were doing the right thing by not letting everyone swarm him. But who are these new visitors? Children. They aren't "important adults" or sick people; they are innocent children. What business could they have with the all-important Jesus?
Jesus thinks otherwise. He desires their presence and appreciates their pureness. The children didn't have a hidden agenda. Children represent the humility necessary to enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus shows us that children are equally important as adults and just as worthy of His love.
Jesus Heals a Boy with a Demon
Jesus shows his love and kindness towards children through His actions and words. In Matthew 17, we learn about a boy with demons who is brought to Jesus. Jesus exhibits his love by healing the boy.
"When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. "Lord, have mercy on my son, he said. He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him."
"O unbelieving and perverse generation, Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me." Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment." (Matthew 17:14-18)
You can only imagine the desperation of this father. He has already tried to have the disciples heal his son, with no success. He doesn't give up. He takes his son to Jesus.
The father shows respect for Jesus by calling him Lord. He also believes Jesus can heal his son and asks Him to have mercy on his son. After Jesus heals the boy, he chastises the disciples for their lack of faith.
Jesus could have ignored the father. He could have decided not to heal the boy, but He didn't. Jesus right then and there rebukes the demon and cures the boy. This caring act by Jesus changes their future. The demons will no longer torment the boy. The father will rest comfortably knowing his son is safe and out of immediate danger. For these two people, Jesus's kindness is life-changing.
Jesus Heals Jairus's Daughter
In Mark 5:21-5:43, we hear of another miraculous story where Jesus raises a little girl from the dead. In this story, a father exhibits strong faith and determination, and Jesus yet again shows His compassion and power.
Jairus, one of the rulers of the synagogue, tracks down Jesus and falls at His feet. He pleads with Jesus to "Come lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live. So Jesus went with him." (Mark 5:23-24)
When Jesus gets to the house, people are weeping and wailing. He tells them the girl is just sleeping, and they laugh at Him. Only Jesus, the child's parents, and the disciples there go to where the child lies. Everyone else is sent outside.
Jesus takes the dead girl's hand and says to her, "Talitha cumi, which means, Little girl, I say to you, get up." Immediately the girl got up and began walking. The people with Him are astonished by what has just happened. Jesus tells everyone not to tell anyone about the healing. He concludes by telling them to give the girl something to eat.
When Jairus came to Jesus, He immediately went with him. We see Jesus leave what He was doing to go heal the girl. There is much compassion seen in this story. Jesus listens to the man's request and agrees to help him. Jairus displays his desperation, sincerity, and faith.
We see Jesus often being interrupted by people who need His help. He doesn't ignore them. Jesus doesn't rebuke them for coming to Him. He leaves what He is doing to help others. Jesus shows us His heart for children. He exhibits love and compassion towards them. He shows us that children are of great worth to Him. He makes them a priority. He could have chosen to let the disciples shoo away the children, but He didn't. Jesus could have stayed put when Jairus came begging for help, but He left to help and heal.
Jesus' love for children guides us on how to love all children. Not only do these stories show us how much Jesus cared for children, but they also show us how we need to strive to be humble and have childlike faith. This is difficult for most of us, but something to shoot for.
Next time you are walking by a park or see kids playing outside. Watch their joy, exuberance, and smiles as they naturally do what God created them to do, play. You can't help but marvel at their carefree nature. What if we depended on God so greatly that we exhibited the joy and humility of children?
I think Philippians 2:3 wraps it up nicely for us. "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others."
Katie T. Kennedy lives in Richmond, VA. She is married to a wonderful husband Jonathan and they have three girls. She is a writer, blogger, and employee of the family business. After a mid-life spiritual transformation, she discovered her love of writing. She loves to travel, read, be in nature, cook, and dream. She would love to connect with you online at www.katietkennedy.com, Instagram or Facebook.