Why Does Jesus Invite Even the Little Children to Approach Him?
By Blair Parke, Crosswalk.com
When it came to Jesus, all ears were turned to Him, especially those of children. Children were usually the ones to ask the hard questions that would have Jesus chuckling and taking a moment to determine how to answer a profound question in childlike terminology.
However, during the time that Jesus’s ministry was taking place, children were to be seen and not heard, especially when it came to matters of faith and religion.
Jesus had to educate all on the importance of children, including His own disciples who blocked them from coming to be prayed over by Jesus. He told them, in Matthew 19:14, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
As we learn through this exploration of Scripture, Jesus was revealing to all present, and us in later generations, that everyone is welcome in the kingdom of heaven, no matter the age. When we accept Jesus into our hearts, He provides the bridge to reunite us again with our heavenly Father.
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What Is the Context of Matthew 19:14?
The teachings written about in Matthew 19 were focused on marriage, divorce, celibacy, and the true path to God. In this chapter, we can recall the story of Jesus advising the rich, young ruler to sell all he had and give it to the poor to follow Him. We also read the insightful declaration that “with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26).
Shared in Judea next to the river Jordan, people traveled far and wide to listen to the teachings of Jesus and possibly experience His healing. However, joined by those who loved and admired Jesus were those who were against Him, the Pharisees. They began their deceptive plan to trip Him up through the topic of marriage and divorce.
They asked Him if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason, to which Jesus said only sexual immorality would be the only grounds for divorce. When one of the disciples said it would be better not to marry then, Jesus then discussed that celibacy is for those called by God to be in that position, primarily eunuchs (Matt. 19:10-12).
It is clear from this exchange, which happens just before our Matthew 19:14 verse, that the disciples still had a lot to learn of God’s will for all people, including both genders and all ages. Their opinions and thoughts on matters of life seemed to block what God might have been revealing to them through Jesus’s teaching, so another situation was presented to teach this lesson instead.
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Laying of Hands and Children
At this point in Jesus’s ministry, many people had witnessed miraculous signs and wonders that Jesus had performed by His hands, strengthening their awareness of a God who loved and cared for them. Though the disciples knew this truth as well, they were still hungry to learn all that Jesus had to offer of guidance. So, the interferences of the people at times turned them more into bodyguards for Jesus instead of extensions of His love.
In Matthew 19:13, when people interrupted Jesus’s teachings to have Him lay His hands on their children in prayer, the disciples were more than a little perturbed. Custom had it that children who were to be blessed by God were brought forward by rabbis and elders, not their parents or guardians.
So when these parents and guardians requested Jesus bring blessings over their children, the disciples scolded them and probably made them feel ungrateful for their actions. However, as we read earlier, Jesus rebuked the disciples and told them the little children were to come to Him for blessings and prayer because those were God’s gift to them.
Matthew 19:15 shows that Jesus did lay hands on the children presented before Him, praying blessings and God’s peace over them because He was the conduit of bringing God’s power to all at that time. One can only guess how this impacted the children and their parents later on in their spiritual walks with God.
To read more Bible verses about children, click here.
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Why Did Jesus Welcome the Children, and What Does This Mean for Us Today?
Jesus mentioned quite often about the importance of having childlike faith, mentioning that childlike wonder of who God is and what He can do is how we should show our love to the Lord.
Jesus stated in Matthew 18:3 that “unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” He later referenced in Matthew 18:6 that those who cause children who believe in Him to sin would find it better to face death through drowning than face Jesus for those actions.
It was important for people to realize that the best relationship we can have with God is as children to a loving father; we should see ourselves as children cared for by a God who does the impossible. When we become adults, we become distracted by what society thinks and our own agendas, missing out on ways that God is providing, loving, and leading us on our paths ahead. But as children, our imaginations are bigger, and we are more present in the here-and-now to see what God is doing and wants to tell us.
As Jesus rebuked His disciples for their behavior, He demonstrated the upcoming “tearing of the veil” that had prevented people from coming into the presence of God. Jesus coming as a humble servant to the people – not as some untouchable spiritual leader – demonstrated that all people could come to Him.
As children of God, we are God’s chosen, His love, and the reason His Son died on the cross for us. When we view God as children view a father, a trust and reliance is built toward Him. We begin to see that our prayers matter to God and He seeks to hear from us often about everything, which is normally how children like to talk with their fathers (and with everyone in general).
We should come to the feet of Jesus, allow Him to pray over us, and believe with childlike faith that God hears and will answer our prayers.
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People of Any Age Can Follow Him
As Jesus traveled around, spreading the gospel to the masses, everyone saw how different He was treating them compared to that of the spiritual authority figures in their towns. Where they may not be able to talk to or even touch the High Priests or elders in their communities, Jesus was asking to lay hands on them in prayer and know everything about them.
Yet His lesson in Matthew 19:14 to His own disciples, who were still coming to terms with who Jesus was, reminds readers that any age can come to Jesus for prayer, as that is how God wants us to come to Him in prayer. We shouldn’t have to jump through hoops, follow certain spiritual rituals, or even be a certain age in order to be in the presence of God.
Jesus shows that we just need to approach Him and ask Him for help, just as children were able to approach Jesus for prayer.
No one is too young or too old to come to the feet of Jesus for prayer, because when we come to Jesus in prayer, we become children of God all over again, eagerly waiting to see what God will do next.
What Do Our Children Learn about Faith from Us?
What Does the Bible Say about Kids?
20 Great Bible Verses for Kids to Memorize
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