Jesus' Heart for the Children
People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch 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. 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, put his hands on them and blessed them. —Mark 10:13-16
When Jesus preached to a crowd, not only men were present but also women and children (Matt 14:21, Matt 15:38). Now, Jewish parents naturally hoped for their children to be blessed by Jesus because they regarded him as a great and distinguished rabbi. After he finished teaching crowds of people (10:1) and went into a house (10:10), they brought to him their little children (10:13). The disciples, however, deemed this inappropriate; so they rebuked the parents (10:13).
The disciples did not intend to be rude or insensitive. Though the passage is silent about it, the disciples certainly meant well when they scolded the parents and prevented their children from being touched by Him. Perhaps they just wanted to give Jesus an opportunity to rest; after all, preaching to crowds for hours is not easy. Or maybe they just wanted to spare him from unnecessary interruptions. They may have thought that Jesus had more pressing matters to attend to. Their intentions may have been commendable but their actions showed how little they know of His heart.
Having already spent about three years with Jesus, the disciples should have known better. They should have known that:
- Jesus is never unavailable for anyone.
He is never too tired or too hungry or too busy for anyone, especially for those who seek the truth and long to be close to Him. Jesus clearly demonstrated this in Mark 6:30-34:
The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to Him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
It was for the sake of His disciples, not for Himself, that Jesus brought them to a quiet place to rest. But upon seeing a large crowd, His heart went out to them and he continued shepherding them, instead of getting rest.
Jesus's disciples should have known better than preventing the children from coming to Him.
- Jesus never refuses or drives away anyone.
- As a child, he had lively discussions in the temple with the priests (Luke 2:46) who, after two decades, would demand for His crucifixion (John 19:6).
- He spoke with a member of the Jewish ruling council who may have been afraid of being seen with Him during the day (John 3:2).
- While Jews looked down and would never speak with Samaritans, especially Samaritan women, Jesus initiated a conversation with a Samaritan woman by a well (John 4).
- While Jews avoided lepers, Jesus touched one (Matt 8:1-4).
- While Jews did not associate with tax collectors and prostitutes, he was referred to as their friend (Matt 11:19).
- But how about the Syrophoenician mother whose daughter got possessed by an evil spirit (Matt 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30)? Did not Jesus ignore her, even as she desperately pleaded for her daughter's case? Jesus does all things for a purpose. He deliberately ignored her at first so that His disciples, who still had little faith up to that very moment, would know from her example what great faith looked like.
Jesus's disciples should have known better than driving away those who were bringing their children to Him.
- Jesus never considers little children of less importance.
The disciples must have forgotten what Jesus told them earlier in Mark 9:37:
Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.
The way people treat children is the way they treat Jesus. Jesus's disciples should have known better than treat the little children like they're unimportant.
Jesus expected, by that time, His disciples already know His heart for the people, especially children. That is why Jesus became indignant with them. He overruled them, saying, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these" (10:14).
In most homes, family members have hierarchies and are treated accordingly. The father, the breadwinner, is first class. He comes home and expects to be served–his wishes and demands are often prioritized over others'. The mother is second class–she is in charge of the household work. When the father is not around, she assumes authority over the household. While the father may consider her opinion on certain things, she knows that, ultimately, he makes the final decision. The little children are third the class citizens–they are not involved in decision-making; they are expected to obey without question–they don't have the right to. When their rights are being trampled on, they cannot complain. In some homes, they are verbally, physically, emotionally, or sexually abused and nobody fights for them. When they try to seek help, they are often not taken seriously and accused of making up stories.
But for Jesus, the children have every right as any member of the kingdom of God has. They have the right to approach Jesus. They have the right to be in His presence. They have the right to have a close relationship with Him. They have the right to talk and listen to Him. They have the right to be hugged and embraced by Him. For the kingdom of God belongs also to them.
My wife and I are advocates for the children. If we were not full-time in the ministry, we would be serving in the Children's Ministry, for we love being with them. However, that was not my heart 23 years ago. While I was the first Children's Ministry Leader (I was still single then) in the church, at that time I did not enjoy being with children. But everything changed after our first child was born.
Parents could say that their child is difficult. And who would dare question them? It's not easy to handle small, fragile, helpless infants. Giving them a bath is scary. Wiping their behinds when they poop is not a chore anyone would volunteer for. Waking up in the middle of the night, when one is in a deep sleep, to change their diaper or give them a bottle of milk at the perfect temperature is very inconvenient. However, our first child was "a difficult child" in a clinical sense. She was awake most of the time and demanded a lot of time and attention. She did not trust other people and wanted only us to take care of her. Because she was allergic to cow's milk, we had to learn how to make almond milk. Because she was unusually fearful, we had to make sure that she always felt secured. Because she was different from other children, we learned to be sensitive to her special needs. Because she did not want to be left under the care of Children's Ministry teachers, we were forced to be in the Children's Ministry during midweek devotionals and Sunday Services for the first four and a half years of her life. In the process we learned to take care of other people's children and to have Jesus's heart for every child.
We are very grateful to God for the privilege and opportunity He has given us to lead the Children's Ministry of the church. Since 2001, we have been instilling Jesus's heart in every teacher in this ministry. So that when a child is brought to the Children's Ministry, he receives our unconditional love, our undivided attention, and our utmost effort. He is welcomed in the same way we would welcome Jesus.