God’s Word for You
Mark 10:13-16 Let the little children come
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, March 24, 2021
The Little Children and Jesus
13 People were bringing little children to Jesus so that he would touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was angry. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
Verse 10 tells us that this took place inside a house somewhere in Perea. When parents or grandparents were bringing children to Jesus, the disciples were evidently outside the house trying to stop them. When Jesus noticed what they were doing, he got angry with them.
The reason the people were bringing children there was so that Jesus would lay his hands on them, pray for them, and bless them. It wasn’t merely his touch, as if they thought he was good luck or something. He was praying for them (Matthew 19:13), praying that God would forgive their sins and bless their lives. An error made by some Christians today is to say that children are morally neutral. There are plenty of examples of children sinning in our own homes (and in each person’s own childhood!) to counter this error, but for those who like to argue, there are the words of Scripture. The Bible shows us, for example, the youths who were jeering the prophet Elisha with disrespect and inviting God’s judgment on forty-two of them (2 Kings 2:23-24). Then there is the confession of King David: “I was sinful from birth; sinful from the moment my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). In addition, unbelief is a damning sin (Hebrews 3:19). Before faith comes, whether we are children or adults, we are all dead in our sins “in the uncircumcision of [our] sinful nature” (Colossians 2:13). It is through the word of God that forgiveness comes, either by the preaching of the word itself (Romans 10:14) or through the gospel that comes through baptism, “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4). So we are born sinful, not neutral, and with the universal need for a Savior. It was this very Savior that the Savior’s disciples were trying to distance from children who needed him.
Perhaps one additional point here against the position some take about children being “morally neutral” is that no one who is “neutral” will enter into the kingdom of heaven. Only the righteous, the forgiven, the saved, those who are perfect in Christ, will enter into the kingdom of heaven. In the parable of the net, there are not three categories (good, neutral, and bad), but only two: “They sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away” (Matthew 13:48). It cannot be said that each person has the ability to fall on their own into sin. We are born sinful in the image of fallen Adam and Eve (Genesis 5:3). All that we can do for children is cause them to sin even more (“if anyone causes one of the little ones who believe in me to sin…” Mark 9:42), or keep them away from Jesus (as the disciples were doing here), or bring them to Jesus, as their parents were doing and as our parents did when they brought us to church to hear the gospel, to be baptized, and to hear God’s word again week after week.
15 Amen, I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.
“Amen” (“this is the truth, this is most certainly true”) is Jesus’ way of emphasizing what he’s about to say. Listen up. Anyone who does not have faith in God the way a child has faith in God will never enter God’s kingdom. How does a child have faith in God? His faith is absolute. A child doesn’t doubt. A child’s faith is a yes or no faith, all or nothing. A child believes he is saved only by Jesus, and we need to run back to our childlike faith over and over again. It is for this reason that I like to end my bedtime prayers with the little prayer I said as a child and that I taught my sons.
When we teach this story to little children, we are wise to teach them the first part (verses 13-14) and verse 16. We don’t need to add verse 15 when we teach little ones. The time will come, when they are a little older, when we add every warning Jesus preaches. But just as we teach children math and history in stages, not burdening them with every single detail or with complex abstract applications when they are young, we teach them the basics of God’s word, “milk, not solid food” (1 Corinthians 3:2; Hebrews 5:12). The elementary truths of God’s word are sin and grace, law and gospel. This includes the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed, Baptism, and the basic history of God’s love, especially Genesis and the Gospels. But verse 15 is a warning for us and for parents everywhere. Do not keep the kingdom of God away from your child. The law that is preached in this verse is to parents and to preachers who for any reason keep children away from Christ. Even if I, a pastor, get a little distracted for a moment in church because of the outburst of a baby, I don’t mind and I don’t care one little bit. I love our church to be bustling and busy with parents and their little children. Let the little children come! They will learn to be in the house of God, and as they grow they will see other children with their parents and they will learn valuable lessons in parenting while they make friends there in God’s house. And the greatest friend for them to make is Jesus himself.
Pastor Timothy Smith