Jesus genuinely enjoyed children with their wide-eyed wonder. Do you see as Jesus saw?
In church, people often worry about how to get our children saved. Some who baptize babies fear the infant will die in original sin if they don’t. Others who think faith means making a personal decision wrestle with how old a child must be to recognize her lostness and ask for salvation so she doesn’t die unsaved.
Jesus didn’t see children like that. He wasn’t anxious about whether they’d go to heaven when they died. He saw heaven coming to earth in them, the kingdom of heaven in the children:
Matthew 19:13-15 (my translation, compare NIV)
13 Then they presented him with children, to bless them with his touch and pray for them. But the disciples censured them. 14 Jesus said, “Let the children be! Don’t stop them coming to me, for the kingdom of heaven is people like these.” 15 And having blessed them with his touch, he moved on from there.
What an astounding perspective! The kingdom of God consists of people like these. It makes perfect sense if you’re expecting the restoration of God’s kingship over the earth.
The story starts with God establishing his earthly kingdom as a garden, entrusted to the care of humans as naïve as children. They didn’t discern the craftiness of the wild creatures in their care (Genesis 3:1). They were taken in by the snake’s agenda: to dismantle the authority structure God established for his kingdom. They did not understand the chaos this would release, the tragedy and suffering that would come on both parents and their children (Genesis 4:8), how the world would sink into unrestrained violence as people took power over each other (4:23-24).
In their anguish and loss, God gave them hope: a child (Genesis 4:25). That’s when people began calling on the name of the Lord to restore us in his care (4:26). Matthew launched his biography with the long and twisted history of the struggling generations. This story finds fulfilment in a child, the child who was God’s presence with us (Matthew 1:23).
Now, in Matthew 19, the parents gather around him with their children, calling on the name of the Lord. They don’t understand Jesus’ significance or the controversy mounting over his kingship. They’re just asking for a better world for their children.
People without power. That’s how Jesus saw children — as people trusting and living in the wisdom and providence of our heavenly Father. Is that the kingdom of God?
Jesus reached out his hands, and prayed for these dependents. He’s still doing that for the ones who depend on him today (Hebrews 7:25).
- How to receive Christ (Mt 18:1-5)
Update 2022-04-07: Original translation added (instead of NIV).