Text: Mt 19:13-15/ Mk 10:13-16/ Lk 18:15-17
Theme: Children belong in God's kingdom.
Image: wide eyed in wonder
Need: full devotion to faith
Message: let your faith sink into your bones
friend's date and children
One of my friends told me about the first time he took a certain girl out on a date. He picked this cozy little Italian place. It was a small restaurant, and had mainly tables for two. He had been there once before and the atmosphere of the place was great. People were talking softly, there were some musicians strolling around the place playing for the couples who were there. He had everything planned out. He had picked a quiet table in the back so that he could have some privacy and get to know this girl. He picked her up promptly at 6:30. Their reservation was for seven, so he figured they had plenty of time. As he was going to the restaurant, they blew a tire. He took his time to change it, so that he would not get his clothes too dirty. When they finally got to the restaurant they were late and their table had been given to someone else. The hostess placed them at a table in the middle of the restaurant, right beside a family with little kids. They could hardly hear themselves think, let alone what the other person was saying. All they could hear was, “Johnny, don't do that. Sarah, please eat your food. Jimmy listen to your father.” My friend was about to scream at them, but he held his tongue. After the date, the girl he had taken out said, “Thanks Jeff, this was probably the best date I have ever had.” Best date, can she be serious. “It was nice to be with someone who can appreciate children, even when they are a bit difficult. He was stunned. It was a good thing he had held his tongue.
Page 1: The disciples hindered the little children from coming to Jesus.
The disciples were faced with a similar dilemma, only they did not keep their mouths shut.
Parent's gathered children and brought them to Jesus
A small group of children were being gathered together by their parents. “Now you behave,” their parents are telling them. “We are going to see a very great man today. He is a rabbi like no other. This man is special. That is why we are going to see him. We want him to bless you.” The parents scramble to try and get the kids presentable. Their mother is busy slicking down hair, straightening out cloaks, and making sure they have their sandals on as they file out the door. As they walk down the street, they spot a large crowd around the gate. “This must be him,” father said. “Remember everyone, be on your best behaviour.” “Yes, dad,” they answer in unison.
Disciples stood in the way
As the group approached Jesus, the disciples came and stood in their way. “What do you want here?” they asked.
“We want Jesus to bless our children,” they answered.
“Sorry,” one responded. “Jesus is much too busy to be bothered with your children. He is a very important man, and he cannot take the time to see children.”
Exasperated, they plead with the disciples, “But other rabbis see children and bless them. Why will you not let us bring our children to Jesus. We have heard he is a great rabbi, and we have been listening to him. Please, let our children see Jesus.” The disciples ignore their plea, and turn them away.
Jesus is saddened by ignorance (story of Pharisee and tax collector)
Jesus looks over from where he is sitting and teaching and he sees the disciples hurriedly pushing the children and their parents away. He is saddened by this display of ignorance. He has just showed them the difference between those who were confident in their own righteousness, and looked down on everyone else. He told them that a publican, a tax collector, who comes before God humbly and repentantly is justified before God, not a Pharisee, who is not repentant and humble before God. He told them that people need to be humble to approach God. They need to realise their sinfulness and come before God thanking him for the forgiveness he has shown them. The message did not seem to sink in. The disciples thought that Jesus was too important to meet with children. These kids were just a distraction. They would cause a raucous and stop people from hearing Jesus. They thought, “No, those kids do not belong here. Take them somewhere else, somewhere where we can't hear them and they won't be a distraction.”
they discriminated about who they thought was important
But, these children were part of God's chosen people. The disciples discriminated between God's people. They thought that the adults were more important than the children. That had long been the tradition in the Jewish community. Jewish women and children were part of the covenant people of God, and were considered higher than the gentiles, but they were not considered equals to the men. The disciples fell into this discrimination trap, and they would not allow the children to get near Jesus, even though he had come for them as much as the adults.
See, the disciples did the same thing the Pharisee did in the parable just before this one. They tried to distinguish who was righteous and who wasn't. They tried to determine on their own who Jesus had come for, and who he hadn't. They had done this many times, and always against Jesus's will. They tried to send the crowd of 5000 away hungry, but Jesus insisted that they feed them (Mt 14:15). They tried to stop the Canaanite woman from asking Jesus to help her daughter who was demon possessed (Mt 15:21), but he helped her anyway. They did not have the same compassion as their master. They did not see the good in the children, all they saw was the bad. They could not see what possible good their was to having the children come to Jesus and have him bless them. All they could think about was their schedule. “We don't have time for this,” they said. “We have another appointment at 3 somewhere else.” They looked at the kids and saw a distraction, so they sent them away.
Page 2: We hinder our children from coming to Jesus.
All too often we look at our kids and see a distraction. We look at them and think about the mess they will make, or how loud they will be, or how much they will squirm. We look at our kids through the same eyes the disciples did almost two thousand years ago. We think, “Well, they won't get anything out of the service anyway. Why should we have the hassle of bringing them along to worship.” Now, we hinder them in ways other than leaving them out of worship. We might think that we are doing a great job bringing our kids to church and allowing them to sit in the pew beside us, but are we truly bringing them to Christ? Are we doing all we can to show them how to live a Christian life? The form for baptism in the back of the psalter asks the parents this question, “Do you sincerely promise to do all you can to instruct your children in the Christian faith and to lead them by your example to be Christ's disciples?” (Gray Psalter, p 961)
We know that we cannot create faith in our children. We know that it is God's work to make people turn to him. We know this and we often use it as an excuse to avoid our own responsibilities. “Well,” we say, “since it is out of our hands, then why don't we just leave it up to God. If our child is one of the elect, then she will be saved, if not, then nothing I do can change that.” It is true that we are not in control of our own faith, let alone that of others. We cannot cause other people to believe in God, that is the Holy Spirit's work. But God wants to bring others to him through us.
Most often the Spirit works through us. Think back to your own route to faith. Who did the Spirit use to lead you to Christ? Was it your parents? Was it your neighbour? Was it fellow church members? Was it your spouse, or a girl or boyfriend? Perhaps it was a combination of some or all of these. See, salvation does not come out of nowhere. A person who has no contact whatsoever with the gospel, or the message of salvation, or with Christians, will not know to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as their saviour. Sometimes a conversion experience can feel like a bolt from the blue, but often that bolt came through someone, or something else. The Holy Spirit works by getting us to work.
I realise that we may not feel like we are hindering our childrens's faith. We may not think that we are standing in their path, trying to shew them away. But if we are not working to grow faith in our children, then we are hindering it. God is counting on each and everyone of you, as part of his covenant community, to help raise the children here in the faith. They do not have to be your kids. During baptism the congregation is asked whether they promise to receive the children in love, pray for them, help instruct them in the faith, and encourage and sustain them in the fellowship of believers (Gray Psalter, p 961). See, we are not individuals here this morning. We are not a collection of separate people who happen to be in the same room together. We are all baptised into one body. We are not allowed to sit back and think that our actions affect us alone. We have a responsibility to those around us. We have a responsibility to all the children of this congregation to assist them, as much as we can, to grow into the faith.
Our example shows our kids how they should relate to worship, to others within the Church, to those outside the Church, to those outside the Christian community. When we step outside of these doors and promptly forget all that went on here, we teach our kids that worship is irrelevant. When we would rather go fishing, or water skiing, or visiting than come to church twice on Sunday, we teach our kids that the Christian community doesn't matter. When we say with our mouths that we love the Lord, but do not show it in our actions, we teach our children that hypocrisy is alright. When we do not do all we can to teach our children to grow in the faith, we are hindering the Spirit's work, and hindering our children from coming to Christ.
Page 3: Jesus welcomed the little children and blessed them.
Even though the disciples were hindering the little children from coming to Jesus, he had other plans. As he turned to see what they were doing, he was indignant (Mk 10:14). When were these disciples of his going to learn? How long was he going to have to put up with this. He rebukes his disciples, “Hey, what are you doing? Why are you sending them away? Do not stop them from coming to me, send the children over here.” Baffled, the disciples simply turn aside and allow the children to run over to Jesus. He is in the middle of a large crowd and he holds out his arms as the children approach him. The people are looking around at each other, confused. What kind of teacher is this? He sure does some strange things.
Jesus welcomes the little children to teach those there a lesson. Jesus said, “the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” He is telling the people that they have something to learn from the children. You can picture a rather stuck up middle aged man thinking to himself, “Ha, me learn from a child? Not likely. They are the ones who have to learn from me. They should sit outside the group until they can learn how they are supposed to act.” Jesus is telling the crowd that they need to look to the children to learn something about their relationship to God. Notice Jesus does not say the Kingdom of God belongs to these specific children, but to such as these. He is telling the crowd that those who recognise their own failings and ignorance are those who will truly understand their relationship to the father. The kingdom of God belongs to those who are this dependant upon God, who trust completely in him, whose love for him knows no bounds.
Page 4: Jesus welcomes our children and blesses them through the covenant.
We are all included in the kingdom of God if our love for Christ knows no bounds. We are completely dependant upon Jesus for everything that we get. We need him for our faith, for our salvation, for everything. We depend on him, like children depend on us. When my nephew was growing up, I tried to teach him his colours wrong. I taught him that orange was purple, that blue was red, that green was gray, etc. He trusted me so completely that he believed it, and he began to learn his colours that way. Well, the problem was that the next time we were going over his colours, I had forgotten completely what I had changed the colours to! I got so confused myself that I had to give up on the experiment. I had to teach him the colours properly. The point is that he so completely trusted me, that he did not even ask his mum if I were telling the truth. He had put his entire faith in me as his elder. He did not know, and so he depended on me to teach him.
The same is also true of us with God. If the kingdom of God belongs to people such as those children, then we can be as children toward God. We have the blessing of being God's children. We can put our entire faith in him, and we will not be let down. His promises are sure, and we have been given the assurance of salvation through the death and resurrection of his son, Jesus Christ. We can trust God's word, because his word is truth.
We are baptised into the covenant community of believers when we are children because we acknowledge that we are given the blessing of faith from God. We are not responsible for our salvation. We are as helpless before God as that tiny baby screaming before the baptismal font. When Peter addressed the crowd on Pentecost he said, “Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.” We have received the promise of the Holy Spirit, the promise given to our parents as believers. We have been blessed by God by being included in his covenant family. Our children have received the same blessing because God accepts and welcomes little children into his outstretched arms.
Though we often stand between our children and Jesus, as the disciples did, we know that God accepts them and blesses them by including them in the church. Knowing that we are all children of God, makes us realise that we are completely and utterly dependent on him. It gives us the security that God will provide for all of our needs. Let us put our trust in him completely, because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
Let us Pray
Father in heaven, help us to get out of your Spirit's way as it works to lead our children to Christ. Help us to be good examples to them, and to teach them the way they should go. We trust in you completely for our salvation, and we ask that you would guide and protect all of us as we strive to be more Christlike. Amen