Matthew 19:13-22 (ESV)

13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away. 16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

In verses 13-15, Matthew records Jesus engaging with children again. Many religious teachers of the day, and even throughout history, have considered themselves and their disciples above children. Yet here we have Jesus, the God-man, taking time out for young kids. Although parents chose to bring their children to Jesus, hoping he would pray for them, the disciples assumed it was a waste of Jesus’ time. They didn’t think he should exert his effort and energy on kids. So the disciples literally “rebuked,” meaning “spoke sternly to” or “scolded” the parents for bringing their children to Jesus. Verse 14 begins with “but.” In contrast to the way the disciples handled the situation, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me,” and continued, “For to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Earlier in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus comments on children playing games. He also talks about how we need to humbly become like children, praising the dependent attitude of children. He says that whoever receives a child receives him, but whoever stumbles a child would be better off drowning himself. Clearly, children are incredibly important to Jesus. The disciples’ attitude and actions were wrong here, and Jesus did end up praying for the children brought to him (v. 15).

With our extremely busy and stressful schedules and agendas, it can be easy to overlook children and scoot them off. But that’s not the way of Jesus. Children are important to him, and they should be important to us as well. If you have children, be sure to make time to listen to them, dialogue with them, encourage them, instruct them, discipline them, and pray for them. If you don’t have children, you still have the potential to make a significant impact on their lives. Remember, Jesus didn’t have any kids of his own, but that didn’t discourage him from reaching out to them. Keep an eye and an ear open for all children, whether they are yours or not. The time you invest in their hearts and minds has the potential to impact the way they see God and themselves for years to come. Take a moment to pray for the children you know, asking God to bring them to repentance and faith soon that they may shine for Jesus like bright lights in our dark world.