JESUS WELCOMES LITTLE CHILDREN AND POINTS TO THEIR HUMILITY AND DEPENDENCE AS IDENTIFYING MARKS OF KINGDOM CITIZENS
Grant Osborne: The movement from husband-wife relations to children is a natural progression. Children here become a model for discipleship and an essential part of the kingdom community.
Far from nuisances to be avoided, children are God’s special gift to the community and are to be embraced. Even more than that, they are the very embodiment of the kingdom in the church.
J. Ligon Duncan: This event seems mundane enough but it was important enough to the gospel writers that not only Matthew but also Mark and Luke took the time to record it, with Mark adding some details that Matthew and Luke do not provide. So its brevity belies its significance. There is terse truth in this passage that warrants our attention.
Lesson: We must aspire to child-like lowliness and humility if we want to be in the kingdom of Jesus Christ.
Brian Evans: Jesus shows how important children are to the Kingdom of God and how important children are to Him. This vital significance of children must also be shown by all who belong to Christ and His Kingdom. We too must value others especially children.
William Barclay: To Jesus no one was unimportant. Some might say: ‘They’re only children; don’t let them bother you.’ Jesus would never say that. No one was ever a nuisance to Jesus. He was never too tired, never too busy to give all of himself to anyone who needed it. There is a strange difference between Jesus and many famous preachers or evangelists. It is often next to impossible to get into the presence of one of these famous ones. They have a kind of retinue and bodyguard which keep the public away lest the great figure be wearied and bothered. Jesus was the opposite of that. The way to his presence was open to the humblest person and to the youngest child.
Charles Swindoll: By the rules of this world, the more wealthy, famous, important, and powerful you are, the less approachable, accessible, and available. None of us can stroll into the White House, knock on the door of the president of the United States, and ask for a few minutes of time to talk. If we were to see an Academy Award–winning actress dining at a pricey Hollywood restaurant, who of us would be able to slip into an empty seat at the table and ask about her next project? In our world, inaccessibility is a measure of importance.
Not so with Jesus. As usual, He defied cultural expectations and turned the rules of the world upside down. He didn’t favor the powerful, give special access to the elite, or make extra space for the influential. He was eminently approachable, accessible, and available . . . to everyone. Jesus was in touch with every kind of person —young and old, poor and rich, sick and healthy, corrupt and honest, harsh and courteous, hateful and loving, humble and proud, the devoted follower and the cruel critic. His refusal to construct social barriers and to limit access is nothing short of astonishing.
David Thompson: (:13-26) Christ’s disciples are totally confused about the kingdom.
THE DISCIPLES ARE CONFUSED AS TO WHOM WILL BE BLESSED IN THE KINGDOM AND CONFUSED ABOUT WHO WILL BE IN THE KINGDOM, SO JESUS GIVES THEM SPECIFIC INSTRUCTION DESIGNED TO UNRAVEL THEIR CONFUSION.
Now I want you to notice that in both episodes described in these verses, the disciples respond wrong — 19:13b; 25. They have been with Jesus nearly three years and yet still they are not quite tuned in to His program. So these two episodes are designed to help straighten them out.
I. (:13a) IMPORTANCE OF BRINGING LITTLE CHILDREN TO JESUS
A. Positive Example of the Parents
“Then some children were brought to Him”
Grant Osborne: This is the normal form for a blessing in the ancient world. Laying on of hands was used for parental blessing (Gen 48:14, 17–18), ordaining leaders (Num 27:18; Deut 34:9; Acts 6:6; 13:3), presenting sacrifices (Exod 29:10, 15; Lev 1:4), healing (Matt 9:18; Mark 6:5; 7:32), and giving the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17; 19:6). In Matthew the bringing of the children to Jesus recognizes his “authority as the one who determines human destiny” as well as his “mercy and compassion” for those who need his help.
Warren Wiersbe: It is fitting that our Lord’s teaching about marriage should be followed by His blessing of the children, for children are the happy heritage of those who are married. Jesus did not look on the children as a curse or a burden. “Two shall become one flesh” is fulfilled in the birth of children, and the love of the parents is deepened and matured as it is shared with others in the home.
David Thompson: The noun “children” in Greek is παιδια, which refers to a “little” child. These were little children who could not come to Christ on their own, so they were brought by their parents. Now when the children were brought to Christ, the parents wanted Christ to “lay hands” on them and “pray.” What this means children were not brought to Christ for healing, but for blessing. The laying on of hands and is that these praying was that which a religious leader would do to ask God to bless a person and to greatly use them.
B. Negative Example of the Disciples
“and the disciples rebuked them.”
D. A. Carson: Why did the disciples stoop to this rebuke? Perhaps they were annoyed that Jesus was being delayed on his journey to Jerusalem; perhaps they felt they were being interrupted in their important discussion. Although children in the Judaism of the time were deeply cherished, they were thought in some ways to be negligible members of society. Their place was to learn, to be respectful, to listen. But two deeper insights suggest themselves:
(1) the preceding pericope (vv.3–12) implicitly stresses the sanctity of the family, and vv.13–15 continue by saying something important about children; and
(2) in 18:1–9, children serve as models for humility, patterns for Jesus’ “little ones”; yet Jesus’ disciples, his “little ones,” show little humility here.
J. Ligon Duncan: It may have been that the disciples thought that Jesus was too important to be bothered with dealing with children that would have been too young to understand His message, the proclamation to the kingdom of heaven to the people of Israel, that Israel should repent and turn to the God of their fathers and should receive the blessings of the kingdom of heaven and recognize Jesus as the Messiah. Perhaps the disciples thought that Jesus was too great a personage as the Messiah of Israel to be bothered with these children. Perhaps it was their concern that by praying for these children, by blessing these children, it would delay the Lord Jesus in His journey toward Jerusalem. Perhaps they thought that this request was too similar to a current practice that was done by the people, whereby they took their children to the scribes and asked the scribes to bless their children. And perhaps the disciples thought, “O well, you see they are equating the Lord Jesus with the scribes and that’s a bad thing, it sort of offends us, and so we’re going to keep them away.”
II. (:13b) PURPOSE OF BRINGING LITTLE CHILDREN TO JESUS = BLESSING
A. Laying on of Hands
“so that He might lay His hands on them”
III. (:14) APPROPRIATENESS OF BRINGING LITTLE CHILDREN TO JESUS
A. The Command
“But Jesus said, ‘Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me;’”
Grant Osborne: The priorities of the disciples were warped, and they had not assimilated what Jesus taught in 18:3–5 about the centrality of little children in the kingdom community. As stated in 18:3–5, little children model kingdom realities in their helpless state and vulnerability as well as their sense of total dependence.
Brian Evans: Mark’s Gospel records the fact that Jesus was angry with the disciples. He uses the word indignant in the Authorized. He was furious with them. Only two or three times He really got mad at them. Frustrated with them – a lot, disappointed – a lot, but really angry – just a few times. This is one of them, and the only time that particular word of indignation is used of Jesus in reference to them. He was very angry with them for trying to stop these parents from bringing their children, and it is expressed as to why He was angry with them, if you just think about the scene.
Why was Jesus so angry?
There were those who wanted to come to Him and the disciples were blocking the way. The parents were wanting to come to Jesus with their little ones for a blessing and a prayer. Jesus was not saving these children. He was not entering them into the Kingdom of God through salvation. He was not instituting infant baptism as some of our Presbyterian friends might argue. He was welcoming them, praying for them and sending them away with a blessing. From their Jewish education, the disciples thought Jesus was too busy to be bothered with children.
Interesting that He uses two verbs, and there’s a reason. The first one is in the aorist tense: point action, permit right now, this moment, let them come; and then “forbid them not” is present tense. And what He’s saying is, “Right now, let these come, and from now on, don’t ever make it a practice to stop them from coming.” So, He takes care of the present and the future, and by the way, He doesn’t rebuke the parents at all, so it indicates to me that their motive was pure.
B. The Lesson
“for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Charles Swindoll: Earlier, when the disciples had asked who was the “greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (18:1), Jesus had answered, “Unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (18:3). Something about a child’s simplicity, openness, honesty, and wonder perfectly illustrates the kind of person who is closest to the kingdom of heaven in attitude and actions. No pretenses, no agenda, no inhibitions, no reluctance, no self-consciousness —children displayed none of those things that hold back heavy-laden adults from approaching Jesus with nothing but their own desperate neediness.
And these children stood in direct contrast to the next person to show up looking for an audience with the Master.
(:15) JESUS MINISTERS TO THE LITTLE CHILDREN AND DEPARTS
A. Significance of Laying on of Hands
“And after laying His hands on them,”
Leon Morris: Jesus did as he was asked and laid his hands on them. Matthew does not specifically say that he prayed, but we must surely understand that he did this. He had been asked to do so, and he had rebuked those who tried to keep the children away from him. So, of course, he would have prayed for them.
B. Geographic Transition
“He departed from there.”
Stu Weber: The Messiah-King stooped to impart his blessing on the children by laying his hands on them (19:13). Then he moved on, nearer to Jerusalem and the cross. This final comment by Matthew, he went on from there, brings into focus the contrast between Jesus, the meek lover of children, and the looming shadow of the cross. How could such a gentle man be found guilty of death? Perhaps Matthew wanted us to see the gentle, sacrificial lamb of Isaiah 53:7-9 (cf. 1 Pet. 2:21-25), being led toward the slaughter.