Let the Children Come to Me
The Lord Jesus and our children
‘And they brought little children to him that he might touch them. But the disciples rebuked those that brought them. But Jesus seeing it, was indignant, and said to them, Suffer the little children to come to me; forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say to you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall in no wise enter into it. And having taken them in his arms, having laid his hands on them, he blessed them’ (Mark 10:13–16).
These well-known verses show clearly the high value children have in the eyes of the Lord Jesus. It is His will that our children come to Him, and that we as their parents or grandparents do not hinder them from doing so. There is more than one practical lesson to learn from this.
There are two great dangers for our children, particularly if they are little. We risk highlighting only one and neglecting the other, and consequently drawing wrong conclusions about what is best for them and taking the wrong action to achieve this. One danger is that we neglect our children because we are so absorbed with our own interests that we do not have enough time and concern for them. This might be the greater of the two dangers. The other one, of course, is that we ‘worship’ our children, and spoil and pamper them so much that our own life is centered on them. We need to be well balanced.
The perfect example
Our children are important, and we should show them affection and have enough time and interest for them (even when they are in their teenage years). This is clearly seen in the passage from Mark’s gospel quoted at the beginning of this article where the Lord Jesus sets the perfect example. We should have His attitude toward our children. We do not know exactly when the children in this incident were brought to Him and why the disciples rebuked those who did so. Maybe it was at the end of a busy day or because the Lord Jesus (the perfect man) was tired. If so, there is a clear instruction for us. We may also have busy days and perhaps get home late in the afternoon (or evening) and try to get some relaxation before spending time with our children and occupying ourselves with their concerns. The Lord Jesus says, ‘Suffer the little children to come to me’. He loves them and wants them in His presence. He never rejects them. This should be our attitude towards our children too.
There is a well-known verse in Ezekiel 34:11: ‘For thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold I, even I, will both search for my sheep, and tend them.’ This is a threefold promise of the good shepherd.
First: ‘Behold I, even I’. In other words, He promises His presence. He is always available, particularly when we need Him. Now, as parents we cannot always be close to our children (we are limited in time and space), but we should be available if and when our children need us. It is a sad thing if they often hear us say, ‘I’m sorry; I can’t spare any time for you.’
Second: ‘I will … search for my sheep’. This indicates a vital and active interest in His sheep that should also characterise us. We should be interested in our children and their issues and problems. We should have an opened eye and ear for what concerns them. We should have answers to their questions. If we do not answer them they may get their answers somewhere else and that could be very dangerous.
Third: ‘I will … tend them’. This describes the active help of our heavenly shepherd whenever we are in need. Again, this can be applied to us as parents. There are times when our children not only need us to be available for them and to show interest in them but our active help on their behalf. Are we ready to support them and give them a helping hand?
But there is more to learn. The appeal the Lord Jesus made to bring the children to Him shows clearly that He wants to have our children for Himself. But there is someone else who also wants to have them. Like Pharaoh in the past, the prince of this world tries everything he can to achieve his end. This conflict never stops. How can we be victorious?
If we read the whole passage in Mark 10, we see that there are two sides to the coin, and while we should distinguish them we should never divide them. We find them throughout the Bible. One is our side, and we call it ‘responsibility’ (because we have to act). The other is the Lord’s side, and we call it ‘grace’ (because He acts without us deserving it). It was the responsibility of those who were in charge of the children to bring them to the Lord (‘they brought little children’). It was the grace of the Lord to let them come to Him and take them in His arms.
Let us consider these two sides in more detail:
What does it mean for us to bring our children to Him? Let us look at an Old Testament example, Hannah, the mother of Samuel, who said: ‘I will wait until the child is weaned; then will I bring him, that he may appear before Jehovah, and there abide for ever’ (1 Sam. 1:22). Here we find a mother who brings her child to the Lord. What is her objective? First, that he should appear before Him; second, that he should abide there forever. This ought to be the great objective of all parenting and the upbringing of our children. First of all, they should appear before the Lord — in other words they should accept Jesus as their Saviour and in doing so get to know Him. Second, they should abide with Him forever — in other words they should accept Him as their Lord, the one they want to follow and serve. Of course, we should also teach them the ‘life skills’ they need as they grow up, especially those to do with the way they relate to other people. But the main point is that they acknowledge Jesus as their Saviour and Lord.
How do we bring them to Him? There are two main elements. The first is that we set them a good example. Generally speaking, children take notice of our actions much more than our words. If they see us following the Lord Jesus and living in daily communion with Him, we create the right preconditions for them to do the same. If instead they realise the opposite is true, and see us living self-centred and hypocritical lives, we hinder them from coming to the Lord Jesus. The second main element is that we start as early as possible to talk to them about Him, and to pray and sing with them. This is the best seed we can sow in their hearts and it is ever more necessary in this age.
What is the Lord Jesus doing in His wonderful grace? Will He ever reject someone who comes to Him? Never! He receives those who come to Him — be they adults or children. It is touching to see how He does much more than those who brought the children desired. They wanted Him to touch them. But what did He do? He took them in His arms, laid His hands on them and blessed them. This is what the Lord Jesus is still doing when children are brought to Him. He does ‘far exceedingly above all which we ask or think’ (Eph. 3:20).
Let us consider the Lord’s actions in more detail.
- He takes them in His arms. The arm not only speaks of might and power but also of nearness and affection. If a child lies in the arms of their father or mother, they will hear and feel their heartbeat and know: ‘My dad/my mum loves me.’ If we bring our children to the Lord, we know we have brought them to the one who loves them with an unchanging love. If they come to Him, they will know that He is the best friend they could ever have.
- He lays His hands on them. Doing this not only speaks of identification but in the context especially of His protection. His mighty hand will protect them. Our children should know — as we should — that He is mightier that all other influences and powers in this world. There are dangers and we are aware of them, but at the same time our children should know that they have the best protection possible.
- He blesses them, which means to speak well of them and wish what is best for them. As parents we are supposed to wish our children the very best but sad to say we often make mistakes. The Lord never does this. He wants to bless us and give us all that is beneficial for our children and us.
A final encouragement
We are living in a difficult and dangerous time. The Bible calls it ‘the last days’ (read 2 Tim. 3:1–5). We may ask ourselves, ‘How will our children survive?’ We may even give some assent to those who say that it is irresponsible to have children. However, the answer to present difficulties is clear: ‘Ye … have overcome them, because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world’ (1 John 4:4). Take the example of Amram and Jochebed, Moses’ parents (Exodus 2). They could have argued that it was too dangerous to have a third child, but their faith was living and active (Heb. 11:23) and they overcame the threat of Pharaoh.
Parents, let us have faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us not forget this: if we live up to our responsibility (despite all our shortcomings) and bring our children to Him (also in prayer), all can be left in His hands. David once said to Abiathar, who was in the greatest of dangers, ‘Abide with me, fear not; for he that seeks my life seeks thy life; for with me thou art in safe keeping’ (1 Sam. 22:23). His arms are there to hold our children. His hands are there to protect them. He loves them, and His blessing is with them.
 There is a third aspect: the responsibility of the children. They have to make their own decisions, which means they can refuse to come to the Lord Jesus. But this is not the focus of this article.