The Little Children (Luke 18:15-17)
Last year, I was privileged to baptize both of my children into Christ. I baptized Wil on my father’s birthday and baptized RJ a couple days after Tammy’s birthday. Both of the boys decided to be baptized late at night, and I was already in bed both times. When Wil decided to put on Christ, I got out of bed and tried to call several folks to get a church key. Either, I had the wrong numbers or these folks had their cell phones turned off. We couldn’t get into the church building that night, so we went the next day immediately after school, and I baptized him into Christ. Wil didn’t want anyone else at the building, so it was just the four of us present when he was baptized.
RJ had long been at an age when he needed to think seriously about obeying the Gospel. I had talked with RJ and studied with him a couple times, but I was making a conscious effort not to push too hard or too much. We had gone to a gospel meeting at the congregation where we were members. RJ’s best friend’s dad was doing the preaching, and Chris said something in his sermon that got RJ thinking. RJ came and woke me up and said that he was ready. The next day, we took him to the church building and I baptized him into Christ.
If I live to be a hundred, I don’t believe I’ll ever have another experience that even comes close to baptizing my boys.
I know that many of you have seen your children obey the Gospel. Some of you dads have surely baptized your children into Christ–when possible, I like to see that happen–there’s nothing more special than witnessing a father baptize his child into Christ. Many of you mothers have led your children to Christ. I never talked with Wilson about becoming a Christian–He had talked with Tammy.
As we think about VBS rapidly approaching, that really is our aim: to reach children for Jesus. We will want to sow truth in the hearts of children. We will want to show children that learning about Jesus can be fun. Our text this morning is a good place to start thinking about reaching children for Jesus. The disciples don’t get that children have a place in the kingdom of God. Jesus rebukes the disciples and teaches an important lesson: “Children matter to Jesus.”
Scripture (Luke 18:15-17)
“They brought infants to Him that He might touch them.” The people are likely requesting a blessing for their children from a respected Rabbi. You’ve seen pictures of people bringing their children to the Pope for a blessing. We’re very likely to get the same time of picture from this occasion. That was a very common practice in Jesus’ day–people wanting to get a well-known and respected rabbi to bless their children.
Only Luke records that these children are “infants.” Matthew and Mark both record these are “little children.” Now, the question would arise, “Why would Luke point out that these are infants?” He likely does so to make the case that these are totally dependent. They can’t do anything for themselves, but they find support, blessing and love in Jesus. The disciples saw what was taking place, and they rebuke the people. In the view of the disciples, Jesus has far better things to be doing than sitting and blessing all these children. We certainly need to be people who put first things first. Far too often I fear that we let the mundane things of life sidetrack us from what is really important. The apostles–with the help of divine inspiration–appoint the first deacons in order that they (the apostles) could devote themselves “to pray and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4).
However, I find it interesting that the disciples take it on themselves to determine what Jesus should be doing. Jesus hasn’t said that He’s overburdened, Jesus hasn’t asked for help, but the disciples “know” that Jesus doesn’t have time for this. Sometimes I fear that we’re the same way–we determine what people matter, we determine that some folks are unworthy of hearing God’s message.
Jesus called the disciples to Him. I don’t want to read too much into this text, but it does sound as though the disciples are a little bit out of earshot of Jesus. I can’t help but wonder if they aren’t doing their thing where Jesus can’t naturally see or hear or know what’s going on. In other words, I wonder if they aren’t stopping the people while trying to keep Jesus in the dark.
Jesus says, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them.” In the ancient world, that statement was radical. Children had no social standing in the ancient world. Parents would obviously love their children and take care of them, but children had no legal or social standing. Jesus views children differently. He views them: as people made in the likeness and image of God, as people worthy of hearing the Gospel, and as people worth dying for.
“Of such is the kingdom of God.” Little children have the heart of the kingdom of God. Little children exhibit what the kingdom of God is all about.
Unless one receives the kingdom of God as a little child, he will by no means enter it. How does one receive the kingdom of God as a little child?
One receives the kingdom of God with humility.
Luke, you recall, refers to these children as “infants.” An infant is totally dependent upon his parents. An infant cannot clothe, feed, change himself.
God wants us to understand that we are totally dependent upon Him. We cannot save ourselves from sin; we cannot even live a physical life without God. “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
One receives the kingdom of God with eagerness.
You know that little kids will soak everything up like a sponge–they ask a million questions and are excited to learn. When children come to VBS, they will be eager to learn and excited to be here. God wants us to view His truth that way.
One receives the kingdom of God with trust.
Children believe whatever their parents tell them. Children understand that their parents are going to take care of them. God wants us to come to Him in trust–believing what He says and knowing that He will take care of us.
Maybe you need to receive the kingdom of God like a little child this morning. We want you to accept the kingdom of God this morning. We will give you an opportunity to accept the kingdom of God this morning.
“Children matter to Jesus.” Since children matter to Jesus, they had better matter to us! That’s why we’re having a Vacation Bible School to begin with!
How should we live since “Children matter to Jesus“?
You need to understand the importance of reaching children.
The Gospel has always been about reaching children as well as adults. Timothy was reached as a young man. Several times in Acts you find whole families being baptized into Christ. Lydia “and her household were baptized” (Acts 16:15). The jailer took Paul and Silas “the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized” (Acts 16:33). We know from a host of other Scriptures that these baptisms did not involve infants or very young children. One needs to be a sinner and have faith in order to be subject to baptism. However, I have no doubt that many young people were baptized on these occasions.
If we don’t reach the next generation with truth, the world is going to reach them with the devil’s lies.
You need to help with VBS.
There is a host of ways to help: you can help teach or help decorate or bring snacks or invite children or pass out flyers.
“This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men” (Titus 3:8). In this morning’s text, Jesus makes clear that helping children come to Him is a “good work.” Are you maintaining good works?
You need to love children.
Understand that some children who come to VBS may never have set foot in a church building before. They will run, they will yell, they will spill their drinks. Some of them might not even smell all that nice.
How do you think Jesus would react to such a situation? I have no doubt that He would teach them to do better; we must do that, too. But, I’m confident that He would teach them in love, compassion and patience.
“Love will cover a multitude of sins” (1 Pet 4:8). Let us commit to having a loving attitude!
Jesus’ blood will also cover a multitude of sins. Do you need to come and meet His blood this morning?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Dale Ridge church of Christ in Roanoke, Virginia.