Sermon Manuscript . . .
The Importance of Children
The Kingdom citizenship of young children, and those who are like children Mark 10:13-16
You’ve seen it–someone with a box of kittens or puppies. Outside suburbia, the farmer’s dog has a litter of pups he needs to sell. As he’s nailing a sign on the fencepost announcing the sale, he feels a tug on his pants, looks down and there’s a little boy standing there saying, “I’d like to buy one of the little puppies.” The farmer said, “Son, the pups are pretty expensive. They come from a real good dog.” The little boy reaches down in the pockets of his overalls and he pulls out $.39 and he says, “Will this buy one of them?” The farmer smiles and says, “Yes, that will buy one of them.”
So he calls for Dolly, and she comes waddling out of the pen and following her are four little balls of fur, tumbling down this little ramp. They all come up and sniff around–and while the little boy is playing with them, another pup, a fifth pup, a little smaller sort of crippled and awkward one comes stumbling up to the fence. The little boy looks over the other four and says, “I want that one.”
But the farmer says, “Son, you don’t want that one, that fifth one–that’s what we call the runt and he won’t be able to play with you like the other pups, because he’s the last one that was born and he won’t be like the other dogs. He won’t be able to run like they run.” With that, the little boy stepped back from the fence and reached down and began rolling up one leg of his overalls. And in doing so, he revealed a steel brace running down both sides of his leg, attached to specially made shoes. Looking back up at the farmer he said, “You see, sir, I don’t run too well myself and my puppy, well, he’ll need someone who understands.”
Children can blow us away with their innocence and insights. But they also remind us just how sinful we can be. One of my favorite reminders is the Ten Property Laws of a Toddler. What are they? The rules toddlers follow when playing with toys–here they are . . .
#1 If I like it, it’s mine
#2 If it’s in my hand, it’s mine
#3 If I can take it from you, it’s mine
#4 If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine
#5 If it’s mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way
#6 If I’m building something, all the pieces are mine
#7 If it looks just like mine, it’s mine
#8 If I saw it first, it’s mine
#9 If you’re playing with something and you put it down, it automatically becomes mine, and . . .
#10 If it’s broken . . . it’s yours
Though sinful to the core, Mark 10:13 to 16 reminds us of the very special place young children have in God’s plan. Open your Bibles to Mark 10 and follow along by taking notes in the outline. These verses have caused me to alter my position on the death of infants and young children. This is the first time in a long time my position on a biblical truth has changed and it changed because of the strength of this passage and a few others.
I never pick and choose my theology (smorgasbord-style), but only allow my theology to be determined by the exposition of the Word of God. If I can’t prove it through the exposition of Scripture, I am hesitant to embrace it. Prior to these verses, I was one who said, “If an infant dies, trust God and know our loving Lord will do what is best–so put your confidence in Him alone.” I said that, because I didn’t believe the Scripture was definitive as to the destination of infants and young children who die. My heart wanted them to be in Heaven, but I didn’t think I could embrace or prove that from Scripture.
Of course I still say, “Trust God,” but I now believe the Bible does directly address that question in this passage–that children hold a special place in God’s Kingdom. That when infants or young children die, on the basis of God’s grace alone, they go to Heaven, being the ultimate example of salvation by God’s grace alone. Not only are children a powerful example of the grace of God, but in this passage, they are also an example to everyone of how to enter into God’s Kingdom, how to make certain you go to Heaven when you die, how to really know you are a genuine Christian. Children hold a special place in God’s design. Today you’ll see . . .
#1 The strong HOPE of godly parents for their children
#2 The sad MISDIRECTION of the disciples about children
#3 The sincere PASSION of Christ for children
#4 The special PLACE Christ has for children
#5 The crucial EXAMPLE children serve for all believers
#6 The tender AFFECTION Christ shows to all children
But in order not to give the entire message away, let’s dig in. So stand in honor of the Word of God, and read aloud with me Mark 10:13 to 16, “And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. 14But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, ‘Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.’ 16And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.”
Let’s pray. Heavenly Father be our teacher and help us to embrace your Word as you wrote it and not what we want it to say. Help us to understand what it means to enter your Kingdom like a child. And begin to draw some here to yourself today and cause your children to truly become more like your Son in whose name we pray, Amen.
Read verse 13 of Mark chapter 10, “And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them.” Our Lord is in Peraea, close to Jericho. It is the final weeks of His public ministry. By chapter 11, He’s making His triumphal entry into Jerusalem the week prior to Passover, where Jesus will offer Himself as our substitute as the ultimate Passover Lamb, to die once for all for the sin’s which separate us from God–to do for us what we could never do for ourselves. From a heart of love and an act of amazing grace, Jesus will suffer the death we deserve for sins and He will rise from the dead to provide forgiveness and give a new heart to those who turn from being their own lord, to trust in Him as their Lord–depending on Him alone for salvation.
But in Mark 10:1 to 12, Jesus was just assaulted by the Pharisees in Peraea, who were trying to discredit Him before the population or get Him killed by Herod, over His teaching on divorce. The Lord corrected their misinterpretations of the Old Testament, pointed out the horrible consequences of divorce, and warned about any divorce outside of God’s narrow allowances. But He also exalted marriage, and reminded the listeners of God’s original blueprint–while repainting the gorgeous drawings from the Perfect Architect, on what marriage was designed to be. So what happens? Families respond to that picture of marriage in verse 13 with . . .
#1 The strong HOPE of godly parents for their children Verse 13a
“And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them.” There was a lot of divorce going on in Israel, but there were also a lot of loving, normal, average families, like me who were wanting to raise their children to follow the one true God. Just like today, there is a lot of divorce among the rich and famous–Jenner, Eastwood, Cox. And back then, well-known Pharisees and scribes. But there were a lot of regular folks back then who wanted to honor God with their families. So they brought their infants and young children to Christ.
Right now, they might in the house of verse 10, or in a large courtyard of that house, or out in some public plaza in Peraea. But when Mark writes, “And they were bringing children to Him“–the verb choices indicate it is a continual, ongoing stream of they, describing parents, aunts, uncles and older siblings bringing children, a word normally describing a very young child, never older than twelve, but mostly used to indicate toddlers.
In Luke’s gospel, he specifically tells us in Luke 18:15, “They were bringing even their babies [ESV infants] to Him so that He would touch them.” Luke uses the word brephos–that’s babies, infants, sucklings, or little children. He’s describing children, perhaps up to three or four. We know they’re mostly babies, because verse 16 of Mark 10 says Jesus enfolds them in His arms. Parents who saw Christ’s love and power, who heard the Lord’s preaching about eternal life, are bringing their babies to Jesus. So picture an unending parade of parents and family members bringing babies and very young children to Jesus, “so that He would touch them“–touch them meaning embrace them and hold them.
Matthew’s parallel account describes their intention in Matthew 19:13, “Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray.” Why are they doing this? You know–it has its roots all the way back at the beginning in Genesis, during the patriarchal period. The patriarchal fathers blessed their children. Noah blessed Shem and Japheth. Isaac blessed his sons and Jacob blessed his sons, all with a fatherly benediction pronounced on the heads of their children. What was it about? It was a desire for their spiritual blessing. They prayed for God to show favor to them.
The elders used to say that when you pray a blessing on your child, you pray this exactly–that the child would be famous in the Law, faithful in marriage and abundant in good works. The father would lay his hands on his child’s head and pray that his child would be famous (strong) in the Law, faithful in marriage and abundant in good works. And at this time, it was customary for families to bring their children to the elders of a synagogue and they’d do the same. This was their form of baby/parent dedication. It was a prayer for the future spiritual health of that child.
And in Judaism, there was a special day set aside for this–the day before the Day of Atonement, the day before Yom Kippur. They’d bless their children this way, the day before, praying that the Day of Atonement would be applied to their children. What did they want? They were praying for their salvation. What do Christian parents want more than anything? For their children to be right with God now and eternally secure with Him. How badly do your parents want you to be saved? I’m certain most of them here would willingly give up their lives and die if it meant that you, their children, could be eternally secure in Christ.
These parents want their children to know God. They want their children to be a part of the Kingdom of God. They want their children to have eternal life, just like any sensible parents would. These parents want their children blessed by God with eternal life. From a Jewish perspective, they want God to do whatever He needs to do in their lives, so that they could gain salvation. The strong hope of godly parents for their children is to be saved.
They also wanted Jesus to touch their child. This wasn’t some sort of magical touch, but the touch of compassion. Jesus did everything by touching. He even healed with touch. He touched people all the time, which is exactly what the Pharisees never did. They wouldn’t touch people, because then they’d be defiled. But our Lord Jesus, the God-man, our Creator, knows that He designed touch to express compassion. So the parents’ purpose in bringing Jesus their children was so He might lay His hands on them, touch them and pray for the blessing of their future salvation.
This was such a joyful, cheerful, happy time–can you see it? Smiling parents, little toddlers and infants all surrounding Christ–until the big, bad bullies put a stop to it.
#2 The sad MISDIRECTION of the disciples about children Verse 13b
Look at the end of verse 13, “but the disciples rebuked them.” What were they thinking? Why would they stop this joy? You’ve seen the Secret Service agents around the president. They were protecting Jesus–but in doing so, exposing their hearts. They rebuked, literally warned the parents forcibly, censured, or reprimanded them. In a noun form, rebuked means punishment. They weren’t yelling at the kids, but reprimanding the parents.
This is very strong language. You ask, “How strong?” Rebuke is used in Mark to confront two different demons and a windstorm. Families are coming to have their children blessed by our Lord, but the disciples sharply warned them with an intense reprimand. Why? They didn’t want Jesus to be bothered? Maybe, in some manner they saw the weight of the coming cross and the strain of the coming wrath from the Father for our sin on Jesus? In some way, they wanted to conserve His time and strength? So the disciples put a stop to the celebration with a sharp rebuke–“Get out, and take your stroller with you!”
The bottom line was, the disciples counted these children as unimportant to their ministry and to their Master! The disciples have left legalism and Judaism behind–they believe in Christ, but sadly, they turned on these parents. Their religious worldview still looked at children as having no place before God until they could do good works to gain God’s favor. They were still corrupted with the idea of earning salvation. So while the disciples had come to salvation by grace, they had embraced so much of their former system, salvation by works, that they didn’t think children fit in anywhere.
Plus, young children were looked down upon by society in general. In Rome, female babies were often discarded at birth and all kids were viewed as weak and unable to contribute to a community’s needs. So these poor parents–all they want is to have the Lord bless their babies, but the disciples fired away at them. The twelve are convinced this baby blessing stuff is another unnecessary interruption. But Jesus does not feel that way at all.
#3 The sincere PASSION of Christ for children Verse 14a
Jesus is watching this ongoing parade of parents coming with their babies, with the disciples shooing them away, so verse 14 says, “But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, ‘Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them.’ ” The disciples could not have been more wrong. When Jesus saw His disciples chasing back these parents, He also responded in a severe way. Jesus was indignant–a very strong verb, meaning to be angry, to be irate, to be angered at something unjust.
Only a few days previous, they’d seen Jesus scoop up a child and say whoever humbles himself like a little child will be the greatest in the Kingdom. They’d watched Christ for years treat the weakest and the sickest in society with the most tender compassion. And they knew of the Jewish practice of parents bringing their children to the rabbis for blessings and prayer. But His men didn’t catch the Lord’s compassion for children.
Now Jesus wasn’t overly sentimental about children. He told a story in Matthew 11 about how obstinate children could be when they played their games in the marketplace. He understood babies and young children to be little sinnerlings. He wasn’t sentimentalized about them, but Jesus had a great affection for children and would welcome them on any occasion.
But His disciples had let these parents have it–so now Jesus lets His disciples have it. Not the parents, but His men. In fact, Luke 18:16 tells us, “Jesus called for them, saying, ‘Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them.’ ” The picture Luke paints in this verse is the Lord actually calling for the parents who’ve been shooed away to, “Come back–bring your babies back to Me.” I love that image–can you see it? I love kids. I love hugs from little kids, I love talking to little ones. I cannot wait for every visit with my grandsons. And I love watching dads who delight in babies and little ones. Honestly, this is one of the ways Robert Dodson shows us Christ–the way he delights in babies and children. I love watching him–like Christ. George MacDonald once said that he doubted a man’s Christianity if children were never found playing around his door.
Did you notice what is absent from the Lord’s words? Jesus gives no indication of the spiritual condition of the parents. He gives no indication of the possibility of faith in the parents, or unbelief in the parents, because Jesus did not rebuke the parents nor resist blessing their children. It’s obvious that the parents’ motives were pure.
Yet the parents didn’t comprehend the Lord’s true greatness–and few, if any, had put their faith in Christ as Lord. But these parents did recognize Jesus as a genuine teacher from God who loved them and who cared for their precious little ones. Therefore, they sought His prayers on behalf of their children, in the hope that their children might grow up strong in the law, faithful in marriage, and known by good works.
There’s also no mention here of the child’s faith–a baby can have no faith. A baby is neither a conscious non-believer or a conscious believer. A baby is neither a compliant child nor a rebellious child by-choice. Yet our Lord is going to bless little babies who were neither believers nor non-believers, neither receivers or rejecters of salvation truth. Why is that important? Because Jesus doesn’t pronounce blessing on anyone outside His Kingdom–all those outside His Kingdom are cursed.
I believe the Lord’s response to His disciples’ actions is anger because He wants to reveal a very important truth to us. Verse 14, “But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, ‘Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them.’ ” Indignant means Jesus is pained, grieved, resentful and disappointed. So the Lord gives two commands–the only commands in this passage.
Command number one–PERMIT the kiddies to come to me. Literally, let them come, cancel your previous restriction, release them from the prison you put them in–let them come as they will.
Command number two–Do not HINDER them. Don’t stop them, restrain them, or forbid them to come. Do not keep them from Me.
I believe Jesus does this because those babies and young ones are His. They are under His grace. Our Lord Jesus has, #3 a sincere PASSION for children. Why? Because of . . .
#4 The special PLACE Christ has for children Verse 14b
“For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Read this slowly–“the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Notice, there are no qualifiers, no caveats, no conditions there. This is so very important. He doesn’t say the Kingdom of God belongs to these–as if somehow only these particular babies were in the Kingdom. He says, “the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these,” meaning it belongs to the whole class of beings to which babies belong.
The Greek literally says, for the kingdom of God is such ones–the Kingdom of God belongs to these kind . . . babies, infants, little children. Not merely to these particular ones, but to the entire category to which these belong. The Kingdom of God belongs to babies. They have a place in the Kingdom. Children are a part of His Kingdom.
What is the Kingdom? He’s talking about the sphere of salvation. The sphere in which God rules over those who belong to Him–the spiritual domain in which souls exist under God’s special care. It’s a Kingdom where you live under the protection of God as your Father, as a part of His family. Jesus is saying that babies, as a category, have a part in My Kingdom. They belong to it, and it belongs to them.
Nothing is said about the parents’ faith. Nothing is said about a covenant, as if there was some family covenant. Nothing is said about baptism. Nothing is said about circumcision. Nothing is said about any rite, any ritual, any parental promise, parental covenant, or any national covenant. This is perfect time for Jesus to teach on infant baptism, but it’s not here–and it’s nowhere in the New Testament. His words simply and completely engulf all babies. Babies belong to the Kingdom, the Kingdom belongs to babies.
This is not about personal faith either. Jesus doesn’t commend the parents’ faith. He doesn’t commend a babies faith–there is none. He simply says babies belong in the Kingdom and the Kingdom belongs to them, as a category. Now I can see your faces–some of you are thinking, “What are you teaching us, Chris?” Simple. Babies, when they’re babies, before they reach a point in time when, before God, they become accountable for believing or not believing, are under special divine care in Christ’s Kingdom–under grace.
He doesn’t say, “Elect babies are in the Kingdom,” as some would espouse, “and non-elect babies are not.” Jesus doesn’t say that. He doesn’t say, “Elect babies being in the Kingdom will go to Heaven, non-elect babies not being in the Kingdom will go to Hell.” He doesn’t say that. He simply says categorically that babies are in the Kingdom.
Now does this mean babies are not sinners? No, it does not! You know your theology! David says in Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me,” from the get-go. And Romans 3:10, “There is none righteous, not even one.” You know all of that–those precious little baby bundles are raving maniacs of sin, fully corrupt examples of fallen humanity. The Bible is absolutely clear–all children are sinners from conception. The principle of iniquity is imbedded in their persons. Iniquity (crusty sin) is imbedded into the fabric of their lives.
The idea that children are born as morally neutral is not true. They are morally corrupt and uncontrollably bent toward sin. They are not neutral. They are corrupt. It takes a while for them to reach the place where they can make the choices that evidence that sinful corruption, but they are not morally neutral. How do we know that? Because the wages of sin is death, and babies do die. Death is the evidence of sinful corruption. If babies were morally neutral, they wouldn’t die until they had reached a point where they made a conscious choice to sin. But some babies die in the womb, some die minutes after, days after, months after–and some die in those early years, as you know.
Children at that early point of life have not chosen consciously to sin. They have not chosen to join Adam and Eve’s rebellion. But they’re corrupt–and that’s why they die. And when they reach the age when they can make choices, and they get there pretty quick–they make sinful decisions. So the Bible says, “Use the rod, because you’re going to have to drive that out of them.” Infants who survive all grow up to be corrupt adults. There is no human being who does not sin. Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” Sinfulness is not a condition that comes on people once they choose to do evil. Sinfulness is a condition they’re born in that leads them to choose evil.
So what Jesus is not saying is that children belong to the Kingdom because they’re morally neutral and uncorrupted–that is not true. They are corrupt–they are not morally neutral. They are morally flawed, in a fallen sinful state–that’s why death can invade their lives at any point, even in the womb and afterwards.
Then if they’re in the Kingdom in any sense, it is an act of grace. It’s God’s grace, because they didn’t earn it. And they’re not under God’s Kingdom because they’re morally neutral. But by God’s grace, the Lord grants these little ones a place in His Kingdom. They are sinners. The death principle is already in them and they will all eventually die, some in infancy. But in those early years, they’re not responsible for their spiritual lives. They’re not responsible for their choices between sin and righteousness.
So if they belong to the Kingdom at all, it’s because they have come under special grace by which they belong to God until the time when they reach the condition of being personally accountable. And that’s a different point in time for every individual. The Kingdom of God belongs to these. You say, “Wait a minute, Chris. You mean they’re saved? You mean they’ve received salvation? Then when they reach the age where they’re accountable, they lose their salvation? You mean God gives them eternal life, then He takes it away?”
Well, since eternal life can’t be taken away–by definition, eternal life is eternal. That’s not what Christ is doing. What Jesus must be saying is that He holds them in some state of grace prior to their reaching the age of accountability. And that state of grace is conditional. What’s it conditioned on? It becomes eternal life if they die. If an infant dies, that infant, I believe, is gathered safe in the arms of God. They’re in His Kingdom as babies and young infants. This is evident in many Old Testament passages–I’ll refer to a few, and turn to a few.
Deuteronomy 1:39 refers to little ones who have no knowledge of good or evil–they’ve no understanding as to their true condition, which is evil. And they have no understanding as to the only remedy, which is to turn to Christ alone. They have no such knowledge. They exist in a unique category.
In Jeremiah 19:4, infants were being burned alive to a false god, Molech. They are referred to here as, “the blood of the innocent.” They’re not the children of faithful parents. These are babies of pagan parents who’re burning them alive to a demon. The faith of their parents, or lack of faith, has no meaning. In God’s eyes, their parents are shedding the blood of innocent ones.
Turn to Jonah 4, when Jonah went to announce God’s destruction of Nineveh–instead God brought a revival when they repented. The book of Jonah closes when God says in Jonah 4:11, “Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand.” Judgment is not appropriate in that sense on the little ones. When does a child find out the difference between his right and his left–three years old? It isn’t appropriate. They don’t deserve that divine judgment.
In Ezekiel 16, Ezekiel is condemning the pagan parents who again are offering their children to Molech by burning them alive. So in verse 16, God is speaking of those babies of pagan parents and says, “You’re slaughtering My children…My children.” This is very much like what we’re looking at in Mark 10. God has a special place for these innocents, a special place for those He deems to be His children. These are not children of baptized believers, or covenant believers. These are the children of pagans.
Turn to the story of 2 Samuel 12, where David sinned with Bathsheba. She became pregnant, had a baby, but God struck the child and the child died in its infancy. But before the child died, when it was very ill–David was praying and pleading with God, because he felt such overwhelming guilt for his adultery and the murder of her husband. But the baby dies, and when they told David, he immediately stopped mourning. He got up, washed his face, got dressed, and was done with his sorrow–why? David said this in 2 Samuel 12:23, “But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”
I’ve heard of interpreters who say David meant he found comfort in the fact that he’d be buried in the same cemetery as his son. Are you kidding me? What kind of comfort is that? That’s not the point. David knew where he was going and he knew where that child was. How did he know where that child was? Because God had given him the confidence that the child had entered into His presence.
This is not some strange doctrine. Children were considered in that unique category and when they died, they are gathered to God. If they don’t die, they grow older and at a point of accountability, they’re responsible for their choices. They weren’t saved before that, but God saved them when they died. David said, “He cannot come to me, I will go to him.” Just six chapters later in chapter 18, when his cruel, rebellious son Absalom dies, David would not stop mourning–he wouldn’t stop wailing over the death of his son who actually deserved to die. Why?
The difference was, David knew he’d see the baby again, but he also knew he’d never see Absalom again. So David’s confidence was that the child was in the presence of God. There’s a special place in God’s care for those who are in infancy and not responsible for spiritual choices. And that’s consistent through Scripture. I am not alone in this position.
As a confirmation from history, listen to a fairly good theologian by the name of John Calvin. Commenting on what is happening in Mark 10, he says, “Those little children have not yet any understanding to desire His blessing but when they are presented to Him, He gently and kindly receives them and dedicates them to the Father by a solemn act of blessing. It would be cruel to exclude that age from the grace of redemption. It is an irreligious audacity to drive from Christ’s fold those whom He held in His arms and shut the door on them as strangers when He did not wish to forbid them.”
This is a special grace. In the event that a child dies, I believe the testimony of Scripture is for that child to receive salvation at the point of death because of God’s sovereign grace. Another way to look at it is to embrace that all babies who die are elect. Christ’s sacrifice is applied to all babies who die. Charles Hodge, a 19th century Presbyterian theologian wrote, “He tells us of such is the Kingdom of Heaven, as though heaven was in great measure composed of the souls of redeemed infants.”
Benjamin Warfield wrote this in 1876, speaking of babies, “Their destiny is determined irrespective of their choice, by an unconditional decree of God, suspended for its execution on no act of their own.” And that’s why there is no greater illustration of sovereign grace and election than the salvation of a child that dies because the child can make no contribution to its salvation–no choice!
Warfield goes on to say, “Their salvation is wrought by an unconditional application of the grace of Christ to their souls through the immediate and irresistible operation of the Holy Spirit, prior to and apart from any action of their own proper wills, and if death in infancy does depend on God’s providence, it is assuredly God in His providence who selects this vast multitude to be made participants of His unconditional salvation. This is but to say that they are unconditionally predestined to salvation from the foundation of the world.” All of our elders hold this view, and John MacArthur has written a book entitled, Safe in the Arms of God.
Think about this–when a baby dies, that baby is saved, which means God providentially allowed that death because that’s an elect baby. Now are you embracing the implications of this truth in countries that are full of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and every other bizarre religion where we worry about all the babies that die? They’ll be in Heaven. That’s the glorious reality. And I wonder too, don’t you, if that, is not why there are such high mortality rates with infants in those nations where a false religion is dominant? Our God is redeeming children from a hellbound system of beliefs.
This great work of salvation for infants and young children who die before the condition of accountability shows the special place they have in the Kingdom under the unique care of the King. Born sinners, objects of wrath–but until they reject the truth consciously, they are His, under His special care, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. But that is not all–not only are babies Kingdom citizens, but children are examples to all who want to be in Heaven. I love how John Calvin put it, “The passage gives Kingdom citizenship to both children and those who are like children.”
#5 The crucial EXAMPLE children serve for all believers Verse 15
“Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” Now Jesus moves from saying children are in the Kingdom, to saying everyone else who comes in the Kingdom has to come like a child. You have to come the way children come–simple, open, trusting, unpretentious, dependent, weak, lacking achievement, and humbly. The teaching of the New Testament is, you come to Christ with nothing. You have nothing to offer, just like a baby–you make no contribution. And if you don’t come like that, you’ll never enter God’s Kingdom.
Our Lord says, “These babies go into the Kingdom purely by sovereign grace. They have nothing to commend themselves.” Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling. Jesus doesn’t need you–you need Him desperately! And children are the illustration of how everybody enters God’s Kingdom. All who go to Heaven come by sovereign grace, not because of your achievement. You have achieved no more than a baby could achieve. True salvation is always a gift of grace.
In verse 15, Jesus is speaking of possibilities. You say, “I am not sovereignly called to be a Christian, to receive the Kingdom of God.” Stop it, fool! Jesus says in verse 15, you enter the Kingdom. God is sovereign, but you are responsible to actively enter. He calls you today to turn from your proud, selfish nature and your rebellious choices of sin, and to follow Christ! Believe Christ is God, who was your substitute on the cross, to die for your sins, then rise from the dead to give you new life. Don’t wait for a feeling–embrace the truth of God’s Word, cry out and seek to enter new life in Christ.
All of this is a severe blow to the Pharisees and anyone who embraces a system of works. It’s a deathblow to works. The only possible way these children could ever be in Heaven would be by sheer grace, right? And grace is the only way you will ever be in Heaven. You come with nothing, you have nothing to offer, you deserve nothing, earn nothing–salvation is a gift from God to you, a gift of grace. And to make certain you don’t miss God’s love for His children . . .
#6 The tender AFFECTION Christ shows to all children Verse 16
In a wonderful gesture, Jesus punctuates the special place these children have in His Kingdom. Verse 16, “And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.” Mark is the only one who shows us this beautiful picture. Our Lord didn’t view children as little heathens, or little pagans. He took them in His arms, which is a beautiful compound verb, meaning to enfold them in your arms–just like you’d do with a baby. Jesus enfolded them, embraced them, and began blessing them. You gotta be moved by this–this has got to affect you. Their Creator, the only Savior, the Lord of all hugged them and held them close and began blessing them, which is a compound verb for a eulogy.
In a steady, ongoing process–in a line, one-by-one, the Lord pronounced intense blessing on them, divine favor, uttering kind actions upon them. He blessed them fervently, by praying for each one of them, one at a time as He laid His hands on them. Again, Jesus doesn’t pronounce blessing on anyone outside His Kingdom, outside of His salvation. Simply put, our Lord doesn’t bless those who are lost and bound for Hell.
Christ has a special love for children. And here, in verses 13 to 16, the Lord affirms that salvation is by grace alone–and the greatest illustration of that truth is the salvation of a child who dies before ever believing or rejecting the Gospel. Let’s pray.