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19. CHRIST AND LITTLE CHILDREN
Matthew 19:13-15: 18:1-6


When we come to Matthew 19, Jesus is making His final trip back to Jerusalem.

• Much sorrow and suffering is ahead for Jesus: one disciple is going to betray Him and another is going to deny him.

• He is going to be betrayed by a kiss. Soldiers are going to come and arrest Him, bound Him and beat Him.

• But just before His arrest, parents are going to bring their little children to Him so He can bless them, and the disciples are going to try to get rid of both parent and child – see Matthew 19:13-15.

Matthew 18:1-6 comes right after the Transfiguration of Jesus.

• Jesus takes Peter, James, and John with Him up to the mountain and leaves the nine at the foot of the mountain. While Jesus and His three disciples are on the mountain, a man comes to the nine for help in the casting out of demons in the man's son. But the disciples could not cast the demons out.

• You can almost hear Peter when he hears of their defeat with the demon possessed boy. Peter thinks to himself, “Well, if I had been down here, I could have cast them out.”

• The nine are jealous because they see Jesus as showing favoritism to the three.

• Matthew 18 is going to deal with the subject of Kingdom Greatness.

Read the Passage

Children are involved in both of the passages and Jesus uses children to teach His disciples two important lessons.

He uses children to teach about salvation and He uses children to teach about stature.

I. Jesus uses Children to Teach about Salvation 19:13-15

Look what Jesus did: He made a child the model for those who would enter the Kingdom of Heaven!

You can almost see the scene in your mind's eye: Proud parents held out their precious children to Jesus, who took them in His arms where they snuggled close to Him. He placed His hand on their warm, soft head, lifting His eyes to heaven, He pronounced a blessing upon them. Jesus thoroughly enjoyed such scenes.

• Children are masterpieces from the hands of the Triune God.

• Some in our day view children as no more than a nuisance or inconvenience. Sometimes children are abused and exploited; other times they are loved and cherished.

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• Let me show you how God views children – Psalm 127:3-5a (Gifts from God).

Parents were bringing their children to Jesus...Parents ought to bring their children to Jesus, and they ought to bring them when they are young.

Ann Ortlund's book Children Are Wet Cement provides a good illustration. The first few years of life are like the time before the concrete sets up. By spending time with our children, playing with them, going to church with them, reading the Bible to them, and talking to them about Jesus, we parents try to set a mold that will last a lifetime and then take them into eternity with Christ.

If our children are not reached for Jesus by age 12, we will miss most of them for the Lord!

Someone has written: Before your children reach age seven,

Teach them well the way to heaven.

Better still the truth will thrive

If they learn it when they're five,

Best of all if at your knee,

They learn it when they're only three.

Luke's Gospel tells us many of these “children” were babies (Luke 18:15). So a child can be exposed to Christ in infancy.

A little girl asked her mother how old she had to be before she could become a Christian. Her mother answered. “How old do you have to be before you can love me?” “But mommy,” said the little girl, “I've always loved you.” “How old must you be before you can trust me?” the mother asked again. “I always did.” “And how old do you have to be before you can obey me?” “I can right now.” Then the mother said, “You can be a Christian now. Simply love, trust, and obey Jesus.”

• The parents here in verse 13 wanted Jesus to “touch” their boys and girls. Your son or daughter can get “in touch” with Jesus in childhood.

• One of the saddest conversations I've ever had was with a mother whose daughter was under conviction and wanted to be saved. She called me and wanted to know if I would lead her girl to Jesus. I said that I would be glad to, but what a joy and blessing it would be to her if she lead her to Jesus. She said, “Preacher, I don't know how to lead my daughter to Jesus.” How sad. I lead her to the Lord, but the mother missed such a blessing.

I don't think the mothers who brought their children to Jesus for Him to bless them ever forgot Jesus taking their child and blessing it.

Scripture says the mothers were bringing their children to Jesus and the disciples were rebuking (scolding) them – and Jesus was not pleased by their rebuke. In fact, the Message says He was “irate.”

I wonder sometimes about children's church. Often children are taken to a separate room during worship service, mostly to keep parents undistracted from the worship. It's almost as if we were saying, “Take the children out of here. I don't care what you do with them. Just give us a little peace and quiet.” Yet, our focus should be them hearing the Gospel and being saved.

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Why did the disciples push the parents back from Jesus?

1. They thought the infants were bothering Jesus.

2. Some stamp religion: For Adults Only

3. They didn't want children interrupting Jesus. He was too busy.

At New Orleans Seminary a third year student had gotten his son from the day care, fed him, was about to take him back in the rain to the center, when Dr. Ray Rust stopped the dad, knelt down and tied the little boy's shoes so he wouldn't trip on the laces – like Jesus would have done.

Verse 14 – “Forbid them not”. Don't hinder them from coming to Jesus. How can we hinder children from coming to Jesus?

A. By Neglecting to Train Our Children Spiritually.

Ann Ortlund's book Children Are Wet Cement provides a good illustration. The first few years of life are like the time before the concrete sets up. By spending time with our children praying with them, going to church with them, reading the Bible to them, and talking of Christ with them, we parents try to set a mold that will last a lifetime and then take them into eternity with Christ.

B. By Our Bad Examples

• A poor spiritual example includes making salvation important for children but not for us. If we tell them to say their prayers, if we send them to church on Sunday, if we tell them to act right – but don't do these things ourselves – we teach children that faith in Christ is only “kid stuff.”

• In 1994 at a Promise Keepers' conference in Denton, Texas, pastor James Ryle told the crowd that his father went to prison when he was two years old. At age seven James was placed in an orphanage. At nineteen he was at fault in a car wreck that killed a friend. He sold drugs to raise money to pay his legal fees. He was arrested, convicted, and sent to prison.

While in prison, James accepted Christ. Eventually he was released, and he entered the ministry. Years later he tried to find his father so he could reconcile with him. When he finally located him, the conversation turned to prison life.

James' father asked, “Which prison were you in?” James told him, and his father was startled. “I helped build that prison,” he said. He had been a welder who went from place to place building penitentiaries. Pastor Ryle concluded, “I was in the prison my father built.” A parent's example builds a place for a child to live. It can be a home or a prison.

What's so great about a child anyway? Why would Jesus use a child as a model of coming to Jesus for salvation?

1. A child has a teachable spirit.

2. A child is so trusting. He believes and accepts what you say.

3. A child has a helpless dependance about him.

- He has no major achievements – empty hands – so there is nothing to show off.

- “Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to Thou cross I cling.”

Before we can be great in the kingdom, we must be in the kingdom.

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II. Jesus Uses Children to Teach About Stature 18:1-16

In Matthew 18:1 the subject is kingdom greatness.

Our society idolizes greatness. Every year the motion picture industry gives its Academy Awards to the best actor, best actress, and the best movie. Athletic teams honor the most valuable player. Three-time heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali used to tell the world, “I'm the greatest.” Almost everyone is caught up with thoughts of greatness.

These disciples wanted to know, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Have you ever wanted to be great in God's eyes? Some would say only sinful ambition cares about greatness, but I disagree. God has built into each of us a desire to make our lives count – to succeed. Jesus never commanded His disciples to repent of their desire to be great. In fact, He went so far as to teach them what makes a Christian great; and what doesn't

What doesn't bring greatness in God's kingdom? Pride! And let's fact it – we all struggle with pride. Most of us struggle with a competitive spirit.

What does bring greatness in the kingdom of heaven?

• Instead of abolishing the idea of greatness, Jesus redefined it. The world says, “Greatness comes from being first.” But Jesus said, “Greatness comes from being last.”

• Note Matthew 18:4. The reason God wants us to be humble is that we really have nothing to boast about. Everything we are and have is a gift from God!

Jesus said that we are to humble ourselves as a little child. We must grow down until we become like a little child.

Jesus said, “Except you be converted (turn, repent from your pride and become humble) and become like little children (“become” is a continuing process, keep on humbling yourself before God”).” When we do that, the opportunity for greatness is there for each one of us.

Do you want to be great in the kingdom of God? Humble yourself and keep growing down until you reach the level of a little child.

“Two Prayers” by Andrew Gillies

Last night my little boy confessed to me

Some childish wrong;

And kneeling at my knee,

He prayed with tears –

“Dear God, make me a man

Like Daddy – wise and strong;

I know you can.”

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Then while he slept

I knelt beside his bed,

Confessed my sins,

And prayed with low-bowed head.

“O God, make me a child

Like my child here –

Pure, guileless,

Trusting Thee with faith sincere.”