The Second Sunday After Easter May 8, 2011
Joshua 4:1-9, 19-24
Galatians 3:26-29; 4:4-7
12, 753 [TLH alt. 629], 648, 785 [TLH alt. 628]
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it. And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them.
In Christ Jesus, the Savior of all sinners—both old and young—dear fellow redeemed:
A number of years ago, a Minneapolis family spent a year traveling around the United States. The father had received a year’s sabbatical from his work, they purchased an RV, and while home-schooling the children these parents took their family from place to place experiencing the history, geography, and everything else that a trip around out country could offer. The parents explained that they had done this because they wanted to bring this kind of knowledge and experience to their children.
It is the goal and desire of every caring parent to bring what is best to his child. The mothers who brought young children to Jesus recognized that when they brought their children to Him they were bringing their children to the source of all that is good. Sadly, in this sinful world, bringing children and one another to what is best often takes second place. There is so much desire to give children what they need in order to “get ahead in this life,” to have good opportunities, to have good careers and a future family, and to be well-rounded with experience; but at the same time there is a failing, or at least a neglect, of bringing them to Jesus.
Of all the experience and all the knowledge that a parent or other concerned adult could give a child, the greatest is to bring them to Jesus. We have heard the account of the little children being brought to Jesus. Today we consider the reminder to BRING THEM TO JESUS. I. Children need Jesus’ blessing, II. Children are among the redeemed, and III. Children come to Jesus through the Gospel.
Among the children who were brought to Jesus that day there were certainly some very young children and toddlers and likely some older children as well. The mothers brought their children to Jesus that He might touch them and give them His blessing. As far as we know these children were not sick. As far as we know these children had no physical ailments of any kind. They were experiencing a typical childhood. Yet, the mothers saw the need and the desirability of having Jesus bless their children. The mothers wanted Jesus to touch their children—to convey some benefit to their children whom they loved so dearly. They trusted that Jesus not only could but would provide this blessing. The mothers who brought their children to Jesus knew the value of Jesus’ blessing upon their children. We hear at the end of the text that Jesus did indeed take “them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them.” [v.16]
We speak often of blessing God or being blessed by God. Bless is one of those English words we use a great deal but don’t always stop to think what it means when we say, “God bless you!” or “I am blessed by God” or “I want to bless you.” Most often we probably think of these in general terms as a wish that good things would come. But there is much more.
What does it mean when Jesus blesses us and in this case blesses little children? Literally, and strictly speaking, “to bless” means to speak well of someone. So if I bless you I speak well of you. I honor your name and who you are and what you do. We bless God in that way. We declare His praises. We declare who He is and what He has done, giving all glory and honor and praise to His name. This is our blessing of God.
When God blesses us it is also speaking well, but He has the power to accomplish the goodness that He speaks toward us. God blesses us by speaking well of us, speaking of us as His children through Christ, and then accomplishing every good thing—what is good and beneficial for us, not only for our bodies but especially for our souls. God blesses us by preserving our souls. God blesses us by governing everything in our lives—giving and taking, leading and turning, guiding, and at times allowing hardships to come if it will serve for the wellbeing of our souls.
Jesus blessed the little children, by taking them in His arms, speaking God’s Word to them, pronouncing His blessing upon them, touching them, and giving His goodness for their benefit. Children need that blessing of Jesus. They need the forgiveness of sins that Jesus came to win. King David confessed what we all must confess: “I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). We have inherited sinfulness from our parents just as they inherited from theirs. That which is born of the flesh is flesh. Sinners cannot miraculously give birth to holy children. Children are born sinful and remain sinful from the beginning and if sinful they need forgiveness just as much as someone who is fifteen, fifty, or 105. From birth to death we are sinners in need of what Jesus gives and the evidence of this abounds. Our sinful nature shows itself in the crabbiness, the anger, the rebellion, the refusal to follow direction, and all the other things we equate with “naughtiness” or evil doing or sin.
Children are also among the redeemed. When mothers brought their children to Jesus “the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it. And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them” [vv.13-14]
For whatever reason, the disciples did not feel that it was important enough or worth Jesus’ time to have these little children come. The Gospel accounts don’t go into the details of why the disciples didn’t want the children to come to Jesus, but we might conclude that the disciples thought that Jesus didn’t need to spend time with the children, let the mothers take care of them, its too much of a bother, He has more important things to do. What the disciples forgot and the reason why Jesus was so greatly displeased with them is that Jesus came to redeem all sinners.
If children are in need of forgiveness they are also among the redeemed for whom Jesus died. Jesus did not come to redeem only those who have lived thirty, forty, years in their sin, but all sinners. “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” (John 1:29). Salvation that Jesus won is intended for everyone—young and old, all nations, all people. As we see the exciting development and growth of the New Testament church we find that on Pentecost and afterward children were added to the numbers of believers who put their trust in Christ. Whole households—the jailer at Philippi being an example—were brought to faith. The household included not only the owner and family but also servants and their families—everyone in that household, baptized on that one night.
Children are indeed among the redeemed for whom Jesus died. Bring them to Jesus for that blessing, for they have been redeemed by their savior.
Children have a simple, child-like faith in Jesus. You have undoubtedly had the experience of a young child simply answering, “Jesus says so.” It’s so simple…so easy. “Jesus loves me this I know” It’s so simple…so easy. Children are so trusting without all those worries and concerns that we as adults bring in. We have so many logical things that we think we need to answer. We have so many worries because we look ahead and ask, what if this happens, what if that happens, how will we ever do that? The simple child like faith simply says, “God will take care of me. Jesus loves me. It’s OK—even more than OK, it’s God blessing me!”
This simple child like faith illustrated by a young girl a number of years ago. A family was mourning at the death of a mother and grandmother. The child was also sad, but at one point commented to the adults, “She’s in heaven isn’t she? Why is everyone still so sad?” She simply took Jesus at his Word.
Jesus commends the simple trusting faith of a child: “for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it. [vv.14-15] Jesus does not imply that we all have to be believers from little on otherwise we won’t enter into heaven. Rather, Jesus refers to receiving God’s Word and believing it like a young child—with excitement, with joy and with that simple trust that says, “Jesus says it, Jesus did it, it must be true.”
The simplicity of a child like faith is a matter of taking God at His Word. It is that same Word of God that brings a child to faith, just as it does an adult. The Gospel—the Good News of Jesus and all that He has done—is the means that the Holy Spirit uses to bring a sinner, lost and condemned, to faith and salvation.
That Gospel means of creating and sustaining faith comes through the Word of God—spoken, read, heard—and also through the sacraments, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Even the youngest children are in need of forgiveness and salvation. Even the youngest children are redeemed by Christ. Even the youngest children can believe, but an infant cannot yet comprehend the spoken word. How wonderfully blessed we are that God has given us a way to bring the Gospel of salvation to the youngest of children through Baptism. The Gospel Word that is present with the water in Baptism creates faith and brings the salvation to the child.
The faith which Baptism creates must also be nourished if it is going to survive. We nurture a child’s faith with ongoing instruction in God’s Word and the power of that Word produces, promotes and preserves, that simple childlike faith that simply believes what God says.
The power of Jesus’ Word was evident in the reaction of the crowds to His preaching, and the disciples on the way to Emmaus said, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked with us on the road” (Luke 20:32).
The Gospel is the power of God for salvation (cf. Romans 1:16). It has the power to save and to bless richly. It is a great gift to children—Bring them to Jesus! It is a great gift to adults as well—Come to Jesus! Come, hear, be strengthened, uplifted, encouraged. Take Him at His Word. Lord, grant us each a child-like faith.
Come to Jesus one and all and find in Him your life and salvation and every needful blessing!
“Come unto Me, you weary, and I will give you rest.”
O blessed voice of Jesus, which comes to hearts oppressed!
It tells of benediction, of pardon, grace, and peace,
Of joy that has no ending, of love which cannot cease.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.