KJV: King James Version
TEV: Today's English Version
Jesus Loves the Little Children
In studying the earthly ministry of Jesus, one cannot help but notice that He loves children. He reserved then, and still does, a special place in His heart for them. Contrary even to some parents, the Lord never is too busy for children. During His earthly walk, He expressed a special tenderness towards them.
The Old Testament prophets predicted this. Isaiah wrote, "He shall gather the lambs with his arms, and carry them in his bosom" (Isaiah 40:11 KJV). An anonymous Eastern traveler told of witnessing what the prophet described. "One shepherd led his flock by a zigzag path, up the almost perpendicular bank of the glen. Behind it two young lambs trotted gaily along at the feet of their mother. At first they frisked about and jumped lightly from stone to stone; but soon they began to fall behind. The poor little things cried piteously when the path became steeper and the rocks higher, and the flock more distant. The mother cried too, running back and forth now lingering behind, now hasting on before, as if to wile them upwards. It was in vain. The ascent was too much for their feeble limbs. They stopped, trembling on the shelving cliff, and cried; the mother stopped and cried by their side . . . I saw the great eagles . . . swooping lower and lower, as if to pounce upon their prey.
But no! The plaintive cries of distress had already reached the ear of the good shepherd. Mounting a rock, he looked down, and saw the helpless little ones. A minute more, and he was standing by them. Then taking them up in his arms, he put them one on each side in his bosom, in the ample folds of his coat, which was bound round the waist by a girdle" ('The Pulpit Commentary'; Isaiah; Vol. II; P. 93).
What an appropriate description of our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ who, like the shepherd just mentioned, also gathered the little ones in His arms. John Mark recorded that Jesus "took the children in His arms, placed His hands on each of them, and blessed them (The Gospel of Mark 10:16; TEV).
According to Isaiah, during the coming millennial reign of Christ, Jesus shall have a special teaching ministry for children. The prophet predicted that the Lord shall reign over the earth from the city of
Jerusalem ". . . and all thy children shall be taught of the Lord and great shall be the peace of thy children" (Isaiah 54:13; KJV).
This author is impressed with the relationship Isaiah stressed between the peace of children and that which they are taught. In this era in which the public schools are inundated with anti Biblical propaganda, parents often neglect to check out what their children are being taught. Christian parents especially, should advantage themselves of whatever input they can give to their children's education. They should visit the schools, develop an acquaintance with school officials and teachers, regularly attend parents/teachers meetings, inspect the textbooks and other literature assigned for reading by the children. Be involved with your schools; you owe it to your children.
Wise parents instill the knowledge of Jesus Christ in their children from infancy, doing as much as possible to counteract the anti Christian propaganda so prevalent today. One Sunday, when our services were cancelled because of a sever blizzard, my wife, Maria, and I tuned to the telecast of a popular evangelist. His message was on the topic of the media's systematic endeavor to counter all facets of American family life with humanistic propaganda. Aiming soap operas at women, daytime
T.V. dwells on themes of extramarital and premarital sex, the validity of divorce on demand, the women's lib agenda, and the right to abortion on demand. Cable T.V. apparently is the worst offender in broadcasting such trash. Targeting men, evening cable T.V. broadcasts programs showing free sex, nudity and violence, while most of the weekend daytime cable T.V. broadcasts, target children, showing killings, violence, idolatry, cultism, and heathen brainwashing.
A computer specialist friend informed me that in computer programming one gets out what one puts in. She called it, "garbage in; garbage out." She noted that the human brain operates somewhat like an infinite computer, so the "garbage in; garbage out" factor remains valid to the human mind. What we feed into our minds is what we extract from them. As I mulled this over, God's warning in His word came to mind, "As he [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7; KJV). The word
'thinks' in this passage is derived from a Hebrew word meaning 'gatekeeper.' How appropriate! Parents must serve as the 'gatekeepers' of the minds of their children, since children develop into that which they think upon. For this reason, Satan attempts to capture young minds with the purpose of shaping them to his image while they still are pliable.
Jesus taught that God is so concerned with children that He has assigned a special angel to each one; each of these angels is assigned what may be termed a "children's ministry portfolio." The angels so assigned have priority entrance into the Presence of the Father. The Lord warned, "See that you don't despise any of these little ones. Their angels in heaven, I tell you, are always in the presence of my Father in heaven" (Matthew 18:10; TEV).
A child, by nature, is a believer. Upon its birth, a baby has the potential to believe whatever it is taught .Jesus considers it an offence worthy of execution to stumble a child. So terrible is the offence, that Jesus said it "were better for him [th offender] that a millstone were tied about his neck, and that he were drowned in the debt of the sea (Matthew 18:6).
An astounding execution! But how can an adult stumble a child? This may be done by the setting of an evil example. It can also be done by deliberately teaching a child to sin. At one of my pastorates, a judge paroled three children to me. The father had taught them to steal, lie and cheat. This they constantly did until they were captured by the police. The father was imprisoned and the mother a good woman " took full custody of the children, who were required to periodically report to me. The mother also gave me a monthly report on their conduct.
A child also can be stumbled when it hears adults ridicule and sneer at what is pure and holy. Calling sins by softer names to not make them seem so evil also accomplishes this. This author would be overjoyed if every parent, clergyman, school teacher, children's church worker, Sunday School worker, textbook publisher, comic book author, music composer, media-television producers and child molester, could hear how Jesus feels about the stumbling of a child. According to Him anyone who even misleads a child deserves a millstone tied around the neck and being cast into the sea; the special execution reserved for Roman criminals who committed the worst types of crimes.
Jesus used children as the Christian's role model for entering His Kingdom. He desires us to become childlike. In a debate His disciples had over who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven ". . . Jesus called a child, had him stand in front of them, and said, 'I assure you that unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven is the one who humbles himself and becomes like this child. And whoever welcomes in my name one such child as this, welcomes me (Matthew 18:1 5; TEV).
The KJV uses the word 'converted' for the word 'change' employed by Today's English Version. Being converted involves a change of mind regarding one's priorities. In essence, what the Lord told His disciples [and us] is that to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, one must surrender rivalry, self seeking, jealousy, worldly ambition, distrust, and conceit.
Quite a list!
Some time back I took Anthony, my four year old grandson, to a local fast food restaurant. As we waited in line a little girl who was a complete stranger walked in with her mother. For a moment, Anthony and the girl looked at each other. Then she embraced and kissed Anthony. I marveled at the innocence of the act and that neither Anthony nor the girl seemed to consider it unusual. I was so impressed by its child like simplicity that I entered the story in my sermon illustrations file.
This is what Jesus meant about our becoming as little children. Their humility and simplicity, their guilelessness and believing hearts must become ours. During my years of ministry, I often noticed the above traits so innate in children. Many are the small gifts they have brought my wife, Maria, and me. One, the painting of little animals in a field, has hung in my home study for some time. It was presented to us by the twin daughters of a newly born again young woman. On entering the church vestibule where my wife and I usually stand to greet worshipers before they go into the sanctuary, the twins always insist on kissing us on our cheeks. Maria sits on a chair and I descend on my heels, enabling the twins to embrace and kiss us. My wife and I have two wonderful sons, but no daughters. However, if in addition to our sons, God blessed us with daughters, I would want them to be somewhat like those twins innocent, without guile, loving, and acquainted with their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.