The phrase “Please, sir, I want some more?” in Oliver Twist, the classic by Charles Dickens perhaps is a timeless saying that sums up the sufferings children of all times must endure in a sinful world. We learn from world history that the medieval ages and the biblical times were not the best periods for children. Especially in Jesus’ time, children were an insignificant and unimportant group. They were to be seen but not heard. They were more of a burden than a blessing. They were properties and less human. That makes Jesus’ sayings about children of utmost importance and deserves our undivided attention as we celebrate Universal Children’s Day. In the New Testament, we find at least four sayings of Jesus about children themselves or sayings linked to children. I want to draw your attention to some of these sayings today.
1. Jesus’ First Saying was a Warning
Read Matthew 18:2-5
For a very long time, the disciples thought Jesus will overthrow the Roman empire and become the king of the Jews. They did not understand Jesus wasn’t talking about an earthly kingdom but a heavenly one. Hence, they often quarreled among themselves to secure their positions in Jesus’ reign. In Matthew chapter 20 the disciples were mad at James and John for getting their mother to try and strike a bargain with Jesus. We learn from John chapter 13 the disciples fought over positions until Jesus went to the cross.
Judas must have said he is the greatest because he is the treasurer. Peter must have argued he is the greatest because he is the leader while John said he is the greatest because he is the beloved disciple. In these verses, they approach Jesus again and ask, “Teacher, who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Jesus points to a child and issues them a solemn warning. Unless they change and become like that child, they will not even enter the Kingdom of Heaven let alone be the greatest in it!
2. Jesus’ Second Saying was a Threat
Read Matthew 18:6
I am not sure why Jesus said what he said? However, it is safe to assume there were people in Jesus’ time also that deceived little children to commit sinful acts. This saying by Jesus about children indicates when one of His young ones is led into sin, Jesus takes it very seriously. It is a terrible thing to sin, but it is even worse to lead others into sin. Leading one of Jesus’ small ones into sin, on the other hand, is far worse since you are then initiating someone into an instance or a habit of wrongdoing, which corrupts whatever purity they had.
The punishment for such crimes is severe. The stone, with everyone linked to it, was doomed to sink, and never surface again. It meant certain death. Remember, Jesus is not talking about a hand-operated millstone. Rather about a huge stone that required a donkey to operate. Besides drowning was a Roman sentence in nature it was terrifying for Jews. However, Jesus is implying it would be preferable if the offender received the millstone punishment because in the realm of eternity, (Excommunication? Hell?) a worse punishment is awaiting those who make children sin.
3. Jesus’ Third Saying was Assuring
Read Matthew 18:10
Jesus threatens those who deceive children into committing sinful acts. Then he addresses the cultural norm of the day when he says not to despise little children. This saying is a very serious statement because it combines another warning and assurance. For a warning, God’s mind and His eyes are constantly on the children, and we will do well to treat them with love and respect because God protects them. As for the assurance, God is extending them the same extraordinary assurance, he originally extended to Jesus in Psalm 91:12.
It suggests God’s powerful angels are watching over children just like they were watching over God’s son and that each child on this earth has a guardian angel following them around. While some agree this verse means each child has his own guardian angel, others disagree. Right now, I am not concerned about the interpretation as much as I am with the beauty of Jesus’ words. They demonstrate that God takes children seriously although man may despise them.
4. Jesus’ Fourth Saying was a Rebuke
Read Luke 18:15-17
Parents bringing their children to the preacher for a laying on of hands and prayer is not an uncommon sight today. In Jesus’ day also it was customary for mothers to bring their children to Rabbis for prayer. In these verses, mothers brought their infants to Jesus, (According to the Septuagint children of all ages were present.) Jesus and the disciples were probably resting after a long journey or a long day of ministry when they were approached by the mothers and their children.
The disciples were annoyed. They “shooed” them away. Luke says the disciples rebuked them. Jesus was disturbed by what happened. He must have felt sorry for the little rascals. Jesus’ words may sound like a very gentle request when we read the bible today, but it was not so. Jesus gave the disciples a piece of his mind. He rebuked them back saying, “Let the small children come to me, and do not impede them, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are like them!”
These are extraordinary sayings by Jesus about children. There are few powerful applications we can draw from them even as we are celebrating universal children’s day.
A. A child’s humility is vulnerable because of their inability to push their agenda without the help of their parents. If you wish to enter the kingdom of heaven, you must give up your power and self-seeking mentality and pray to God in such humility for mercy. The Bible says in the book of James chapter 4 verse 6 “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”
God is not impressed by your status quo. God is impressed by only one thing, and it is called “Childlike Humility” – The child is held up as an ideal of humility and lack of concern for social rank, rather than innocence, purity, or faith. Jesus is warning you and me on this Children’s Day. Unless we change and become like children, we will not enter the Kingdom of God. Ever!
B. The world we live in today makes children sin in many ways. In the world out there are child soldiers, child prostitutes, child drug addicts, juvenile criminals, etc. There are many ways that children are made to sin, and I cannot even list everything in my sermon today. Now, what about home? Aren’t there ways, as parents we make our children sin and not even know it?
We don’t have to teach our children to sin because they are observers and self-learners. They learn quickly and follow in the footsteps of their parents. The kind of sin Jesus mentions here is causing someone to backslide. Parents sometimes say one thing in public and do another in the privacy of their homes. It’s hypocrisy and becomes a stumbling block to children. Today even as we are celebrating another Children’s Day, I want to urge you to become exemplary parents.
C. In the year 2018, it was discovered that more than 1,000 children have been sexually abused by more than 300 priests over 70 years in Pennsylvania. Many unborn babies are aborted in the USA on a daily basis. We despise children because we often feel they are helpless. After all, they don’t have a voice because they cannot fight for themselves. Jesus however says God takes little children very seriously. So much so that his eyes are fixed on them 24/7 and he has commanded his angels to look after them.
Today even as we celebrate the universal children’s day let us commit to treating children with love and respect because God loves them, and he will avenge those who despise little children. One might ask how cum millions of children perished in World Wars One and Two if God protects them? I don’t have all the answers, but I can tell you this. There are many children in heaven but not even one child in hell because God doesn’t send little children to hell. So, even though many children have died in this world their souls are in the presence of God.
D. As the disciples of Christ, we are responsible for directing little children to God and for raising them under the shadow of his Word. (Remember, It’s Jesus’ disciples who rebuked the children that came to Jesus. Not the Pharisees. It’s the disciples whom Jesus rebuked. Not the Pharisees) Sadly, some parents give priority to the secular education of children over their spiritual welfare. Education is essential but a child’s spiritual welfare shouldn’t be given the stepmother’s treatment.
The bible urges parents in Proverbs chapter 22 verse 6 to “Train a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old, he will not turn from it.” After all, it’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. Today, even as we are celebrating the universal children’s day Jesus is rebuking us to do two things. To direct children to God and for us to be like little children. We can be healing the sick, driving out the demons, and preaching the word as the original twelve did but unless we turn and become like children, we shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Some of the sayings I considered in my sermon today were about children themselves while the others were linked to children in some way. To put it all in a nutshell Jesus warned we shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless we change and become like children. Then he is threatening those who make children sin. Then he gives assurance of his divine protection over children. Finally, he is rebuking us for failing to direct little children unto him and not possessing a childlike humility. On this day even as we celebrate another universal children’s day let us seek the help of the Holy Spirit to cultivate an attitude of childlike humility, to not make them sin but help them become righteous citizens in God’s Kingdom, to be instruments of God’s protection over their lives, and finally to direct them to Christ and allow them to grow in faith and God’s grace.
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