Let the Little Children Come To Me

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away. (Matthew 19:13-15) 


Jesus loves the little children,
all the children of the world,
red and yellow black and white,
they are precious in His eyes,
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

These lyrics of this song Kikuyu, my mother tongue, were taught to me when I was under 5 years. I have a feeling that the disciples of Jesus did not get anyone to teach them this song in Aramaic or Greek, otherwise they would not have so vehemently denied little children to see the Lord Jesus.

In the Gospel according to St. Matthew we are told that some adults (I assume it must have been mothers) brought children to Jesus for two specific reasons:
1. That He (Jesus) might lay hands on the children
2. That He (Jesus) might pray for them

One of my children’s highlight in the Anglican Church is when the Priest lays his hands on them as we kneel together and prays for them. They love it! And if the priest missed their tiny heads, they will either remind him (loudly and hilariously so) or quickly move the end of the kneeler and wait for the priest to bless them.

Unfortunately or the children spoken of here instead of gaining straight through access to Jesus, they found quite the ‘gatekeeping’ bunch of disciples who felt that it was their utmost duty and obligation to keep away such little humans from their important Teacher. The Bible says that the disciples ‘rebuked’ this adults (again I am assuming that is must have been mothers) for daring to even think, let alone act on the same thoughts, that Jesus would have time for them and their little children.

Let’s marinate on that ‘rebuke’ for a minute, shall we? According to Strongs NT 2008 the idea here is ‘to admonish or charge sharply’, ‘to censure severely’, ‘to forbid.’ This would mean that the disciples were definitely not whispering. This was a loud admonishing and most likely must have including some pushing and shoving. But you have clearly the ‘gatekeeping’ disciples of Jesus were no match for the determined children bringing adults (once again I am assuming mothers). Jesus seems to have been drawn to the ongoing ‘fracas’ and He intervenes by saying:

“Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 

Jaws dropped!

Pin drop silence!

Say whaaaaat!!!!!

Jesus says three things:
1. Let the little children come to me
2. Do not hinder them
3. For to such belongs the kingdom of heaven

And because the little children and their accompanying adults (once again I am assuming it was mothers) were a focused lot as soon as they got what they came for, laying on of hands and prayers, they left.

Let’s backtrack to Jesus small small, shall we?

1. Let the little children come to me

The children wanted to come to Jesus. And clearly Jesus wanted them to come to Him. So He said, let the little children come to me. I can picture our Lord speaking calmly and quietening what would have been an escalating situation by now, and granting the children their desire.

This is such a clear instruction, let them come, Lord knows why we have all complicated it. Why we have induced our own subjective ideas into what Jesus might have meant? What ages of children he was referring to? To what extent they were to come to Him? And the list is endless!

2. Do not hinder them

Many of us just like the disciples have made ourselves ‘gatekeepers’ of Jesus. We have made it our lifelong mission to keep away anyone we deem unworthy to be in the presence of our Saviour in our words and actions. We will not hesitate to push, shove, rebuke, reprimand and shout to keep the ‘unwanted’ in our list from Jesus. Unfortunately for most of us, just like in the case of the disciples of Jesus, children are on top of our ‘unwanted’ people list.

  • But why do we feel so entitled to Jesus?
  • Why do we feel that children are a disturbance to Jesus?
  • What makes us think that Jesus would not want the little children?
  • Who made us spokesmen and women of Jesus?
  • Who made us the ‘gatekeepers’ to the Kingdom of God?

I like to say that I am born and bred in the church and I have become used to the shoving and setting aside of children in the church. And I am not just talking about the physical shoving where children who always come to church early and sit at the front will be asked to go outside to allow late coming adults space within the church, or the fact that in many churches adults take priority in space allocation while the children are relegated to whatever remains including suffering under the elements. I am also talking about the systemic and structural hindering of children from accessing Jesus; from the leadership of the church, to the budgets allocations, to the priority and planning, to the attitudes and human resource allocations to the purpose of existence of most churches.

The joke is on us church people though, because while most have systemically hindered the children from Jesus, when they get to teenage and youth we are falling all over ourselves trying to bring them back in, making Jesus accessible to them. Why do we continue shooting ourselves in the foot? Why hinder them in the first place.

I would like to suggest to you that maybe just like the disciples we wrongly assume that Jesus will be disturbed by the children. We assume that they have no idea who He is. They will not understand Him. It is not their time. How wrong we are and have been. Jesus loves the little children. Jesus thinks very highly of them. If you have any doubt, see what He said next.

3. For to such belongs the kingdom of heaven

Drops mic!

I can only imaging the bewildered looks the disciples were exchanging with each other from these statement.
Kingdom whaaaat?
These ones? These little children?

Eeeeeh disciples, its time for some flashback  . . .

In Matthew 18:3 Jesus answering the disciples question on who was the greatest in the kingdom picks up a little child and states:
Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Clearly, the disciples were not listening, otherwise their reaction in Matthew 19 would have been different.

Jesus said that to the little children belongs the the kingdom of heaven. And unless one turned and became like a child they would never enter the kingdom of heaven. What pray tell were the characteristics of children that our Lord might have been referring to? I would like to suggest that he had in mind the faith of little children. Children before they get polluted by the fallen world and the disappointments of adults and world systems have a lot of unwavering faith. They jump from high spaces in the waiting arms of adults, they ran across spaces in the waiting arms of adults, they believe every promise, they see good in everyone, they assume the best outcomes, the love without holding back, they speak their mind, they asked questions, they engage with subjects, they are inquisitive, they are eager to learn, to know and to belong. Unfortunately this innocence does not last forever.

In this case, they had been brought by adults (once again I am assuming mothers) to Jesus so that He would lay His hands on them and pray for them. I am certain that they happily came along. Shock on them when the disciples tried to keep them away!


In this account who do you identify yourself most with?
1. The ‘hindering’ disciples
2. The adults bringing the children to Jesus that He may lay His hands on them and pray for them

If you identify with the hindering disciples, ask yourself:
1. Why do you hinder the little children from Jesus?
2. What ‘lies’ and assumptions have you made and convinced yourself to hinder the little children from Jesus?

While our Lord has so expressly said to us as He did to His disciples:
“Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

If you identify with the bringing adults, ask yourself:
1. Why do I bring my little children to Jesus?



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