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Showcasing Children in the Ministry of Jesus

MsDora, a former teacher and Christian counselor, presents practical Scriptural principles for joyful everyday living.

Given the compassionate nature of Jesus, it is no surprise that He loved children and validated them in His teachings. In the few instances where the gospel writers reported on His interaction with them, He showcased them either as models of Kingdom attitude, or as essential relations in our development of such attitude.

Jesus and the Children. (Photo by Georgy)

Jesus and the Children. (Photo by Georgy)

In the stories cited below, the children became illustrations in His lessons on five major Kingdom characteristics (mentioned in no particular order): humility, giving, prayer, inclusion and trust. The story sources are included for the readers's review and the quotations are from the New Living Translation.

(1) Humility

The Child in FocusThe Lesson Story Source

The disciples . . . asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Jesus called a little child . . . among them.

So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Matthew 18: 1-4

There seemed to be no embarrassment, no awareness of their selfishness as the disciples questioned Jesus about His pick for the top position in His Kingdom. He illustrated His answer by focusing their attention on a child.

“He did not intend to express any opinion about the native moral character of child” according to Barnes Notes on the Bible. He wished for them to observe that “Children are, to a great extent, destitute of ambition, pride, and haughtiness. They are characteristically humble and teachable.” The Pulpit Commentary adds that they are trusting and submissive.

Individuals with such characteristics do not discuss or poll their popularity. They are focused on commitment, not control. They respond to service with obedience and willingness the way the child did when Jesus called.

(2) Giving

The Child in FocusThe OutcomeStory Source

“There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?”

Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people.

John 6: 5-13

The Boy Gives His Lunch. (Photo contributed by LUMO Project)

The Boy Gives His Lunch. (Photo contributed by LUMO Project)

Big problem: a hungry multitude and nothing to eat. Jesus could solve it, but he intended to watch it play out (verse 6). He saw an opportunity to teach that everyone, even a child, possesses a gift which can be shared for the benefit of others.

The little boy gave up his lunch of five small loaves and two small fish which Jesus blessed and multiplied. For those who think they have nothing to offer, consider this child who contributed the gift given to him for his personal use. Look how it multiplied to benefit thousands when He gave it up and allowed God to bless it!

“Christ can use children if they are willing” sermonized M. McG. Dana, D.D. “He can use their gifts, whether they be the pennies which they have earned, or some piece of handiwork they have made. None are too young.”

(3) Prayer

The Child in FocusThe Lesson Story Source

“So I (the child’s father) asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.”

Jesus replied, “This kind can be cast out only by prayer.”

Mark 9: 17-29

This child was deaf and dumb. He suffered seizures. He seemed to have suicidal tendencies. So did the disciples issue a healing command for physical and mental relief? Or did they recognize that beyond what their physical eyes could see, the child was targeted by a force of evil in the spiritual realm?

How do parents pray today? Do they pray only that the children’s basic needs are met and that they develop physical, mental and social health? Or do they make meaningful intercession that the child will also submit his spirit to God?

Jesus addressed the evil spirit, a feat at which humans cannot succeed without divine covering over their human limits and vulnerabilities. Some versions state prayer plus fasting as a way to combat evil forces seeking to destroy our children. This was a warning for all times that we do not underestimate the power of evil forces which target us and our children; and that our only defense is intentional prayer.

(4) Inclusion

Children in FocusThe LessonStory Source

Some parents brought their children to Jesus . . . But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.

But Jesus said, “Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.”

Matthew 19: 13-15

"Let the Children Come." (Painting by Carl Bloch)

"Let the Children Come." (Painting by Carl Bloch)

This (NLT) and other versions make it clear that the disciples rebuked the people who brought the children, not necessarily the children. Their attitude was that people should know better than to interrupt Jesus in His Kingdom business.

Church authorities who think that they have a monopoly on Jesus are the ones who should know better.

By His response, Jesus pointed out that His mission was one of inclusion; that children were a necessary part of it; that His ultimate aim was a world of people with childlike qualities. By blessing the children, He gave approval and significance to the ordinary people who seek His blessings for themselves and for the children.

(5) Trust

The Child in FocusThe OutcomeStory Source

[The man] asked [Jesus] to come down and heal his son. . . Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”

The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him. . . And he himself believed, and all his household.

John 4: 46-54

The child’s father exercised his level of faith by asking Jesus to heal his sick son; but he believed that Jesus had to be physically present for healing to take place. What Jesus said to him in essence was that it was time to grow his faith into trust—to act as if Jesus would do what He promised.

It was a teaching moment for Jesus, and the child became His teaching aid. As C. H. Spurgeon commented, “How often does it happen that children . . . sweetly lead their parents to God and heaven!

The son’s wellbeing was the father’s priority, and by restoring the boy, Jesus convinced the father that He was trustworthy. Consequently, the man convinced his entire household that they should trust Him too. God can be trusted for restoration in ourselves and in our children, whether or not we recognize Him in action, or understand how He is doing it.

© 2018 Dora Weithers

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