“God’s anonymous: Children”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.
It’s easy to say that every child is amazing in his or her own way. While some are busy and full of energy, others are quiet and serious. And each child can surprise you with their extraordinary talents, personality and skills.
Take, for example, a girl named Nariyana who comes from the largest and coldest part of Russia, a place called Yakutia, Siberia. And while she’s just a regular girl who goes to school like all other children and who draws and dances in her freetime, what makes her different is that she’s an albino. She can’t stay in the sun for long and has to wear sunglasses to protect her eyes. For good reason, her friends and family have nicknamed her “Snow White.”
Or how about a boy named Junior Cox-Noon? While most of us are born without much of any hair, he was born with a lot of hair, quite a lot of hair. In fact, when he was just nine weeks old, his mother, (who just happens to be a hairdresser), couldn’t just dry it, she had to blow dry it! She said, “His hair is so unbelievably thick, it almost looks like a rug.”
And one more--how about a boy named Farrell Wu of the Philippines? Not only was he learning math when he was one, he was trading stocks when he was three. When he was older, while he waited for his parents to pick him up from school, he read the encyclopedia. Today, after earning two degrees from MIT with a perfect(!) grade-point average of 5.0, he’s pursuing a career in investment banking. And why not? Business Insider has named him one of the ten smartest kids in the world.
No matter who they are or where they live, it’s easy to say that every child is amazing in his or her own way. So it was in the words of our text, from the book of Matthew chapter 19. To give you a little context, I’ll start at verse 1: “Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, He went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. And large crowds followed Him, and He healed them there” (Matthew 19:1-2).
The words of Matthew chapter 19 take us to the very end of Jesus’ life and ministry on earth. By this time, He’s already fed the thousands. He’s healed the blind, the lame and the sick. He’s even raised the dead. And now as He makes His way to Jerusalem for one last time, Matthew writes that He went away, He left, He withdrew from Galilee, the place that had been His home for so many years, then came to Perea, just on the other side of the Jordan.
And while He was there, as it says in verse 2, large crowds followed Him and He healed them there.
It’s no surprise, for that’s what Jesus always did. Wherever He went, no matter the time, the day or the hour, whether it was morning, noon or night, He was always teaching and healing the crowds. As Mark records in his gospel, “And He left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to Him again. And again, as was His custom, He taught them” (Mark 10:1).
And as He taught them, something amazing began to happen. Matthew writes, “Then children were brought to Him that He might lay His hands on them and pray” (Matthew 19:13). And Luke adds, “Now they were bringing even infants to Him that He might touch them” (Luke 18:15).
Can you see Jesus sitting there speaking to the people, teaching the people, when all of a sudden, first one, then another, and then still more, children came to be with Him, to stand beside Him, to be blessed by Him. It’s really one of the most beautiful pictures of all--Jesus and children.
But it wasn’t always that way. In fact, in his book, When Children Became People: The Birth of Childhood in Early Christianity, author O. M. Bakke writes that before the time of Jesus, children were considered less than human, and had little to no value at all. Parents wouldn’t even name their children at birth in fear that they might die.
Even worse, if there was any sign of deformity or if the gender wasn’t what the parents wanted, or even if they changed their mind about wanting a child, it was common just to take them and leave them somewhere outside to die.
And why not? Greek philosopher Aristotle taught that inequality between rich and poor, kings and peasants, and adults and children was the natural order of things. And Plutarch said newborn babies were “more like a plant than a human being.”
Only later did it become one of the great missions of the church to save children abandoned by their parents!
So what made the difference between then and today? Matthew 19. Jesus took children in His arms and blessed them.
But just as soon as He took them in His arms, what happened? Matthew writes, “The disciples rebuked the people” (Matthew 19:13).
Of course, they would rebuke them! Imagine any great figure--a political leader, an important statesman, a well-known singer or entertainer--whoever they are and wherever they are, they’re always surrounded by a group of bodyguards, paparazzi and fans. Great people meet with other great people to do great things, and have no time whatsoever for distractions, especially children.
And Jesus, well, can’t you see He’s busy?! There are countless others who’ve come to hear Him teach and to heal. He doesn’t have time for anyone like you. Besides, why should He bother to waste His time and energy on someone as small and insignificant as a child?
But in an amazing, surprising twist, in the very same moment the disciples were rebuking the parents, Jesus rebuked the disciples.
And He didn’t just rebuke them. Mark wrote that He was indignant. He was mad. He was angry. “How could you?!” He said. “How dare you stop the children from coming to Me!”
Then to make it perfectly clear, He said, “Let the little children come to Me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14).
Isn’t that how it always was with Jesus? He said to some fishermen by the Sea of Galilee, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). He said to the weary and burdened, “Come to Me, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). In the book of John, He said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and those who come to Me, I will never drive away” (John 6:37). And He said, “But I, when I’m lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (John 12:32).
And now as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, bring their children, even their infants, to Him, what does He say? He says, “Let the children come.”
The story is told of a pastor who wanted to show off his garden to a man who never brought his children to church. He said he wanted them to wait until they were old enough to decide for themselves.
And as they stepped into that pastor’s garden, it was full of weeds that were choking out his squash, his beans and his carrots. The man said, “This is some sorry excuse for a garden!”
To which the pastor replied, “I just wanted to wait until the vegetables had a chance to decide for themselves what they wanted to do!”
Or think of an old woman who was amazed at how nice a young man next door was. Whenever he had the chance, he helped bring groceries in from her car or shoveled her snow, until one day she asked, “How did you become such a fine young man?”
He answered, “Well, when I was a boy, I had a drug problem.”
The woman was shocked. “I can’t believe that!” she said.
“But it’s true,” he answered. “Every Sunday morning and every Wednesday night, my parents drug me to church.”
As one commentator put it, “As the flower in the garden stretches toward the light of the sun, so in the child is a mysterious inclination toward the eternal light. He never asks with strangeness and wonder, ‘Who is God?’ Instead, he listens with a shining face to the words as though they were soft, loving sounds from the land of home. See how their pure eyes shine and how their little hearts beat.”
As Jesus said, “Let the children come.”
John McArthur tells the story of a family in his church whose mother and two daughters were planning to fly the next day to New Zealand to join their missionary husband and father who was preaching there. And as she sat learning some new crochet stitches to use on the long flight, the girls went outside to play.
A few moments later, she heard the screeching of automobile tires. But since there was no crash, she didn’t think anything of it, until her older daughter came running into the house screaming and crying that her younger sister Tanya had just been hit by a car.
Every second felt like an eternity as she ran toward the people who had gathered in the street. And as she knelt over her unconscious body, she was told the ambulance was on its way. All she could do was wait and pray.
Deep inside, she told herself, “She couldn’t be badly hurt. She looks all right. If only she’d wake up and tell me how she is.”
When the ambulance arrived five minutes later, she thought, “If only my husband were with me, instead of half a world away.”
They took her into a treatment room and closed the door. She signed a slip authorizing the doctors to do whatever they needed to do, scrawling her name on a page with the word, “Mother.”
A half an hour later, a nurse came to say, “Tanya’s condition is very serious. She has brain damage. She isn’t breathing on her own.”
She said, “You mean she might die?”
“Yes,” she answered, “she certainly might.”
Soon the doctor came in, a neurosurgeon. He said she had sustained a blow to her brain stem and didn’t have much chance of recovery.
As time passed, the doctor’s reports grew steadily worse until, twenty-four hours after the accident, he gave his hopeless diagnosis. He said she would remain indefinitely on those machines, and probably wouldn’t survive.
“Where is Tanya?” she asked. “Is she with the Lord?”
“She’s with the Lord,” he said.
And that’s when she remembered how Tanya had prayed during her last few months, “Lord, I want to go and be with You while I’m young.”
When her mother asked why she would ever pray that, she answered, “Because I want to sit on Jesus’ lap when I get there, and I don’t want to be too big.”
What do children find when they come to Jesus? They find someone who loves them from eternity to eternity, more than any father or mother ever could.
In the words of a song, “Weak and wounded sinner, lost and left to die. Oh, raise your head for Love is passing by. Come to Jesus. Come to Jesus. Come to Jesus and live.”
Out of Your great grace and mercy, dear Father, You have loved us with an everlasting love, higher than the heavens and deeper than the sea. Grant us the will and the desire to find our hope and help in You, for Jesus’ sake. Amen