Scripture Reference: Mark 10:13-16
Suggested Emphasis: Jesus loved little children and that we too should take special care of the children we are around.
When mothers brought their small children to Jesus to be blessed by him, the disciples tried to hold them back. Jesus told the disciples to let the children come to him.
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10:13-16, NIV
Jesus must not have been stern and grave. These are not attributes that make children feel welcomed. He probably did not appear silly or weak either. This would not have made the mothers trust him and seek his blessing. Other than what we can learn through his actions we do not know a lot about Jesus’ demeanour. He definitely had strong emotions. He was indignant when the disciples tried to keep the children away. He was not afraid to rebuke them. This controlled strength along with a genuine attitude and openness drew people to Jesus.
Mothers want what is best for their children. They had seen Jesus do wonderful things. He had healed people and brought comfort to even the lowliest people in society. It was the custom for mothers to bring their children to a rabbi or synagogue leader before their first birthday. In this story the children were very young. Luke says they were babies (Luke 18:15) and all three passages refer to them as “little”. They were old enough to be “called to him.”
Matthew and Mark both record this story immediately following Jesus’ discussion on divorce. It was appropriate that these mothers and children come to him at this time. If women were mistreated and lacked power in the society of the time then children were even more so. Their innocence and sense of humility and hope were attributes that Jesus wanted his disciples to notice.
Jesus wants his followers to be like children. In Matthew 18:2-6 he drew a child onto his knee and told the listeners that they should be like the child. In that instance he was referring to a child’s humility. A child does not think about earning, deserving or even paying for blessings. He/she simply hopes and accepts with joy. Unfortunately, as the child gets older he begins to mimic adults and have more of a “market mentality” concerning both gifts and emotions. The idea becomes “I’ll do something for you (or feel good towards you) if it benefits me”.
In that same passage Jesus makes it clear how we should treat children. By treating children well we are treating Jesus well. Giving children opportunities to sin (by neglecting them or withholding the care they need) is strongly condemned by Jesus (Matthew 18:5-6).
Jesus’ words concerning children were extremely important and contrasted with practices of pagans of the day. It was common practice in both Greece and Rome to abandon unwanted children by the road to let them die. Later, early Christians were known for taking in these orphans.
Another passage where Jesus speaks about adults being like children is 1 Peter 2:2-3. We should crave pure spiritual milk like a baby craves milk.
- What happened before this story?
- What happens after this story?
- List of all Bible stories and themes on this website.
Way to Introduce the Story:
Bring a doll to class and talk to the children about ways we take care of a baby. Talk about how much babies and children need affection and love. Discuss child safety and the foods babies and children need and like. A young mother might be willing to bring her baby to class and talk about how she cares for her baby. Perhaps she could show the contents of her nappy bag and explain the use of each item. “Babies need special care. In today’s story we are going to learn what Jesus said about babies and children.”
One day, after Jesus had been teaching people about God, some mothers started bringing their babies and little children to Jesus.
“Jesus,” one of the mothers asked, “you are such a good teacher. Will you please place your hand on my child’s head and give her a blessing?”
Jesus was very happy to bless the little children. He loved children.
But the disciples saw all of the mothers and children around Jesus and they thought they were bothering him. They knew that Jesus must have been very tired from teaching all the adults. Surely he wouldn’t want to spend time with all of these children! So the disciples began telling the mothers and children to go away and leave Jesus alone.
Jesus saw what the disciples were doing and he did not like it. That just wasn’t fair to the children! Jesus told the disciples to stop, “Shame on you, stop telling the children they cannot come to me.”
The disciples saw that Jesus was displeased so they let the children and mothers come to Jesus. They were surprised that Jesus loved the children so much. They probably thought he only wanted to spend time with adults like them.
After Jesus spent time with the children, he told the disciples something very important. “See these little children? See how they love me? They don’t brag or try to hurt anyone like some adults do. The kingdom of heaven is made for people who have hearts like little children.”
The disciples were very surprised. They were sorry they had kept the children away from Jesus. Now they knew that Jesus thought children were very important. If Jesus loved the little children then so would they.
- What did the mothers want Jesus to give their children? A blessing.
- What did the disciples do when mothers brought their children to Jesus? They tried to keep the children away.
- When Jesus saw the disciples keeping the children away, what did he say? “Let the little children come to me”
Learning Activities and Crafts:
- Help the children collect items to take to the local hospital for the children there. You could make parcels and decorate them. Some ideas might be colouring sheets and crayons, puzzles, books, hand or finger puppets, etc. If you put food or lollies in the parcels then be sure and label them. Some children in hospitals have strict diets.
- Help the children make parcels similar to the ones above to hand to younger children in your congregation.
- Make arrangements with the teacher in a younger bible class and let the children visit today (or next week). Perhaps your class could act out today’s story for them or teach them a song.
- Discuss how Children learn at different age levels.
- Collect names and addresses of children who live in other places and send them cards.
- A nice bulletin board idea is to place a picture of Jesus in the centre of the board and then put children’s pictures all around. These could be pictures from magazines or even photos of the children in your class. You could entitle the board “Who does Jesus Love” or “Jesus Loves the Children”.
- Help the children plan a picnic, party or other activity for younger children in the congregation. If your class is old enough then they might arrange a free babysitting night so that parents of young children could have a night out.
- Encourage the class to sit by a family with small children in worship today. They should only do this if they can be a good example for the child. Parents will not want another child to be a distraction.
- If your congregation has a crèche or childcare during worship then your class could sign up to help in there one Sunday.
- Find out about characteristics of children younger than the children in your class and discuss them. Children love to know how much they have grown and are often eager to help younger children. There are many online resources but here is one at http://urbanext.illinois.edu/babysitting/section2.cfm
- Make a book for infants using textures. Some ideas for this at http://www.ehow.com/how_8548203_instructions-make-textured-book-infants.html.
- Song Suggestions:
- Help the children make paper doll chains of children and decorate them to look like children.
- Check the Teaching Ideas page on this website for ideas that are adaptable to any lesson.
Other Online Resources:
- Colouring page at http://calvarycurriculum.org/pdf/Curriculum/Revised/Life%20of%20Jesus/NT065%20-%20Jesus%20and%20the%20Children.pdf
- Colouring page at http://www.sermons4kids.com/jesus-and-children-colorpg.htm
- Colouring page at http://www.christiananswers.net/kids/jesus_loves_children.pdf
- Craft: Video clip (2 minutes and 30 seconds) on how to make paper people chains at http://www.simplekidscrafts.com/video/easy-paper-crafts-paper-people-chain
- Group Activities at http://www.sermons4kids.com/let_the_children_come_group_activities.htm
- Crossword puzzle at http://www.sermons4kids.com/let_the_children_come_crossword.pdf
- “Alphabet Soup” word puzzle at http://www.sermons4kids.com/let_the_children_come_alphabetsoup.pdf
- ABC word puzzle at http://www.sermons4kids.com/let_the_children_come_abc_order.pdf
- Word-shape word puzzle at http://www.sermons4kids.com/let_the_children_come_wordshape.pdf
- Wordsearch puzzle at http://www.sermons4kids.com/let_the_children_come_wordsearch.pdf
- List of Bible verses concerning children at http://www.compassion.com/child-advocacy/find-your-voice/what-the-bible-says/what-the-bible-says-about-children.htm