Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.

This backyard pool is nowhere near the Jordan River where Jesus himself was baptized by John the Baptist. But, four days ago, 150 people stood around these waters on every square inch of the deck. They observed, cheered, and rejoiced as, one by one, fifteen declared their faith in Jesus Christ and were baptized. The most remarkable part of the evening was that all but one were children. 

As those to be baptized lined up next to the water, observers were moved. Children ranging in age from six to eleven plus the mother of one of the young boys stood and faced their families and friends. All of their testimonies were simple. They had come to Jesus to follow him and have him be their Savior. They were now declaring this by a public baptism. With each one, we shared their excitement and responded by affirming their decision.

Often Christian parents and grandparents wonder what their role should be with children and baptism.

Often Christian parents and grandparents wonder what their role should be with children and baptism. We want to know what they understand, to be sure they are “ready” and not just conforming to our desire for them. It is also natural for us to require more from them than the simple faith they express–more understanding of sin, of the cross, and the nature of the forgiveness Christ purchased. Because of their youth, we sometimes hold them back and discount their desire to know and be close to Jesus.

We have only to look at what God requires of children to understand our place. The story of Jesus receiving little children is a familiar story and recorded for us in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Imagine this scene … Word has traveled through the community that Jesus is there. The townspeople rush to see him–young, old, parents with young children, the lame and blind. Many are needy and hope that this man can heal them, some seek words of encouragement, some are merely curious. But all have heard of the one who teaches and performs miracles and they want to see him for themselves.

In Luke 18:15-17, Luke tells how parents were bringing infants and young children to Jesus so he could touch them. The disciples rebuked the parents. Perhaps they thought Jesus didn’t have time for children or that his teaching was above these young people. Jesus was a busy man. Maybe they thought there was something more the children must do or understand before they could be received by the son of God.

But, Jesus stopped the disciples from excluding the children. His message to the adults was clear … “Do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” He welcomed the children into his arms and Mark 10:16 tells us He blessed them, laying his hands on them.

Luke 18:17 says, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Notice that Luke places this between the story of the prayers of the Pharisee and the tax collector and the story of the rich young ruler. The Pharisee approached Jesus with pride and arrogance in his piety. The rich young ruler came to Jesus with much material wealth, believing it would save him. No doubt Luke, with theological understanding, intended for us to learn how all are to come to Jesus–without pride.

But, the tax collector came to God with nothing to offer, nothing to claim. Without wealth, pride, merit, or arrogance.

Simply, humbly … as a child. As the fourteen young children on Friday night.

Jesus Blessing the Children, by Bernhard Plockhorst (1825-1907)

Jesus Blessing the Children, Bernhard Plockhorst (1825-1907)