Jesus Loves the Little Children
Dear Father in heaven, as I approach Your presence today, fill me with wonder as I consider the gift of human life. It is bestowed at the moment of conception and appears as a miracle each time a child is born. Help me to treasure the gift of life and especially the blessing of children, for each child is indeed precious in Your sight, my Lord and my Redeemer. Amen.
Solomon encourages us to hear, retain, and then apply his wisdom in our lives, for that wisdom directs us to trust in the LORD!
Paul admonishes children to obey their parents, while encouraging fathers to bring up their children in the training and admonition of the Lord!
Jesus informs us that we must become like little children—trusting our Savior God—if we are to enter into His kingdom. He then warns us all not to mislead a child, for such an offense is serious in God’s eyes!
Text: Matthew 18:10-14
Jesus said: “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”
In Christ Jesus, Who said, “Let the little children come to Me!” (Mk. 10:14b) Dear fellow redeemed:
Solomon once wrote: “Children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Ps. 127:3). One of the great privileges of the pastoral ministry is to visit young parents after the birth of a child. It is especially enjoyable if it is a first child, for you can see the wonder in the eyes of both mother and father. The miracle of birth…and it is a miracle, absolutely amazes and delights first time parents. You can see it in the eyes of a new mother holding the child she has carried for nine months. I would swear that a young father’s chest grows as the word “father” suddenly has a greater and more personal meaning.
My first devotion with new parents is generally based upon Psalm 107:1, which reads: “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” I do so for several reasons. The first is that the verse comes as a little bit of a shock to most parents of newborns, for we associate that verse with eating. It is often identified as the common table prayer. Yet, a baby is not a burger! Psalm 107, however, has little to do with food and a lot to do with life. One of the greatest reasons to give thanks to the LORD is for the gift of a child. It is wonderful to see the love, the tenderness, the care, and the devotion of godly parents over against their children.
Sadly, such love and devotion, however, is not exhibited by every parent, and it is certainly not exhibited by many in our world today over against children in general. Children are often abused, exploited, and aborted. As we observe the wonder of healthy adult/child relationships and address the tragedy of unhealthy adult/child relationships, it is both helpful and instructive to consider Jesus’ attitude towards children. What can we say on the basis of our text today? In the words of the children’s hymn we have just sung—JESUS LOVES THE LITTLE CHILDREN! His angels protect them! He came to save them! His Father’s will includes all of them!
Yes, His angels protect them! As you will recall from today’s Gospel Lesson the subject of children came up as Jesus’ disciples, who were prone to personal rivalries, asked him: “Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 18:1). Jesus responded by calling a little child into their midst and suggesting to them, “Whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 18:4). Little children, however, are seldom accorded proper love and respect in our world. That is why Jesus goes on to warn us all: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Mt. 18:6).
It is from within this context that Jesus offers the warning contained in our text: “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” Jesus warns each of us not to harm the children whom Jesus creates from us, entrusts to us, and intends as a blessing for us. Sadly, such harm all too often comes as parents ignore their parental responsibilities or as individuals within our society pursue their selfish interests. But why should the mention of angels be such a powerful warning to those who would harm a child?
People have many false conceptions regarding angels. Angels are not charming little cherubs—the babies with wings depicted in the beautiful Rococo art and architecture found in many European palaces and churches or more commonly depicted here in America on Valentine’s Day. They are not the souls of children who have died and gone to heaven. Angels are powerful “ministering spirits” created originally by God to glorify Him, but also to serve us (cf. Ps. 103:20; Ps. 148:2; Heb. 1:14). Because of sin, however, God has also directed His angels to use their power both to punish and destroy those who oppose Him, for instance, in the case of the destruction of the firstborn in Egypt at the time of the Exodus (cf. Ex. 12:29; Ps. 78:49).
The existence and presence of angels should be both a comfort and a warning to us. The Psalmist says: “He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways” (Ps. 91:11). The concept of guardian angels is certainly a biblical concept. That a single angel is assigned to each of us throughout our lives cannot be verified in Scripture, but Jesus here speaks with reference to individual children and “their angels.” "Their" is a possessive, which suggests that there are indeed multiple angels that watch over every child and by extension also every adult. What a comfort that can and should be to each of us as we consider both ourselves and our children.
The warning, however, lies in this that those angels “always see the face” of God the Father. What does that mean? It means that there is nothing that is done to any child that is not seen and reported to God in heaven above. The man or woman who abuses a child never does so in secret. Such a man or woman may escape the attention of those in authority here in this world, but they will not escape the judgment of God. The angels of heaven serve as witnesses of such abuse, and so Jesus says, “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones!” JESUS LOVES THE LITTLE CHILDREN! His angels protect them! We would do well to do the same!
JESUS LOVES THE LITTLE CHILDREN! He came to save them! Jesus often used parables as He taught both His disciples and the people to whom He preached. Many of those parables involved the relationship of a shepherd to his sheep. In this context of dealing with children, Jesus said: “The Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray.”
Jesus’ parable emphasizes the love that our heavenly Father has for each and every one of us including each and every child. “God so loved the world,” Jesus tells us, “that He sent His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16). Jesus came into this world to be our Rescuer. He kept every one of God’s commandments—something that we cannot even come close to doing. He did so for us! He laid down His life on the cross, once again for us! Jesus had no sin and was therefore completely innocent, yet He died in the place of the guilty. He commands us to share that message of love and redemption.
In His parable Jesus, the Good Shepherd, leaves the ninety-nine sheep that are safe and searches for the one that is straying. When He finds it, we are told that He rejoices more over that one sheep than over the ninety-nine. The point is not to compare the value of souls, but rather to emphasize the precious nature of every single soul. Jesus died for the entire world, but that world is made up of individuals like you and me and includes every single child!
In view of this we can see how much Jesus cares about the precious little ones He entrusts to us. That is true even with regard to those and perhaps especially to those who are going through what we might call the “terrible” twos or their rebellious “teenage” years, for those individuals need the guidance of the Lord and the assurance of His love even more than others. It is in that love, ultimately, that they will find their true worth before the Lord and discover the direction they need from the Lord, so that their lives may be lived to their fullest God-given potential. Yes, JESUS LOVES THE LITTLE CHILDREN! He came to save them!
His Father’s will includes all of them! Jesus concludes our text by saying: “Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” The apostle Paul shared this thought with Timothy when he wrote to him: “God our Savior…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3-4). How important is the Christian education of our children and grandchildren? It is absolutely vital—in the church, in our homes, and at school! Life passes quickly, and soon our days will be ended. Yesterday we conducted a funeral service for Bonnie McCarty. She died at the relatively young age of 67 years. But who lives on and who do we hope will join us one day in heaven when every remnant of this world has passed? Is it not our children and grandchildren? For Bonnie it was her four children and four grandchildren, all of whom were here to be encouraged by a message from God’s Word. We can accomplish great things, but if we fail to spend the time and make the effort to lead our little ones to Jesus, we will ultimately have failed in the most important thing in life.
In our Old Testament lesson Christians are encouraged to listen to the words of wise people directing their ears and hearts to the LORD (cf. Prov. 22:17-19). In our Epistle lesson children are urged to obey their parents, but parents and especially fathers are encouraged to bring up their children “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (cf. Eph. 6:1, 4). This is the will of our heavenly Father for His Word spells out the difference between truth and error and ultimately between life and death.
Before his death and as the children of Israel were poised to enter the Promised Land, Moses reviewed for them the revelations of the LORD God given at Mt. Sinai. When he was finished he said this: “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deut. 30:19). God wants us as His children to live and not to perish. That is true for every child He creates as well. It is our duty as both parents and grandparents, as fellow Christians and members of this congregation to take an interest in and cherish the younger members among us.
Today we baptized Isaiah William Dallmann. Jarod and Nikki, his parents, were asked this morning during the baptismal service of their son, whether or not they would bring Isaiah up in the truths of God’s Word. They promised to do that with the help of God. We as members of Immanuel likewise promised to do everything that we can to support their work and the work of other parents with their children. We do that at home when we have devotions with our children or grandchildren and discuss with them the truths of God, thereby helping them develop biblical world-views. We can do that by encouraging one another here as we worship together. We can do that by supporting and participating in our Sunday School program and our Christian Day School. We can do that by setting a proper example of love and concern within our community and especially as we relate to the children of our community. Will we at times fail in our duties? Of course, for we are fallen human beings, but it is then that we are privileged to call upon our children to join us before the throne of grace to repent of our sins and to be washed by the blood of Jesus. JESUS LOVES THE LITTLE CHILDREN! May we love them as well! Amen.