Week 6: The New Testament and Children
Day 1: A Child in the Midst – Matthew 18:2-5; Mark 9:33-37; Luke 9:46-48
Along the way, the disciples began arguing among themselves about who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. I’m always a little amazed that they actually got up the courage to ask Jesus that question, but they did. It may have only been because in Mark 9 He specifically asked them what they were disputing along the way. They couldn’t get around the asking! His response is just one of the moments in the New Testament that show His concern for children.
“And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,” Matthew 18:3. From this verse alone it might appear that He is simply giving them a visual illustration to help reinforce what He was about to say, but if we look at the parallel passages we see something more.
“And He took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them,” Mark 9:36. Jesus didn’t just grab a chair, set it in the middle of the room and put a child down on it. He put the child in their midst and then took him into his arms. He held him. This passage is always a great comfort to me because it reminds me that, as His children, God does this for us.
No child likes to be the center of attention for a bunch of feuding adults. Jesus understood that, so He picked the child up and held him while He taught His disciples. But it goes further than that. In all three of the passages where this story is told, Jesus makes one particular point. He says, Whoever receives a child like this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives Him that sent me.
That little word “receive” packs an amazing punch. I wish we had time to dwell on every aspect of the word, but we don’t. The basic meanings are “to take with the hand”, “to take up, receive” and “to receive, get”. The verses we are considering fall under the second meaning, which in some of its applications also implies hospitality, “granting access to, a visitor.” When applied to things taught it means “to receive favorably, give ear to, embrace, make one’s own, approve, not reject.” It can also mean “to take upon one’s self, sustain, bear, endure”. Couple all of that with the direct meaning as applied to all three of our passages, “to bring into one’s family in order to bring up and educate”, and you have quite the powerful word picture. (*Thayers – Go here to see full entry.)
Jesus wasn’t just suggesting that people be nice to children, allow them into their churches, or treat them kindly on the street. He was telling them to do much more. He was talking about bringing a child into their family for the purpose of raising and educating them. It makes me wonder about the child that he set in the midst of his disciples. Was he an orphan? Was the little child that He took into His arms a child that had no mother or father? Was he as much in need of adoption as we sinners are in need of the adoption of redemption?
Jesus was saying if you take this child into your home to raise and educate, i.e. love, clothe, feed, teach and train, then it is the same as if you are taking me into your home and not just me, but Him that sent me. It’s as if you are pouring out your love and resources on God Himself. Sound familiar? It should, it is very reminiscent of a passage so many of us love to quote and reference. Matthew 25 gives a long list of things that if we do them “unto the least of these” it is the same as doing them for Christ; but if we don’t do them, it is as if we have neglected doing them for Christ. This is important to keep in mind. Would we treat others the way we do, if we did everything with the mindset that we are doing it to the Lord?
Sadly, it seems the passage in Matthew 25 is quoted most often when we see someone else doing for others, or we suddenly realize that we have actually, perhaps unwittingly, done something to care for “the least of these”. I know few who make a conscious goal of living out these verses. Why do we avoid blessing our Lord through ministry to those around us, when He has done so much to bless us?
How do we receive the children in our lives? Do we simply tolerate them? Do we love them as we would love Christ if He was in their place? Do we take them into our families to bring them up and educate them?
I can’t help but wonder, Did anyone take that little one home that day? We may never know, but we can make that difference in the lives of the children God sets in our midst if we will simply trust Him and obey.
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Also Check out Rachel Miller’s Book: The King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption