Jesus went against the popular and religious culture of His day and prioritized children.
“And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.” —Mark 10:13-16
Note Jesus’ emotions here. He is indignant with the disciples. This was not meek and mild Jesus. Why? Because Jesus understood the Great Commission begins with the souls of the little ones. The Great Commission is not just personal, but multi-generational. The disciples were standing in the way of parents and grandparents, and Jesus quickly put an end to it.
Notice also Jesus was not married, nor did He have children. Jesus set the example for every believer, regardless of their family situation, to intentionally nurture faith in children, and participate in God’s multi-generational Great Commission. We are all called to “next generation” ministry – with children in our extended families, our churches, our neighborhoods, and beyond.
Jesus calls us to pursue lost children
As Jesus was teaching His disciples, He asked a child to stand next to him (Matthew 18:2) while He was teaching. He wanted them to see a real child standing before them, as He explained God’s heart for children.
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”
Jesus wanted the disciples to have the same heart for children that God had for children. He wanted them to understand the urgency and passion of God for children to believe in Him, follow Him, and not wander off. We must reclaim this urgency and passion in the church today. The most optimistic opinions tell us we are losing nearly half of our own children to the world! Who is sounding the alarm? Who is declaring a Great Commission crisis? Where are the fathers, mothers, grandfathers, and grandmothers who are willing to drop everything and do all in their power to go in search of the ones who are astray?
Jesus’ warnings on sin and children
Some of Jesus’ strongest language focused on God’s desire to see children follow Him and obey Him. He issued grave warnings against anyone who influenced a child to sin. In the same sermon noted above, Jesus, with a child standing beside Him said:
“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
The seriousness of sin is set in the context of the effects of our sin on the next generation. God’s purpose is to bring glory to Himself by filling the earth with worship, and from the very beginning God declared His mission would be accomplished through the generations…