The Bible tells us that some of Jesus’ most important words are “let the little children come to me.” How powerful are these words! We see these words recorded in Matthew 19:14, Mark 10:14, and Luke 18:16. Today, let’s take a moment to gain a deeper understanding of what Jesus meant when he said these words.
Let’s take Matthew 19:14 as an example. Notice in each of the translations below what Jesus emphasizes:
Matthew 19:14 New International Version (NIV)
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Matthew 19:14 English Standard Version (ESV)
But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 19:14 New Living Translation (NLT)
But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.”
Matthew 19:14 New Century Version (NCV)
But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to people who are like these children.”
Matthew 19:14 King James Version (KJV)
But Jesus said, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 19:14 New King James Version (NKJV)
But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
A few observations in particular stick out:
Jesus statement was in response to His disciples. People were bringing their children to be blessed by and prayed for by Jesus. How did the disciples respond? They rebuked them. The disciples didn’t think that the children were worth Jesus’ time. Jesus, knowing the value of children, responds to them and quickly corrects their way of thinking.
Jesus wants the children to have access to Him. This access is a demonstration of the love that He has for them. He explains that children also have access to the kingdom of heaven. The implication here is that the faith of a child is what is needed to enter into the kingdom of heaven. A person does not need a deep faith – it can be very simple, much like the faith of a child. Children can enter into the kingdom of God too, not just adults!
Curious to learn more? Here is a sample of a few commentaries that each address this verse:
Matthew 19:13-15 (Bible Knowledge Commentary)
Many parents were bringing children… to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples felt this was a waste of Jesus’ time. They began rebuking those bringing their children. Apparently the disciples had already forgotten what Jesus said earlier about the worth of children and the seriousness of causing them to fall (cf. 18:1-14). Jesus rebuked the disciples, telling them to let the little children come and not hinder them. The kingdom of heaven is not limited to adults who might be considered to be worth more than children. Anyone who comes to the Lord in faith is a worthy subject for the kingdom. This implies (19:15) that Jesus had time for all the children, for He did not depart from the region till He had blessed them all.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old & New Testaments © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries
Matthew 19:13-15 (New Bible Commentary)
The disciples may have been simply insensitive and snobbish, or perhaps they were trying to protect Jesus from too much attention. At any rate, they had not yet absorbed his revolutionary scale of values, in which the ‘little ones’ were the greatest. To say that the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these was not to declare the automatic salvation of all children, but rather (as in 18:1-5) to set up their lowly status as a model for discipleship.
New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition © Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship, Leicester, England, 1953, 1954, 1970, 1994
Matthew 19:13-15 (The IVP Bible Background Commentary)
See comment on Mk 10:13-16 for more details; Matthew’s form of the story is abbreviated, but abbreviating such accounts was a common practice in ancient writing. Children were socially powerless and dependent. Some people in the *Old Testament would lay hands on others to bestow a blessing in prayer. Insensitive *disciples trying to keep from the master those seeking his help might remind Jewish hearers of Gehazi, a disciple of Elisha who eventually lost his position (2Ki 4:27; 5:27).
The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament © 1993 by Craig S. Keener
Jesus cared deeply for children, and His love for them should profoundly shape how we interact with them. We should imitate Jesus by saying “let the children come to me” and pursue the discipleship of children in our homes, our churches, and our communities! Children are highly valued in the eyes of Jesus. They should be valuable to us too!
If you want to learn more about these impactful words by Jesus, take a few moments to read through this very helpful list of Bible commentaries, Bible translation comparisons, and insightful devotional thoughts on these Bible verses that have been shared on Let the Little Children Come to Me.
Written by Alvin Gan
Alvin Gan is the father of three noisy (but lovely) teenagers and founder of 2 websites that provide creative evangelism and discipleship resources.
www.LetTheLittleChildrenCome.com specializes in unique child evangelism tools and resources to help convey the plan of salvation for kids effectively.
www.BibleGamesCentral.com develops Bible games for youths, kids and even adults to teach spiritual truths.