Jesus and the Children Bible Story Study Guide

Simple faith is the key lesson in the story of Jesus and the children

Jesus and Children
Suffer the Little Children Come unto Me by James Tissot.

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Parents from all around Judea were bringing their young children to Jesus to receive his blessing. Assuming that children were less valuable than adults and perhaps trying to protect Jesus' time, the disciples rebuked these parents. But to Jesus these children were important. Every person, no matter how young or old, is of great value to the Lord. Jesus took the children in his arms and blessed them, showing that the kingdom of heaven belongs to anyone who comes to God with humble, child-like faith.

Question for Reflection

Jesus presented children as a model for the kind of faith adults ought to have. Sometimes we can make our spiritual life more complicated than it should be. We each need to ask: do I have the childlike faith to depend on Jesus, and Jesus alone, for entering God's kingdom?

Scripture References

The story of Jesus blessing the children takes place in Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; and Luke 18:15-17.

Jesus and the Children Story Summary

Jesus Christ and his apostles had left Capernaum and crossed into the region of Judea, on the Lord's final journey toward Jerusalem. In a village, people began bringing their little children to Jesus to have him bless them and pray for them. It was common practice for rabbis to lay hands on children and bless them. However, the disciples rebuked the parents, telling them not to bother Jesus.

Jesus became indignant. He told his followers: "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Luke 18:16-17, NIV)

Then Jesus took the children in his arms and blessed them.

Lessons from the Story of Jesus and the Children

The accounts of Jesus and the little children in the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are remarkably similar. The Gospel of John does not mention the episode. Luke was the only one who referred to the children as babies.

As was often the case, Jesus' disciples did not understand. Perhaps they were trying to protect the Lord's dignity as a rabbi or felt the Messiah should not be bothered by children. Ironically, the children, in their simple trust and dependence, had a more heavenly attitude than the disciples did. 

Just before this episode, Jesus had been teaching his followers that the humility of children boldly contrasts the arrogance of the Pharisees and religious rulers:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." (Matthew 18:1–6, NIV)

Jesus loved children for their innocence. He valued their simple, uncomplicated trust, and absence of pride. He taught that entering heaven is not about great scholarly knowledge, admirable accomplishments, or social status. It only requires faith in God.

Immediately after this lesson, Jesus instructed a rich young man about humility, continuing this theme of childlike acceptance of the gospel. The young man went away sad because he was unable to trust fully in God instead of his wealth.

More Bible Accounts of Jesus and Children

Many times in the Bible parents brought their children to Jesus to be physically and spiritually healed:

Mark 7:24–30 - Jesus cast out a demon from the Syrophoenician woman's daughter.

Mark 9:14–27 - Jesus healed a boy who was possessed by an impure spirit. 

Luke 8:40–56 - Jesus raised Jairus' daughter back to life. 

John 4:43–52 - Jesus healed the official's son.