Sermon 8.26.18 Pentecost 14

Matthew 19:13-15                                                                                                                                                            Rev. Kenneth Frey
Pentecost 14                                                                                                                                                                                      8/26/18
 
Matthew 19:13-15  Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.  14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.
 
Let the children come
1.  Who?
2.  Why?
3.  How?
4.  What hinders them?
 
Today we kick off the 2018-2019 school year.  We are part of the FVL schools federation and so we are using the FVL schools theme for our school year.  FVL and FVL schools theme is:  Let the children come.  It is based on our text today and so today we focus on that theme by asking four questions:  Who?  Why?  How?  What hinders them?
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”   Who are we to let come to him?  Children.  More precisely, little children.  He uses a word here that means small or young child.  Luke used the word for “infants.”  These are children that don’t walk on their own; they are being carried to Jesus. 
Jesus said that the kingdom belongs to such as these.  The kingdom of God is not reserved only for those who are old enough to decide to accept Jesus.  The kingdom of God is for children.
But not just children.  Jesus said, “to such as these.”   That is, to have the kingdom of God, we need to be childlike.  Jesus is not talking about being childish.  Childish people imagine that the whole world is centered around them and if they whine enough, people will serve them.  Many adults are childish, not childlike. 
Jesus wants a child-like faith.  Give up your pride and self-sufficiency and remember that your sufficiency is in Christ.   Trust that Jesus has done everything to accomplish your salvation.  See how children don’t worry about anything because their parents take care of them.  So to be childlike is to trust God’s promise completely.  To be childlike is to believe what God’s Word says even if it goes against our reason.  Martin Luther said, “He who does not kill and bury his reason and become as a little child does not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” 
Jesus once said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” (Matthew 11:25)  That is our goal.  To become little children once again, to place ourselves in Jesus’ care, and to rest content in his pardon and love.
Why chould we let the children come?  They are sinful and need to brought to the kingdom of God.  In Psalm 51, King David reminds us that from the moment we were conceived, we have been sinners.  The Apostle Paul reminds us that all, including tiny babies, have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  Little babies, even though they look real cute and innocent, aren’t so innocent.  You can see that real clearly by just putting two babies or little children in a room with just one toy.  What will happen?  They will fight over the toy.  Little children are selfish, just like adults. 
That is why Christ was so concerned about them.  They need him.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, he said, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.  That applies to children as well as adults.  Faith isn’t a mental decision that we make.  Faith is God’s gift and he can give faith to a child just as easily as he can give faith to an adult.  Jesus said in our gospel lesson:  “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” (John 6:65)
So why do we let the little come?  So that they can have faith.  A man named Nicodemus came to Jesus looking for answers.  Jesus told him that we must be born again.  Nicodemus was confused by this because he thought to get to heaven he had to do something.  By telling him that we must be born again, he was showing Nicodemus that there is nothing we can do to get ourselves to heaven. 
We contribute as much to our spiritual birth as we do to our physical birth, which is nothing.  In both cases, it is something that God gives us, not something we decide to do. 
Which leads to the next question.  How?  How do we bring children to Jesus?  Jesus answered that for Nicodemus.  “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.” (John 3:5)  In the second lesson today, the Apostle Paul taught the same thing.  “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.” (Ephesians 5:25-26)  Jesus Christ loved us and died for us.  The benefits of his sacrifice for us are communicated to us through the washing with water through the word, that is, baptism.
It is possible that Matthew recorded this account of Jesus and the children as an answer to whether children should be baptized.  The church father, Tertullian, who was born about 160 AD understood it that way.  And our own baptism font has this verse inscribed around the top.  For 1500 years the practice of infant baptism was not questioned in the church.  The primary way we bring children to Jesus is through baptism.
If someone gave you a plant and you watered it the first day, but never again.  What would happen to that plant?  It will die.  If you adopted a child, rescuing a child from a life of poverty, but never fed that child, what would happen to it? 
In baptism, God adopts us into his family.  But if we never give a child the food and drink of God’s Word, their faith will die.  That’s why we can’t just baptize a child and leave it at that.  We need to teach them God’s Word.  We need to feed them God’s truth.  That’s why it’s so important to read Bible Stories to your children in the home and talk to them about God.  That’s why it’s so important to make use of whatever means you can to feed your children spiritually, whether that is Sunday School, Grade School or FVL.
And bring them to church.  Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me.”  This is where they meet Jesus.  Children learn by being here.  All learning is not verbal.  Children worshipping alongside adults who are reverent before God learn lessons that will stick with them the rest of their lives.  As adults, we can have a tremendous amount of influence on children.  We can take our role as mentors seriously; make the church the most welcoming place we possibly can for children. 
Mr. and Mrs. Kelley and Mrs. Frey, you have been called by our congregation to serve as teachers in our school.  And Mr. Kelley as principal of our school.  You have a tremendous responsibility of bringing these children to Jesus.  Parents are entrusting their precious children to you.  Always keep in mind that is your number role to bring children to Jesus, to feed them the life-giving water of the gospel, to lead them to maturity in Christ. 
Which leads us to our last question.  What hinders the children from coming to Jesus?  Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.  What hindered the children was Jesus’ own disciples.  It seems that they thought Christ had more important things to do.  Why bother the great Messiah with these crying, snot-nosed little kids?  But that’s just the opposite of what Jesus wanted.
How are we guilty of hindering the children?  By not bringing them to baptism.  Some parents have said that they will let the child make the choice when he gets older.  But parents don’t do that with anything else.  You wouldn’t not bathe a child and say you will let the child decide about bathing when it gets older.  You wouldn’t let the child run into the street and say that you will let the child decide how dangerous the street is when he gets older.   We dare not do that with baptism.
We also hinder children by our bad example. If we are attending church only occasionally or if we never have devotions in the home or if we don’t study the Bible ourselves, these teachers can knock themselves out teaching God’s Word in school, but by your example, you are telling children Jesus isn’t important.   You are hindering your children from coming to Jesus. 
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me.”  This is not permission; this is a command.  It tells us to not do anything that will get in the way of children coming to Jesus.  We all have a role in this.  Our newly installed teachers have a big role in this, but so do parents, grandparents, and the whole congregation.  May God bless our efforts so that our children will come to know Jesus, grow up in him and share salvation with us.  Let the children come.