Matthew 19:13–15: “Let the Little Children Come to Me”

by Feb 12, 2024Premium, The Gospel of Matthew

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After narrating Jesus’ lengthy dispute with the Pharisees about the permanence of marriage, Matthew spotlights another interaction of Jesus that tells us more about our Savior’s understanding of the family. This time, the question centers around children. While Jesus’ disciples did not want their master to be bothered by these children, our Lord was adamant that the children must be brought to him. To justify this idea, he says something astonishing: “for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (v. 14). The kingdom of heaven belongs to children? The idea was astonishing in Jesus’ day, and it is outrageous in ours. Yet, Jesus here lays down an important command: bring the little children to Jesus.

Discussion Questions

1. How does the connecting word “then” connect this passage with the previous passage (v. 13)? How does this connection set this teaching about children within the larger context of marriage and divorce? Who “brought” these little children to Jesus? What did these parents want from Jesus? Why do you think that the disciples rebuked the children? How was their view of the kingdom of heaven deficient?

2. What are some of the ways that our culture devalues and disregards children? In what ways do these negative attitudes about children within the wider culture affect the way that Christians sometimes think about children? What does Jesus think about children? How does his attitude challenge our own deficient views about children and about the nature of the kingdom of heaven?

3. What does Jesus mean when he demands that his disciples let the children come to him, and not to hinder them (v. 14)? Why does our Savior insist this about children? Why do some interpreters see the phrase “such as these” as referring to all kinds of people other than children? How does this passage relate to our understanding that children are included in the covenant and entitled to the sacrament of baptism?

4. How is the new covenant more inclusive of the children of believers than the old covenant? How do we see this greater inclusion of children by the words and actions of Jesus here, in contrast to those of the disciples? Beyond the practice of infant baptism, how else does our understanding of the place of children in the kingdom in our practices within the church? How has this passage challenged you to invest your life with a view toward Jesus’ valuation upon children?