We have here the welcome which Christ gave to some little children that were brought to him. Observe,
I. The faith of those that brought them. How many they were, that were brought, we are not told; but they were so little as to be taken up in arms, a year old, it may be, or two at most. The account here given of it, is, that there were brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray, Matt. 19:13. Probably they were their parents, guardians, or nurses, that brought them; and herein, 1. They testified their respect to Christ, and the value they had for his favour and blessing. Note, Those who glorify Christ by coming to him themselves, should further glorify him by bringing all they have, or have influence upon, to him likewise. Thus give him the honour of his unsearchable riches of grace, his overflowing, never-failing, fulness. We cannot better honour Christ than by making use of him. 2. They did a kindness to their children, not doubting but they would fare the better, in this world and the other, for the blessing and prayers of the Lord Jesus, whom they looked upon at least as an extraordinary person, as a prophet, if not as a priest and king; and the blessings of such were valued and desired. Others brought their children to Christ, to be healed when they were sick; but these children were under no present malady, only they desired a blessing for them. Note, It is a good thing when we come to Christ ourselves, and bring our children to him, before we are driven to him (as we say) by woe-need; not only to visit him when we are in trouble, but to address ourselves to him in a sense of our general dependence on him, and of the benefit we expect by him, this is pleasing to him.
They desired that he would put his hands on them, and pray. Imposition of hands was a ceremony used especially in paternal blessings; Jacob used it when he blessed and adopted the sons of Joseph, Gen. 48:14. It intimates something of love and familiarity mixed with power and authority, and bespeaks an efficacy in the blessing. Whom Christ prays for in heaven, he puts his hand upon by his Spirit. Note, (1.) Little children may be brought to Christ as needing, and being capable of receiving, blessings from him, and having an interest in his intercession. (2.) Therefore they should be brought to him. We cannot do better for our children than to commit them to the Lord Jesus, to be wrought upon, and prayed for, by him. We can but beg a blessing for them, it is Christ only that can command the blessing.
II. The fault of the disciples in rebuking them. They discountenanced the address as vain and frivolous, and reproved them that made it as impertinent and troublesome. Either they thought it below their Master to take notice of little children, except any thing in particular ailed them; or, they thought he had toil enough with his other work, and would not have him diverted from it; or, they thought if such an address as this were encouraged, all the country would bring their children to him, and they should never see an end of it. Note, It is well for us, that Christ has more love and tenderness in him than the best of his disciples have. And let us learn of him not to discountenance any willing well-meaning souls in their enquiries after Christ, though they are but weak. If he do not break the bruised reed, we should not. Those that seek unto Christ, must not think it strange if they meet with opposition and rebuke, even from good men, who think they know the mind of Christ better than they do.
III. The favour of our Lord Jesus. See how he carried it here.
1. He rebuked the disciples (Matt. 19:14); Suffer little children, and forbid them not; and he rectifies the mistake they went upon, Of such is the kingdom of heaven. Note, (1.) The children of believing parents belong to the kingdom of heaven, and are members of the visible church. Of such, not only of such in disposition and affection (that might have served for a reason why doves or lambs should be brought to him), but of such, in age, is the kingdom of heaven; to them pertain the privileges of visible church-membership, as among the Jews of old. The promise is to you, and to your children. I will be a God to thee and thy seed. (2.) That for this reason they are welcome to Christ, who is ready to entertain those who, when they cannot come themselves, are brought to him. And this, [1.] In respect to the little children themselves, whom he has upon all occasions expressed a concern for; and who, having participated in the malignant influences of the first Adam’s sin, must needs share in the riches of the second Adam’s grace, else what would become of the apostle’s parallel? 1 Cor. 15:22; Rom. 5:14, 15 Those who are given to Christ, as part of his purchase, he will in no wise cast out. [2.] With an eye to the faith of the parents who brought them, and presented them as living sacrifices. Parents are trustees of their children’s wills, are empowered by nature to transact for their benefit; and therefore Christ accepts their dedication of them as their act and deed, and will own these dedicated things in the day he makes up his jewels. [3.] Therefore he takes it ill of those who forbid them, and exclude those whom he has received: who cast them out from the inheritance of the Lord, and say, Ye have no part in the Lord (see Josh. 22:27); and who forbid water, that they should be baptized, who, if that promise be fulfilled (Isa. 44:3), have received the Holy Ghost as well as we, for aught we know.
2. He received the little children, and did as he was desired; he laid his hands on them, that is, he blessed them. The strongest believer lives not so much by apprehending Christ as by being apprehended of him (Phil. 3:12), not so much by knowing God as by being known of him (Gal. 4:9); and this the least child is capable of. If they cannot stretch out their hands to Christ, yet he can lay his hands on them, and so make them his own, and own them for his own.
Methinks it has something observable in it, that, when he had done this, he departed thence, Matt. 19:15. As if he reckoned he had done enough there, when he had thus asserted the rights of the lambs of his flock, and made this provision for a succession of subjects in his kingdom.