Children at the Heart of Mission


There is a misconception of serious proportions among Christians that ‘the Bible says very little about children’. Let’s examine that.

An Old Testament Cast of Children (from Genesis to Malachi)

  • Ishmael (Gen 16) means ‘God hears’. His pregnant mother, Hagar, had all but given up hope, but God was infinitely concerned about this single mother and her future son.
  • Isaac (Gen 22) prefigured Jesus in the story of the testing of Abraham.
  • Joseph (Gen 37) the 17 year-old dreamer was the one through whom his father and the Children of Israel were saved.
  • Benjamin (Gen 44 & 45) was the boy through whom reconciliation came between Joseph and his brothers.
  • Moses (Exodus 1) was saved by the vigilance of his sister Miriam.
  • The story of Exodus begins with the murder of Jewish baby boys, foreshadowing the birth of Christ. The last plague involved the death of firstborn sons.
  • The climax to the book of Ruth is the birth of a baby, Obed, one of the ancestors of Jesus.
  • Samuel (I Samuel 3) was the child through whom alone God was able to reveal His will when adults failed. He is a model for human spirituality and obedience.
  • David (I Samuel 17) was the person through whom it was revealed that God was not dependent on adult power or training. Through a boy the Philistines were routed.
  • Elijah & Elisha each brought a widow’s son to life. I Kings 17; II Kings 4)
  • A young servant girl was the means of the healing of Naaman, the army commander (II Kings 5).
  • Josiah, through whom reformation and politics and religion occurred, was a boy – king
    (II Kings 22). He was a boy when the dramatic reforms began (II Chronicles 34).
  • Esther, the future queen who would save the Jewish people, was an orphan girl. (Esther 2)
  • Jeremiah was chosen by God, though he was ‘only a child’ (Jeremiah 1).

It is not just that these people happened to be children but that some of the most significant acts and revelations of God were through these children. This leads on to the second great insight in Isaiah 11. The Messianic kingdom is portrayed here vividly: ‘The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the bear and the yearling together, and a little child will lead them.’ You see the place of the child? Leading!

And so the scene is set, the stage is ready, for us to venture into the New Testament.

The New Testament and Children
It is in the Gospels that we encounter the working out and development of each of these themes from the Old Testament.
There are lots of incidents involving children in the life of Jesus:

  • the daughter of the Canaanite woman (Matt 15 & Mark 7);
  • the boy with a demon (Matt; Mark and Luke);
  • the official’s son at Capernaum (John 4);
  • Jairus’ daughter (Matt, Mark & Luke); t
  • he son of the widow at Nain (Luke 7)
  • the boy who offered Jesus the five loaves and two fish (John 6).

Jesus has a heart for children and they are drawn to Him.  And what is Jesus teaching about children and the Kingdom of Heaven?

    • Greatness in His kingdom has nothing to do with status, power, strength, influence, wealth, or the normal assumptions in society.
    • You need to change (to repent) to enter the kingdom.
    • You need to become like little children if you are to enter the kingdom of Heaven.
    • Welcoming a little child we welcome the Lord of the Kingdom!

The Kingdom belongs to the childlike… The Kingdom is in fact not like an earthly kingdom at all! It’s the opposite in every way. Upside down! Inside-out! The best way of describing it is not as a place or territory at all, but as “God’s way of doing things”. That’s when all the stories of the kingdom fall into place.

By Keith J. White

Taken form a much longer article that can be found here