Jesus Blesses Little Children (Mark 10:13-16)

Jesus Blesses Little Children: Mark 10:13-16

I.) The Grace of God

In my study of this text, I discovered that many commentators do not take time to expound upon their understanding of this account. They acknowledge its existence and quickly move on to The Rich Young Ruler.[1]

This is unfortunate, because before us reads a beautiful portion that addresses the matter of who will inherit eternal life and enter the kingdom of God. In Jesus’ lesson, we find the answer to not only what will happen to adults who die after having become like children, but what happens to children if they die. When their lives are cut short thus forbidding them from becoming adults.

When we realize that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all contrast this account with the The Rich Young Ruler, we see it is a testimony of salvation by grace. The kingdom belongs to those who are powerless, vulnerable, and incapable of any contribution making them completely dependent on another person. Whoever receives the Kingdom of God like a child will enter in to it, meaning it is impossible for self-righteous people to enter eternal life. It is impossible for those who depend on their strength, resilience, and capability to enter in to His Kingdom. Only those who are spiritually bankrupt and dependent on another’s righteousness shall step foot into God’s Kingdom.

The words of Christ here exemplify the love God has for children, and all who become like them.

II.) Compassion Sought, Rebuking Received

Our text opens with parents “bringing children to Him so that He might touch them.”

Matthew gives a little more clarity to what their desire is in doing so, and it is:

“That He might lay His hands on them and pray…”[2]

It was apparently common practice in Jewish society to bring your children to synagogue officials or famous rabbis to be blessed by them. I read that there was a very specific prayer parents desired for their children as adults, and it was a prayer:

“That the child would be famous in law, faithful in marriage, and abundant in good works.”[3]

Given that Israel had been saturated in the self-righteous works-based system of the Pharisees this prayer would be one of salvation. It was a prayer that God would keep their children on the righteous path of works to be made right before Him.

We do not really know much about these parents, but one thing is certain, and it is that they desired their children to know God. They know who Jesus is and are aware of His teachings and they want Him to bless their children. They want Him to touch them, which was a demonstration of compassion, and what set Him apart from the Pharisees. The Pharisees would not touch anyone, because they did not want to be defiled by them.

Jesus continually demonstrated His compassion for people by touching them. You may recall the compassion He showed to the leper at the beginning of His earthly ministry who:

“came to Him, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying to Him, ‘If you are willing, You can make me clean.’ And moved with compassion, He stretched out His hand, and touched him, and said to him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’”[4]

You may recall the compassion He showed to the man who was deaf and spoke with difficulty, how:

“He took him aside from the multitude by Himself, and put His fingers into His ears, and after spitting, He touched his tongue with the saliva; and looking up to heaven with a deep sigh, He said to him, ‘Ephphatha!’ that is, ‘Be opened!’”[5]

You may recall the compassion He showed to the blind man when:

“Taking him by the hand, He brought him out of the village…He laid His hands upon his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly.”[6]

Now, those these children are not in need of healing, Jesus’ embracing them is a display of the compassion and love He has for children:

“And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands upon them.”[7]

These parents desire the One who has come preaching that the kingdom of God is at hand to bless their children by laying His hands on them and praying. The disciples; however, “rebuked them.”[8]  I believe we should understand the “them” to be the parents and not the children.

So the disciples are rebuking the parents for bringing their children to be blessed by Christ. They were severely censuring them. These would have been children from infancy to toddler age. The disciples doing this was most likely do to a mindset still entangled by the Pharisees false teaching.

Since the religious leaders promoted a works-based system of salvation it was believed children could not offer any good works. Children are weak, vulnerable, incapable and dependent. Matters of God’s Kingdom were therefore looked at as irrelevant for children who cannot even discern good from evil. Parents seeking to have Jesus bless their little children were viewed as nonsensical interruptions, so the disciples rebuked them for doing so.

III.) The Indignation of Christ

Their doing so brings about Christ’s indignation:

“When Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, ‘Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them.’”[9]

This is righteous indignation.

It is not just that they are forbidding children from being embraced by their Creator.[10] The One who commanded Adam and Eve to have children when saying:

“Be fruitful and multiply.”

The One who declares children a gift and a blessing to the family:

“Behold children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they shall not be ashamed, when they speak with their enemies at the gate.”[11]

The One who determines them into existence and fashions them together in the womb as the Psalmist says:

“For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Thy works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from Thee, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth. Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Thy book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.”[12]

It is that they are forbidding little children to come to Him who’s Kingdom:

”Belongs to such as these.”

Jesus says to them:

“Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”[13]

This is a profound statement, and it delivers a fatal blow to the self-righteous works-based system. A system which maintained that God’s Kingdom is irrelevant to children, because they are incapable of earning the right to live there. The thinking is that they are not of the right age just yet. Jesus blows this thinking right out of the water by revealing that matters of the Kingdom are relevant to children, because His kingdom is made up of them. It has nothing to do with their ability to earn the right to be there, but everything to do with the grace of God. This is why His words destroy the false teachings of the Pharisees.

This text provides an answer to a critical question:

Q.) What happens to children when they die?

A.) They inherit the Kingdom of God.

God graciously saves children, because they do not possess the ability to make rational spiritual decisions. God will not hold a little one accountable for matters they cannot comprehend. It was John Calvin who said:

“Those little children have not yet any understanding to His blessing; but when they are presented to Him, He gently and kindly receives them, and dedicates them to the Father by a solemn act of blessing…To exclude from the grace of redemption those who are of that age would be to cruel…it is presumption and sacrilege to drive far from the fold of Christ those whom He cherishes in His bosom, and to shut the door, and exclude as strangers those whom He does not wish to be forbidden to come to Him.”[14]

Listen to these words of King David after his baby with Bathsheba dies seven days after being born:

“The Lord struck the child that Uriah’s widow bore to David, so that he was very sick. David inquired of God for the child; and David fasted and went and lay all night on the ground. And the elders of his household stood beside him in order to raise him up from the ground, but he was unwilling and would not eat food with them. Then it happened on the seventh day that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, ‘Behold, while the child was still alive, we spoke to him and he did not listen to our voice. How then can we tell him that the child is dead, since he might do himself harm!’ But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David perceived that the child was dead; so David said to his servants, ‘Is the child dead?’ And they said, ‘He is dead.’ So David arose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and came into the house of the Lord and worshipped. Then he came to his own house, and when he requested, they set food before him and he ate. Then his servants said to him, ‘What is this thing that you have done? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.’ And he said, ‘While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows, the Lord may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’ But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.’”[15]

David knows exactly where his child is, and he knows he will see him again because the One who graciously saved his child is the One will save Him. King David was saved all by grace, through faith, in the Christ to come.

IV.) Original Sin

It is important we understand that this does not nullify the inherent depravity of children. Children neither inherently possess eternal life, nor are they spiritually neutral. The Scripture is unapologetically clear that children are sinners by nature from the womb:

1.) “For the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”[16]

2.) Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.”[17]

3.) “The wicked are estranged from the womb; these who speak lies go astray from birth.”[18]

This emphasizes the love of God for little children. By nature children do not have the right to enter the Kingdom of God, but He graciously saves those who unable to make a conscious and rational choice. His kingdom “belongs to such as these.”

This is why Jesus’ statement was so profound, because the only way children ever enter the Kingdom of God is by the very grace of God. God’s grace decimated the entire infrastructure of the self-righteous scheme of the Pharisees. It was like putting new cloth on and old garment, or new wine in old wineskins.[19] The result is complete destruction. Grace and works are incompatible:

“If it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.”[20]

They taught that people needed to work to enter the kingdom of God, but Jesus tells them the kingdom belongs to the weak and incapable. The powerless and inept have one option, and it is receiving grace shown by another.

V.) Becoming Like Children

This is what drives His next point:

“Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all.”

There is a call to childlike faith within this statement, and such faith is manifested from a posture of true and genuine humility. Unless one humbles themselves to the situation of a little child they will never understand the need for faith. If they never see the need for exercising faith, it is because they have a false knowledge of themselves.

To humble oneself to the situation of a child means one comes to grips with their true condition, and such a state calls them to rely upon another. One embraces the fact that before God they are frail, and incapable of any contribution to their salvation making them dependent on someone else. In other words they realize they are spiritually bankrupt before a righteous God. They are dead in sin, and cannot muster up an ounce of righteousness in themselves permitting them to live eternally before the Living and Holy God:

“There is none righteous, not even one.”[21]

This is because each of us was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin our mothers conceived us, making us:

“By nature children of wrath.”[22]

Only the poor in spirit enter the kingdom of God, and only those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied.[23] The spiritually poor know they are unrighteous, and deserve death not life, so they long for the righteousness of another. Jesus says that those who long for such righteousness shall be satisfied.

The gospel declares that God has promised to give His righteousness to all who turn from their sins and trust in the substitutionary work of His Son.

Christ became a man by being born of a virgin, making Him fully God and fully man. As a man He did what we could not, and lived a sinless and righteous life before God. He loved the Father with all of His heart, soul, mind and strength. As the Innocent Lamb of God, He willingly laid down His life to shed His blood and take away sins. He bore the wrath of God so those who believe upon Him will not experience what their very nature demands. He suffered the death sin requires. Three days later God raised Him from the dead demonstrating that forgiveness of sins and the hope of eternal life is possible through faith alone in Christ. He arose never to die again, and ascended to the Father 40 days later. One day He will return for His people, and to judge the unbelievers.

God will give His righteousness to anyone who turns from their sins and trusts the message of the gospel describing the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

The gospel calls men and women to humble themselves to the situation of a child and entrust the entirety of their being to Jesus Christ:

“Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all.”

Jesus said of Himself:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.”[24]

He became sin that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Only those clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ can ever stand and live before a holy God.

Jesus said earlier in His ministry:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”[25]

John the Baptists summed it up as:

“He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”[26]

John the Apostle condensed it to:

“He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”[27]

Those who want to go to the Father, experience eternal life, and be saved from His wrath can do so by becoming like children and depending on Christ. If this does not occur in someone’s life they will never enter the Kingdom of God, for they will still be under His wrath.

VI.) Walk as Children of the Kingdom of Light

There are three points I want to end on:

1.) Parents and grandparents, evangelize your children and grandchildren so they may experience the blessing of salvation in Christ. The best thing you can do for them is to teach them about Jesus and His work, so He may begin to do a work in them. Teach them every word that proceeds from the mouth of God:

“Teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.”[28]

Be diligent in doing this “for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Do not labor to simply instill the virtues of Christianity, for that will create self-righteous people who will not understand God’s grace. It will produce a mindset of spiritual superiority that will think more highly of itself then it ought to. Impart to them the gospel of Christ.

2.) Church, be thorough in teaching the gospel not only to little children, but to men and women everywhere. God commands people everywhere to repent and believe the gospel.[29] The self-righteous have no place in the kingdom of God; only those who humbly receive it like a child will enter. It is the Holiness of God revealed in the Law that leads one to see their need of mercy from God, and His mercy leads to repentance:[30]

“The Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith.”[31]

If there are people here trusting in anything other than the person and work of Jesus Christ to get them into God’s kingdom realize that:

“If righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”[32]

The Scripture declares:

“By the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight.”[33]

The Law reveals our sin, and the wages of our sin is eternal death.[34]

The good news is that the free gift of God is eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.[35] Repent and receive His Kingdom like a child, and you may enter in.

As His children who will one day enter His Kingdom on the basis of Christ’s righteousness, we are to present ourselves as living sacrifices.[36] He has shown the light of the gospel into our hearts, and transferred us for the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.[37] Walk; therefore, as children of light. For we were once darkness, but we are now light in Christ by His grace.[38]


[1] Mark 10:17-31

[2] Matthew 19:13

[3] Why Jesus Blessed the Little Children, John MacArthur; Sermon on Mark 10:13-16

[4] Mark 1:40-41

[5] Mark 7:33-34

[6] Mark 8:23,25

[7] Mark 10:16

[8] Mark 10:13

[9] Mark 10:14a

[10] John 1:1-2; Colossians 1:16

[11] Psalm 127:3-5

[12] Psalm 139:13-16

[13] Mark 10:14a

[14] Commentary on a Harmony of Matthew Mark and Luke, John Calvin; Page 390-91

[15] 2 Samuel 12:15-23

[16] Genesis 8:21

[17] Psalm 51:5

[18] Psalm 58:3

[19] Mark 3:21-22

[20] Romans 11:6

[21] Romans 3:10

[22] Ephesians 2:3

[23] Matthew 5:3,6

[24] John 14:6

[25] John 3:16-18

[26] John 3:36

[27] 1 John 5:12

[28] Deuteronomy 11:19

[29] Acts 17:30

[30] Romans 2:4

[31] Galatians 3:24

[32] Galatians 2:21

[33] Romans 3:20a

[34] Romans 3:20b; 6:23a

[35] Romans 6:23b

[36] Romans 12:1-2

[37] 2 Corinthians 2:4-6; Colossians 1:13

[38] Ephesians 5:8

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