How Did Jesus Interact with Children? Meaning and Significance

We find in the gospels that Jesus loved children and valued spending time with them. He equipped and empowered children to minister to the world. He encourages believers today to adopt the heart and mindset of a child in their attitude and faith as well.

Joel Ryan
How Did Jesus Interact with Children? Meaning and Significance

From the beginning, God’s love for children was evident from Scripture.

In the Psalms, David wrote that children are cherished in God’s eyes even before they are born.

For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them (Psalms 139:13-16).

What Does the Bible Say about Children?

David’s son Solomon also wrote, “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 will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate” (Psalms 127:3-5).

And in the Psalms, David again said, “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.” (Psalms 8:1-2)

Where some might view children as small, annoying, insignificant, or weak, God has made it abundantly clear that children have a mighty role to play in the kingdom of God. They are not a nuisance or bother. They are His treasure. Their prayers are heard, their hearts are felt, and their praises are just as powerful as those of any adult.

Jesus Loved Children During His Ministry and They Loved Him

The heart of God towards children was further manifest in Jesus’ earthly interactions.

In a time when children, widows, the sick, and the elderly didn’t have much status or respect, Jesus came and flipped all of society’s previously held perceptions about children on their heads.

They came to Him, worshipped Him, and were excited to be a part of His ministry (Matthew 21:15). Some, however, didn’t think children should be “distracting” Jesus from His greater ministry.

In the book of Mark, however, Jesus famously rebuked His disciples for turning away those bringing children to Him. “When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these’” (Mark 10:14-15).

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus told His followers, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).

And on numerous occasions, Jesus went out of His way to heal children suffering from sickness and spiritual affliction:

Some would have seen these interactions as a waste of His time. They were just children, after all. They held no status or significance. Jesus made it clear, however, that in His kingdom, status and significance are not born of wealth, power, influence, or age.

Our worth does not come from how many years we’ve been on this earth or the things we’ve done. Our worth, in the beauty of God’s grace, comes from Him. Young or old, we are all God’s children, and “nothing can separate us from God’s love” (Romans 8:31-39).

Despite what many, even his disciples, believed, Jesus didn’t just come to equip those society deemed powerful or influential. He came for everyone (John 3:16). That included children.

Children’s ministry wasn’t, therefore, a secondary ministry or a distraction from His earthly ministry; it was His ministry, one He treasured and gave His full attention.

Jesus Empowers Children

Throughout Scripture, God has not shied away from commissioning and empowering young believers either. In doing so, He affirms that faith and worship are not reserved for just adults or the mature (Psalms 8:2). Children have just as much stake in the kingdom of God and are just as important in His plan for the world.

God often entrusts children and young believers with wisdom, power, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit; and the Bible is filled with examples of young believers being released and encouraged to do incredible things for the kingdom of God:

In each story, God spoke to young believers and empowered them from a young age; and in each instance, the aforementioned believer took ownership of their faith, sought the Lord, and followed His instructions. In doing so, God mightily used each of them. Age was irrelevant.

As Paul wrote to Timothy, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:12).

God is not afraid to entrust young people with the message of the gospel, and in many ways, He also wants children and youth to provide an example for mature believers on how to seek Him.

Jesus Encourages Us to Be Like Children

During His ministry, Jesus’ disciples asked who was considered the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. To this Jesus, “called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, ‘Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me’” (Matthew 18:1-5).

Jesus encouraged His followers to look to the faith and humility of children as an example of how they should live. He expected His followers, regardless of age, to be teachable, humble, and always reliant on Him.

As we get older, we tend to rely more on our wisdom and experience than God’s. Compared to God, however, our wisdom is foolishness. And no matter how old or experienced we are, we are still hopelessly reliant on God’s mercy and grace, whether we recognize it or not (Proverbs 3:5).

Likewise, Jesus wants us to be filled with childlike joy, enthusiasm, and faith, trusting Him as a child trusts their parents to provide for their every need (Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 4:19).

Children are a God-given example to the wise, a vital part of God’s plan, and a treasure of His earthly and heavenly kingdom. It is clear from Scripture that Jesus has nothing but love for the children of the world. They are valuable, they are valued, and are precious in His sight.

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Joel Ryan is an LA-based children’s and young adult author who teaches writing at Life Pacific University. Joel is passionate about fueling young people’s passion for the Lord through storytelling and the arts. In his blog, Perspectives Off the Page, he discusses all things writing, the creative process, and what makes movies, comic books, and great stories so impactful.


Originally published March 24, 2020.