Luke 18:15-17 (NKJV)
15 Then they also brought infants to [Jesus] that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 17 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”
Today I have the privilege of baptizing Mary Anna Joy Bryan. Since the baptism of infants is a relatively uncommon practice in the evangelical church, I usually like to offer a brief explanation. Why baptize babies?
The answer to that question is implied in our text today. When various followers of Jesus brought their infants to Jesus that He might bless them, the disciples rebuked them. They were convinced that these infants were a distraction, an inconvenience, a burden and that Jesus’ work was far too important to be disturbed by them. But Jesus insists that this mindset is deeply mistaken.
Jesus says, “Let the little children come to Me and do not forbid them…” This “Let” is not one of allowance but of command. In other words, Jesus orders His disciples, “You must permit the children to come… it is your duty to permit them to come…” And who are these children? They are not children capable of bringing themselves, capable of running to Jesus or vocally confessing His Name. These are infants, brephos, nursing babes.
So why should infants be brought to Jesus? Jesus answers: for of such is the kingdom of God. In other words, God lays claim to the babies of believers and calls them His own, calls them by His Name. Therefore, they should be brought to Him. So how does God mark us out as His own? How does He place His Name upon us? In baptism. We are baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Baptism is God’s testimony: you are mine! Therefore, since God claims our children, it is fitting that we bring them to Him for baptism into His Name.
And as we bring these children to the waters of baptism, they teach us an important lesson. Jesus declares, “Whoever does not receive the kingdom as a little child will by no means enter it.” And how do these infants receive the kingdom? Helplessly, passively, dependently. So even as Mary Anna must be brought to Jesus by her parents in order for her to be blessed by Him, so you must be brought to Jesus by the Spirit in order for you to be blessed by Him. Her very dependency reminds us that we are in need of God’s grace to bring us spiritual life and blessing.