‘Let the children come to me’

People brought their children to Jesus, for a blessing. The disciples did not approve, and tried to prevent it. Jesus was indignant: ‘Let them come. They are closer to God than you’, he said. Or words to that effect.

Jesus’ genuine love of children can only be properly appreciated within the context of the callous attitudes toward children in Hellenistic society in the 1st century. We can see this in a papyrus sent from Alexandria, dated June 17, 1 BC. It is a letter from a husband to his expectant wife, who he thinks may have had her child. He says: “if it was a male child, let it live; if it was a female, cast it out.” Jesus’ action in honoring the children was a direct challenge to this attitude.

Jesus and the Little Children, Vogel von Vogelstein

Jesus and the Little Children, Vogel von Vogelstein

Christ Blessing the Children, Nicolas Maes, 1652-3

Christ Blessing the Children, Nicolas Maes, 1652-3

Christ Blessing the Children, Benjamin Robert Haydon

Christ Blessing the Children, Benjamin Robert Haydon

Suffer the Little Children, Fritz von Uhde, 1884

Suffer the Little Children, Fritz von Uhde, 1884

Jesus with the children, stained glass, artist unknown

Jesus with the children, stained glass, artist unknown

Jesus and the Children, painted by Harry Anderson

Jesus and the Children, painted by Harry Anderson, commissioned for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

Suffer the little children to come to me, Lucas Cranach the elder

Suffer the little children to come to me, Lucas Cranach the elder

Christ with the Children, Carl Bloch

Christ with the Children, Carl Bloch

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Jesus Christ
Modern images of Jesus and Mary