The Gospel reading in my devotions for Tuesday, November 23, was from Matthew 15:21-29, in which we hear about Jesus healing the daughter of a Canaanite woman in the area of Tyre and Sidon, northwest of the nation of Judea. Jesus’ act of power and mercy for the woman’s daughter did not come without some puzzling conversation, words which may shock us today. But, in the end Jesus praises the woman, and gives her good news. “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” As this account closes we are told the result of Jesus’ words, “And her daughter was healed from that very hour.” (Matthew 15:29) The devotional thought which followed this reading came from Martin Luther, who encouraged other children of God to have faith like this woman, to contend with God in prayer, to trust and act on our Lord’s promises. That is an important reminder. I personally seek to act in such faith.
But, the point that touched me personally was that Jesus reached out to help a child, a little girl who was not even Jewish. I began thinking of all the acts of healing and mercy which Jesus performed for children during His time on earth. Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from death (Mark 5:21-24, 35-42). Jesus spoke words of instruction and acted with healing mercy for the son of the man whom Jesus encountered after His Transfiguration (Mark 9:14-29). Jesus healed the son of the royal official in Capernaum (John 4:46-54) He raised the dead son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17). And we are told in Matthew, Mark, and Luke how Jesus highlighted God’s love for children. While scolding His own disciples, Jesus taught them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 18:1-11, Matthew 19:13-15, Mark 10:13-16, Luke 18:15-17) In an age of history when children did not have the priority nor the rights which they do in our culture, Jesus showed that our Lord has amazing love and concern for all the vulnerable, especially for children.
Then I looked at my own prayer list and started counting the children for whom I pray. Some of those I pray for are young children. But, others are the grown children of church members, or children of friends who have asked me to pray for their beloved. I counted that I pray for over 30 children, and that number does not even count my daily prayers for my own 4 children and 6 grandchildren. So, I am praying for around 40 children on a regular basis.
It is not a surprise that we love our own offspring. It is not a surprise that we care about the vulnerable and the hurting, and that we desire that God acts with His love and His mercy in their lives. What is comforting to me, and even gives me peace, is that our Heavenly Father declared through His own Son, Jesus, that He has a special love and concern for the children of this world. In fact, we should not be surprised at God’s love for children. Our Lord Himself chose to enter this world to save us, as a child, as an infant. “4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. 6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” (Galatians 4:4-6)
This week we enter the holiday season, a time during which our society gives special attention to our children. In a healthy family parents and grandparents love their children and care for them. But, there are times that even loving parents experience weakness and helplessness as they care for those they love. What a blessing that in His wisdom and power, God does love the children of the world. What a blessing that the Lord loves our children. What a blessing that we can go in prayer to the one who declares, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”