10 Jesus said, “Be careful that you don’t look down on one of these little ones. I say to you that their angels in heaven are always looking into the face of my Father who is in heaven. 12 What do you think? If someone had one hundred sheep and one of them wandered off, wouldn’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hillsides and go in search for the one that wandered off? 13 If he finds it, I assure you that he is happier about having that one sheep than about the ninety-nine who didn’t wander off. 14 In the same way, my Father who is in heaven doesn’t want to lose one of these little ones.”
I’ve heard the idea of the ninety-nine and the one quoted more times than I can count. It’s the reason why in the church, we commit to going the extra mile to offer grace to those most in need of God’s love. Luke’s gospel portrays the one as a sinner in need of repentance (Luke 15:7). Jesus uses this image in the same chapter where he tells the story of the Prodigal Son. So that’s usually how I remember this passage.
But in Matthew, it’s presented differently. And I was surprised to rediscover that this passage is specifically directed toward kids. Matthew has Jesus using this image in a story about blessing children, even lifting them up as examples of faith. It’s a reminder that Jesus always intended for children to be central to the ministry of his Church. “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me,” he says (Matthew 18:5, CEB). Earlier today, Rachel and I did a chapel time with the preschoolers. Rachel read a story that reminded them how God made them and how much God loves them. Then we led some music and had a prayer. It was simple, but meaningful.
What was funny was that after chapel time was over, we spent another 15 minutes just talking about all the things that the kids loved. I’m not sure how it started, exactly, but all of a sudden, there we were, one after another. One little girl said: “I love cheetahs, and cats, and unicorns…” I’m probably forgetting one or two of the things she named. Another little boy just said he loved ducks. “White ducks, like the ones that live on farms.” I think they would have kept going for hours if we hadn’t moved them along to their next activity.
Someone who recently started coming to worship with us told me this week: “I like the idea that kids are welcomed and included in your worship service. They’re right in the center of everything you do.” I think this is exactly as our Lord intended, because God would go a long way to reach just one child with the message of Jesus’ saving love. Jesus said so himself!
by Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Is there a way that you might consider blessing a child today? Whether it’s spending time with a young member of your family, or making a gift to support a nonprofit serving kids, or investigating opportunities to serve in the church or with another organization – there are children who need your help. Remember, even if all you ever accomplish is to make a difference in ONE life, that’s EXACTLY what Jesus asked you to do!
Prayer: Lord Jesus, you call your Church both to have childlike faith, and to guide children on the path to being fully mature disciples. Guide us into ways that we can make a difference in the life of a young person. Remind us that you yourself called us to it! Amen.
As We Begin Lent
For our Lent series this year, we’ll be using the Adam Hamilton book Luke: Jesus and the Outsiders, Outcasts, and Outlaws. At his website, you can find a 40-day reading plan to help you read through the Gospel of Luke during Lent. And join us for worship, in-person or online, at 9:00 & 10:30 every Sunday.