A T last the time came when Jesus must leave the little quiet Nazareth village, and begin His Father's work. There were so many poor people in the dark world waiting for the Light, so much suffering and pain and sin waiting for the healing touch of His hand and His gracious word of forgiveness.
But although He was God, the Light of the world, who could forgive sins, yet He was Man too, and He never saved Himself from any of our hardships and temptations. The devil tempted Him just as he tempts each one of us now; and He often suffered hunger and pain, and many a night He had no place in which to shelter, or pillow on which to lay His head.
The story of His wonderful work has often been told—how He opened the eyes of poor blind men, healed the sick, fed the hungry, comforted the sorrowful, brought back life to the dead, and, more than all, taught people to know that God was their Father, and loved each one of them. But among all the stories of this wonderful life, children always love to remember the special times when Jesus had time to think of them, and to speak to them as well as to the grown-up people, and how the children of long ago showed their love for Him as well.
It was one day when Jesus was passing a little village that He sat down to rest for a while under the cool shade of a wayside tree. He was very weary, and His disciples and friends who were with Him were anxious that He should rest quietly, and that no one should disturb Him.
But the village people had heard that the great Teacher was there, and the joyful news quickly spread from house to house. The women hastily called the children together from their play. The little ones who could not walk they carried in their arms; even the tiniest babies were not left behind. These mothers knew how good and kind and wonderful this great Teacher was. They had heard how the very touch of His hand healed the sick and gave sight to the blind, and they wanted Him to lay those loving hands upon their children's heads, for they knew that His touch would bring a blessing.
Very soon a crowd had gathered, and began to move towards the place where Jesus was. The barefooted children in their scanty little garments pattered along the dusty road; the women in their coarse red and blue robes, with bright handkerchiefs over their heads, followed behind, carrying the babies in their arms. All hurried towards the place where that tired figure could be seen resting at the wayside.
The disciples of the Master frowned as they saw the approaching crowd. This was too bad. If there were sick people to be healed or anxious men who wanted to hear the Master's wise words, it would have been more easily excused. But to disturb Him for nothing more than a crowd of children and babies was more than they could bear. The women should have known better than to allow their children to come there and trouble the Master.
So the disciples hurried forward to check the little crowd and bring it to a standstill before it could disturb that quiet figure. The children were to go home at once, they said, and the mothers should be ashamed of themselves for being so selfish and thoughtless.
All the happy smiles began to fade upon the children's faces, and the mothers hung their heads with downcast looks when they heard the rebuking words. Slowly they turned to go back again without the blessing they had longed for. But in a moment their disappointment was turned into joy, for the Master, looking on, called to them Himself, and the sound of His dear voice could be heard by all.
"Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not," He said, "for of such is the kingdom of God."
He was displeased with His disciples for trying to send the little ones away. He wanted them, every one.
The children were not shy. They knew at once that it was the voice of some one who loved them, and they pressed happily forward as near to Him as possible, resting their little sunbrowned hands confidingly on His knee, or clutching at a fold of His robe. The mothers, too, came near, and humbly asked if He would lay His hand in blessing on their babies' heads. Each little dark or sunny head felt the touch of that gentle hand as the children gathered round His knees. And not only that, but He took the tiny babies in His own arms, just as the good shepherd carries his lambs.
It was when His life on earth was nearly ended, that once more a crowd of children gathered round the Master. But this time they did not come to ask anything of Him, but to give Him all they had to offer—their song of praise and worship.
The day before, Jesus had ridden into Jerusalem amidst the welcoming shouts of the people. The men and women who went out to meet Him treated Him as if He were indeed a king. There was no procession of horsemen and chariots, no banners flying or trumpets blown, no royal robes or jewelled crown. The King, clothed in His peasant robes, rode upon a humble ass, and there seemed nothing to show that He was a great conqueror. But that day the people hailed Him as their earthly king. They took off their garments, and laid them on the road as a carpet for Him to ride over; they cut down palms and silvery olive branches, and strewed them in His way. The air rang with the sound of their voices as they shouted, "Hosanna: Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest."
The Trimphal Entry
The children amongst the crowd listened to that shout of praise, and it rang in their ears until they too joined in the song. And later on, when the King entered the Temple, they gathered round Him, a little group of children, and sang out again with all their hearts the hymn they had learned: "Hosanna: Hosanna in the highest."
"Suffer little children to come unto Me."
The frowning, white-robed priests were very angry as they listened. They were really more angry with Jesus than with the children, for they hated Him, and it made them furious to hear the people call Him a King. They dared not say what was in their hearts to Him, but it was safer to blame the children who were making so much noise in the Holy Temple with their hymn of praise.
"Hearest Thou what these say?" demanded one of the chief priests of Jesus, with an impatient gesture of his hands towards the singing children.
But Jesus loved to hear those childish voices. It made Him happy to receive their praise and love, and He would not bid them be silent. It was perfect praise, He told the priest who wished to have them silenced.
With the same kind look in His eyes as when He took those village babies in His arms, He listened now to the voices of the city children, ready always, then as now, to receive their love and worship.