From the Lips of Children

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, the day of the Christian calendar where we celebrate the Triumphal Entry, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey while the crowd shouted “Hosanna!” That means, “Save!” The choice of donkey versus a horse demonstrates that Jesus is the humble king. But there is another detail of this story that is often missed, and that is the role that children play in the Triumphal Entry according to the Matthew account of the story (Matt 21:1-17). Here is the passage from the NIV:

21 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 5 “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them.7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” 12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” 14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,”they were indignant. 16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?” 17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.

Matthew 21:1-17, NIV

My wife and I have three children, ages 4, 7, and 13. For years, we have kept a notebook in a cabinet in our dining room that is basically the “from the lips of children” notebook. Any parents out there know what I’m talking about? It’s when your child, usually young and still learning English, says something silly, sweet, deeply profound, or all three at the same time. You need to write it down, otherwise you’ll forget it.

In our Bible passage today, we have the original entry into the “from the lips of children” notebook. And that is the sounds of children praising Jesus in the temple. Jesus confronts the religious leaders who were bothered by the sound of children singing praises in the temple. Jesus sticks up for the children and reminds the religious leaders, who knew their Bibles, that the Bible itself said the Lord would call forth praise from the lips of children. The religious people had somehow forgotten that children can and should worship God in the temple too. May we never forget the importance of welcoming the children in worship as we are doing today. In fact, I would challenge us to think of children as the ones from whom we should be learning how to worship.

You see, this passage shows us that the children continued their Palm Sunday praises all the way from the road to Jerusalem into the temple itself. Look at the passage – the story of Jesus turning over the tables in the temple happens immediately after his Triumphal Entry. He rode the donkey, entered Jerusalem, and then entered the temple. Verse 15 tells us that in the temple, “the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’…” This means that the kids kept praising. They didn’t stop at the end of the Triumphal Entry.

That’s why children should be the role models for us in worship, not the other way around. They keep praising, like the kids in Matthew 21:15. Let us always promote and foster opportunities for children to worship with and among adults in the life of Christian congregations. We are missing out on something if we never worship together with the children.

Continue to lean into intergenerational worship and always look for new and creative ways to have all the generations of God’s people intermingle, pray together, and worship together.

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Dr. Jesse Joyner travels nationwide as a speaker and entertainer. His primary role is that of a performing juggler spreading joy and the love of learning to family and kids events. H earned his PhD in Educational Studies at Trinity International University (Deerfield, IL). He enjoys playing the piano, bird watching, and old houses. He lives in Richmond, VA with his wife, Sarah, and their three kids - the perfect number for juggling children.