Out of the Mouths of Children

“Out of the Mouths of Children”

Sermon from Sunday, April 21, 2024

Dr. Jesse Joyner

*Scripture passages are from the NIV unless otherwise noted.

Matthew 21:6

“…and they said to him, ‘Do you hear what these are saying?’

And Jesus said to them, ‘Yes; have you never read,

‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies
 you have prepared praise’?”


Tables are often places of gathering – especially when there is food on them. Jesus knew what he was doing when he gave us the gift of communion. He knew that food and wine on a table would forever gather us in ways that unify us and draw us into community as we worship Him and remember what He did for us. One thing I like about tables with food is that they bring together all the generations. It doesn’t matter if you are young, old, or somewhere in the middle, we all get hungry and a table with food on it will bring young and old together. For our family of five, the dinner table (and occasionally breakfast and lunch) is often the sacred time of the day where we pause from the many distractions of life, sit and face one another, and dialogue with stories from our day, games where we have to guess a place we’ve all visited using only the first letter as a clue. We share our highs and mediums of the day. But it is not always cheery either. We share our lows and tears as well. It is truly a joy.

Here on Sundays we have the table of communion, the continuation of what Jesus started in the Upper Room. And as a spiritual family, we gather around this table as multiple generations.

Additionally, in our congregation, the downstairs fellowship time, what Miss Mia calls “happy hour” for our church, is indeed just that. It is one of the happiest hours of the week because we get to drink coffee with 3 or 4 generations at once while children steal cookies, play red light/green light; some youth are nearby, holding babies for overwhelmed young parents; and it’s not uncommon to see a spontaneous prayer circle break out when someone shares what they’re going through with the people near them. Now we even have a free pantry table downstairs, which I encourage you to both give to and take from. 

Children Playing

This is a taste of heaven. One of the lesser known prophets of the Bible, Zecharaiah, paints a picture of the heavenly Jerusalem. I’ve shared this same verse before from this pulpit, but I love it so much I need to repeat myself. In chapter 8, “Zack” says,

“This is what the Lord says: ‘I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the Faithful City, and the mountain of the Lord Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain.’ This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each of them with cane in hand because of their age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there’” (Zech 8:4-5).

Did you hear that? Children playing is an activity of heaven! So is a bunch of “ripe” people sitting in the streets. When we see children running up and down the aisles in worship here, we are experiencing a taste of heaven. When we see older generations connecting in various ways with younger generations, we are experiencing a taste of heaven. God loves all generations and I believe he loves it even more when we are intentional to make sure we all intermix and support one another.


And I am talking about more than beyond our nuclear families. I mean intergenerationalism in the entire family of God. The Fuller Youth Institute found the following:

“As important as parents are in a young person’s life…some of our most interesting research has been about the power of intergenerational relationships. We looked at 13 different youth group participation variables and the one that most correlated with mature faith was intergenerational worship and relationships…Our research shows how  important it is for young people to have not just parents investing in them but other adults investing in them, mentoring them, being that safety net for them as they’re making choices for their own” (Talking Faith with Kara Powell, Kitchen Table Project; https://www.genonministries.org/pages/why-intergenerational)

Pastor Christina Embree says that intergenerationalism in the context of church means the following: 

“Intergenerational ministry is more of a cultural characteristic of a church than it is a ministry area; it is a culture that values and creates space for meaningful connections to be made across generational boundaries in a variety of settings for the purpose of generational discipleship, faith formation, and community building” (https://refocusministry.org/)

Belongingness in the Family of God

I had the privilege of traveling to Slovakia last week, where I spent time with Pastor Miro Tothke and the congregation of Apostolic Church in Kosice. Pastor Miro and I were talking about intergenerationalism and he said, “When God gave Moses his calling card, he said, ‘I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” He went on to explain that God identified himself in terms of being a God of child, parent, and grandparent – the God of all generations at once. While in worship with them last Sunday, I stood beside another pastor (Pastor Eric) who was holding his toddler son in one arm and praising Jesus with the other. When it came time for Eric to go on the platform to lead the congregation in the next part of the service, he handed his son over to an 11 year old girl in the row behind him, a youth who was not in his nuclear family. It was beautiful to see a congregation where everybody looked out for everybody else, no matter their age. Now, I’m not recommending we put the 3 year olds in charge of the 2 year olds. But I think you get my point.

Paul tells us in Romans:

“So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Rom 12:5).

You see, we belong to one another in the body of Christ. Each child is a niece or nephew and each adult an auntie or uncle in the family of God.

And yet, many churches today (especially in America) congregate in ways that separate the generations into different silos with little to no co-mingling between the generations. Having visited many churches in my life, I can say that here at Eternity, I see beautiful and healthy expressions of intergenerationalism that we can thank God is a strength of our church. I think of the children and family Sundays where we have the youth preach to us adults as just one example. But we can always ask God to continue growing and leaning into this way of congregational life.

“I Thought You Had Him!”

Back to that verse about belonging to one another in the family of God, intergenerational belongingness was a feature of first century middle eastern culture. In fact, it’s the very reason why Mary and Joseph lost Jesus. Remember the story in Luke when Jesus and his family go to Jerusalem for Passover and then during the long walk home (Jerusalem to Nazareth on foot would take about 3-4 full days of walking), they lose sight of Jesus?…

41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions (Luke 2:41-46).

“Thinking he was in their company…” Why did Mary and Joseph think he was in their company? Because this was a community caravan. Everyone was looking out for everyone else. Every adult was an auntie or uncle to every kid in the community. My mother tells me of a time when she was a child in Detroit, Michigan in the 1960’s. When the elderly Mrs. Cooper would return from the store with a car full of groceries, all the children in the neighborhood would stop their playing in the street, grab a bag of groceries, and help her carry all the bags inside. This was a common thing and nobody had to tell the kids to do it. The expectation was that neighbors looked out for neighbors, no matter your age. What happened?

Well, back to the caravan to Nazareth, in this particular case, the aunties and uncles failed in their human job to keep an eye on Jesus. But we know from the story that Jesus was never really lost at all, he was about his heavenly father’s business in the temple. But I can’t help but think about Mary and Joseph and what it was like to realize they had lost Jesus. If you remember, they were told that he was going to like, save the world (Matt 1:21). And now they lost him :).

Again, how can we as a congregation have a “community caravan” mentality that looks out for all the children as we journey together on this pilgrimage and eat together at this table? We of course don’t want to lose children physically. But we should encourage them to get “lost” in their father’s business, acting as role models of faith to us adults, just as Jesus did (Luke 2:49, 1 Tim 4:12). 85-year-old Pastor Shirley Caesar, also known as, “The Queen of Gospel Music,” once recorded an old Spiritual called, “Little Boy, How Old are You?” In it, she sings,

Little boy, how old are you?

Little boy, how old are you?

Little boy, how old are you?

Jesus said, I’m only 12 years old

Of this little boy you have this to remember

He was born the 25th of December, the lawyers and the doctors stood amazed

All they had to give this littl boy was praise.

Little boy, how old are you?

Little boy, how old are you?

Little boy, how old are you?

Jesus said, I’m only 12 years old

As a congregation, let us allow ourselves to stand amazed at the faith of the 12 year olds in our midst, the 2 year olds, and also the 90 year olds. God is a God of all generations. And we all have something to learn from one another.

Assemble the People

In Deuteronomy 31, we find Moses writing down God’s law, handing it to the priests, and telling them the following:

“Assemble the people – men, women, and children, and the foreigners residing in your towns, so they can listen and learn to fear the Lord your God as long as you are living in the land of Jordan you are crossing to possess” (Deut 31:12-13).

Look at how that verse includes not just intergenerationalism but also interculturalism. A strong, healthy body of believers does both at the same time. We are a collective unit, not a group of disconnected generations. And we should seek to gather, pray, and worship as collectively and as intergenerationally and interculturally as possible. I would challenge you to ask God this week how you can cross a generational or cultural boundary in a meaningful way. Maybe it is praying with someone from a different generation than you. Perhaps it is simply introducing yourself to someone else in the congregation from a different generation or cultural background that you previously have not introduced yourself to because of the natural tendency that we all have to flock together in generation-specific circles.

From the Lips of Children

In the event that we celebrate on Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey while the crowd shouted “Hosanna!” That means, “Save!” 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 21:7-17). 

Here is the passage:

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)

It is easy to think that the Triumphal Entry story ends at verse 11, just before Jesus enters the temple. But I believe there is reason to believe this part of Jesus’ story does not end there. The singing of ‘Hosanna!’ continues into the temple. Look at verse 15. The children are still shouting, ‘Hosanna!’ The crowd at the Triumphal Entry was an intergenerational one. In fact, the children outlasted the adults in this one, or at least they were the ones making enough noise in the temple to bother the priests and teachers of the law.

As many of you know, my wife, Sarah, and I have three children. 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 basic language skills, says something silly, sweet, deeply profound, or all three at the same time. You need to write it down, otherwise you’ll forget it.

This Triumphal Entry passage shows us that the children continued their Palm Sunday praises all the way from the road to Jerusalem into the temple itself. He rode the donkey, entered Jerusalem, and then entered the temple. Then 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 brought the party into the temple.

This is the original entry into the “from the lips of children” notebook: “Hosanna!” This is the sound 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.


That’s why children should be the role models for us in worship, not the other way around. They continue to praise, 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 congregation. We are missing out on something if we never worship together with the children. Let us gather around the Lord’s table together, young and old, rich and poor, every language, nation, and culture. Come to the intergenerational table, the table rooted in the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Meet someone new today from a generation different than your own, and ask God to open your eyes and theirs to the beauty of pilgrimaging together in this community caravan towards both the cross and the empty tomb, and ultimately to our heavenly Jerusalem, where there will be children playing in the streets.


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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.