And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them (Mark 10:13–16, esv).
The day the overzealous disciples decided to play bodyguards for Jesus, they picked the wrong people to exclude. “Get back!” the disciples warned the children, chasing them away. Jesus’ reaction was strong and indignant. Not only did He welcome the kids, but He also invited them close. He “took them in his arms and blessed them” (10:16). That combination of physical touch and life-giving words must have marked those kids for life. And we can do the same for the kids in our lives.
The Hebrew word blessing means literally to bow the knee. The blessing is a formula of words that express fondness for, confidence in, and recognition of a specific person. The blessing was a bestowal of favor, a transaction that gave material and spiritual benefit to the recipient. It happened as a process—a person grew up receiving words of blessing. But then, at a certain time in Jewish families, there was a ceremony to give the blessing. While special emphasis was placed on the firstborn, every child in a family received this blessing (Genesis 48:1—49:27).
The father would call together some of his friends, and they would form a circle around this son or daughter. In bestowing the blessing, a Hebrew dad would speak into the life of his teenager, affirming the child and offering wisdom about life. At the conclusion, the father would awkwardly take the son or daughter up on his shoulders and dance around the room in celebration, saying publicly in front of his peers, “This is my beloved son [or daughter], in whom I am well pleased.” You might recognize those words as the same ones God the Father used to bless His Son (Matthew 3:17; 17:5). The significance of the blessing is modeled in the Father-Son relationship in the Trinity.
Blessing is not a generic compliment or shallow affirmation, as in, “Boy! You’re a good soccer player,” or, “Wow! Daddy’s girl looks pretty today!” Rather, blessing is parental bestowal of favor, acceptance, and goodwill, rooted in who the person is—not just the child’s appearance or accomplishments but in his very personhood. As parents or significant people in a child’s life, we can have a powerful ministry by speaking words of blessing.
Heavenly Father, thank You that You are a God who holds us close and blesses us. Thank You for modeling that when You spoke words of favor over Your Son. Thank You for the example of Jesus, who did not withhold blessing from the neediest but drew them into His arms and spoke life-giving words over them. Open my eyes to see children close to me who crave and deserve to be blessed, and teach me to follow Your example. In the name of Jesus, Your beloved Son, with whom You are well pleased, amen.