There’s an old English proverb, going back at least 600 years: Children should be seen and not heard. The implication seems to be that they’ll be tolerated in adult society as long as they keep still and keep quiet!
Not everyone takes that view, of course. And it’s certainly not what we see in the Scriptures. There were even times when children in the Bible are seen as the heroes. An unnamed Hebrew slave girl was the means of sending the Syrian soldier Naaman to Elisha, whom God used to heal him of leprosy. And Paul’s young nephew overheard a plot against the apostle, and was the means of saving his life (Acts 23:12-31).
We know too that in during the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus, the disciples seemed to take the “children should be seen and not heard” attitude. However, the Lord not only welcomed them, but took them in His arms and blessed them. And more, He pointed to the simple trust of little children to illustrate the kind of faith needed to enter the kingdom of God. “Assuredly, I say to you [Jesus said], “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will be no means enter in.” (Mk. 10:13-16) Christ also condemned, in the severest way, any who would draw children who believed in Him into sin. (Matt. 18:6)
That brings us to the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem, the week before He was crucified. It was a public presentation of Himself as Israel’s Messiah-King. In fulfilment of prophecy, the Lord rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. (Zech 9:9) His followers thronged around Him, rejoicing. As they waved palm branches, many cast their cloaks before Him to make a royal pathway for the King’s entry into the city – rather like rolling out the red carpet! As they went along, the multitudes shouted things such as, “Blessed is the King who comes in the man of the Lord!” (Lk. 19:38)
When they reached the temple precincts, children in the crowd cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David [a messianic title]!” (Matt. 21:15-16) The Jewish leaders were indignant at this. They thought that here indeed were children who should keep quiet – along with Christ’s followers. Were they right to try to silence the children? After all, what could the little ones know about Bible prophecy? The answer is, likely more than we realize. Jewish families were traditionally well taught in the Scriptures.
On the other hand, many of the adults in the crowd didn’t fully understand what was happening. The point is that it was time for praise. The Lord Jesus responded to the critical leaders, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.” (Lk. 19:40) It was a way of saying the coming of the King needed to be announced, and He would be, whether they liked it or not.
In 1830, a hymn called When His Salvation Bringing was published. It was written by an English curate, and there seems to have been some confusion about his name at first. The hymn was ascribed to I. King. But it was later claimed his first name was Joshua. Then after church records were checked, it was discovered his true name was John King (1759-1858). His hymn calls upon us all to praise the Lord as the children did.
“When, His salvation bringing, / To Zion Jesus came, / The children all stood singing / Hosanna to His name; / Nor did their zeal offend Him, / But, as He rode along, / He let them still attend Him, / And smiled to hear their song. / [And] should we fail proclaiming / Our great Redeemer’s praise, / The stones, our silence shaming, / Would their hosannas raise. / But shall we only render / The tribute of our words? / No; while our hearts are tender, / They too shall be the Lord’s.”