From the Mouth of Babes

Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” (v. 16).  

- Matthew 21:14–17

During the last week of His life, Matthew 21:17 tells us, Jesus is spending His nights in Bethany, a village on the Mount of Olives less than an hour’s walk from Jerusalem. Our Lord is likely a guest at the home of His friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, for John’s gospel puts Christ there just before He enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (11:1, 17–19; 12:1–8, 12–19). Retiring each evening to Bethany would provide Jesus fellowship during this crucial time.

Such respite is needed due to His conflicts with the Jewish authorities. Jesus’ cleansing of the temple does not sit well with the Sanhedrin, the religious governing body of the Jews made up of the chief priests and other leaders. In fact, these officials want to destroy Him (Mark 11:15–19). Their hostility is clear when they come to Him as He heals the blind and the lame (Matt. 21:14–16). Based on a misreading of texts like 2 Samuel 5:6–10, some oral traditions barred the infirm from the temple, even the Court of the Gentiles where Jesus is ministering. Seeing the blind and the lame on the Temple Mount offends the Sanhedrin’s religious sensibilities, but more egregious to them is that a Nazarene of humble origin receives praise from the children (Matt. 21:16). Implicit in their confrontation is the belief that Jesus cannot possibly merit such acclaim.

Christ’s answer to their complaint gives the reason why the children may rightly praise Him. He quotes Psalm 8:2, a passage in which the “mouth of babes and infants” establishes “strength.” Matthew reflects the Greek translation in Psalm 8:2, in which “praise” accurately conveys the meaning of “strength” in the Hebrew text. The “Lord,” that is, Yahweh, is the object of the praise in the original psalm, and in referring the psalm to Himself, Jesus identifies Himself with the God of Israel. After all, if Jesus is worthy to receive the same praise as Israel’s covenant Lord, then He must without doubt be God incarnate.

Pride in their own status and power motivates the authorities to reject Jesus as the Messiah, despite all the proof of His anointing. Matthew Henry writes, “Proud men cannot bear that honor should be done to any but to themselves, and are uneasy at nothing more than at the just praises of deserving men.”

Coram Deo

Pride has traditionally been regarded as the greatest of all sins — and with good reason. Those who are puffed up with themselves are too proud to admit their failures and need of God. The proud become so concerned with maintaining their own prestige and power that they reject new ideas or information. Consider your life today and see if pride defines your character. Work to put any pride in your own abilities to death that you might not reject the Savior.

Passages for Further Study

Proverbs 27:2
Joel 2:12–17
Matthew 18:1–4
Romans 12:16

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