Coming to Jesus
The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.
Mark 10:13-16 MSG
If you take a bunch of kids to an amusement park, do they typically spend the trip there arguing about who’s going to meet the owner of that park first, sit right next to him in all the important meetings, or argue over the position of CFO? No, probably not! They’ll probably spend the trip excitably discussing the rides, who’d been on what before, what they wanted to do first (and if they’re boys, who will wuss out of the roller-coaster). The consensus would be that the whole experience will be the best thing ever!
Bookending this episode where Jesus encounters little kids we have two instances where Jesus’ disciples argue about exactly those things we wouldn’t expect kids to argue about (in Mark 9:33-37 and 10:35-45): who was and would be the most important in this “kingdom of heaven” Jesus kept talking about; who’d be the biggest big shot (except for Jesus, of course). The disciples were still keenly interested in power. What they saw in all the miracles Jesus performed and all the teaching he did was a new means to power, rather than what Jesus had been trying to say: that power as society understood it was corrupt, and that he had come to flip the tables on this corruption. Jesus’ disciples were missing the forest for the trees.
Kids tend to do things for their own sake, rarely for a hazy future reward. But we adults, we like to invest in things, to build up portfolios of other people’s “IOUs”. I think this translates into our religious lives as legalism: outwardly we appear obedient, faithful; we don’t do the “obvious” bad things. But what’s our motivation? Think about Peter’s declaration of Jesus as the Christ back in Mark 8:29 and Peter’s subsequent behaviour. Peter’s expectation of the Christ would have been something like a warrior king – a leader who would free Israel from oppression, not the suffering servant that actually appeared. So what was Peter’s motivation in proclaiming Jesus to be the Messiah? Knowing Peter, certainly not his own eventual martyrdom!
Jesus used the innocence of children to express this concept of the Great Reversal – of the greatest being the least, the last first – because while kids may argue about many things and while they may occasionally literally sit on each other’s heads, they are not primarily concerned with being a head honcho for all eternity. I don’t think, when Jesus swept those little kids into his arms, they were pondering either politics or theology, do you? No, they were too busy whooping, squealing, giggling – they were too busy being blessed by Jesus to care about such trivialities as power!
Isn’t that a much better relationship dynamic with Jesus to strive for than a vengeful God mercilessly keeping score against us even as we keep score against others? I don’t know about you, but I would take an enormous, leaping bear hug over that any day of the week!
Come, let us worship Him. Everyone bow down;
kneel before the Eternal who made us.
For He is our God
and we are His people, the flock of His pasture,
His sheep protected and nurtured by His hand.
(Psalm 95:6-7 VOICE)