We have been discussing in recent blogs the uniqueness of each of us as individuals who are created in the image of God in accordance with David’s writing of Psalm 139. We stated that every life matters to God and He is the great Creator God who forms us and knows us even in our mother’s womb. I thought I would like to consider for the next few weeks Jesus’ attitude towards children revealed in the Gospels. We read in Mark’s gospel, “People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but his disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and bless them,”(Mark 10:13-16 NIV). As we approach this passage, it’s important to understand that in biblical times children were socially and physically powerless. The infant mortality rate was somewhere around 50% of children died before the age of 12. The children being brought to Jesus are probably under the age of 12 or 13. This blessing was more for the parent’s peace of mind than the status of the children. It was customary in biblical times for children to be brought to rabbis for blessing, so therefore as a result of Jesus’s popularity, it was reasonable for the parents to want Jesus to bless their children. Some were infants in their parent's arms, while others were young children old enough to walk who Jesus would’ve welcomed. In this context, Jesus has just been speaking about the sanctity of marriage by which the safety of the home is secured. He now teaches on the sacredness of childhood.
One of the faith lessons in this passage is that children should experience the touch of Jesus in their lives. 10 years ago, when I was ministering in Eluhu, A.P. India, the crowds were overwhelmingly supportive. At one village church where I ministered a woman brought her newborn infant to me and asked me to bless and name her daughter. What an amazing experience! These proud parents are bringing their precious children to Jesus for Him to touch and bless. None are so innocent as to not need the touch of Jesus’s atoning power. In our service for the Lord Jesus Christ, we never know when He’s going to show up in an unusual or unexpected way. The personal touch of Jesus represents a personal relationship with Him. When we have spiritual contact with Jesus, we need to be eagerly excited for our children to experience that touch as well. This is clearly seen in the experience of the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:29 – 33.
In the midst of this rather beautiful picture of parents bringing their children to be blessed by Jesus, we see a very negative response by the disciples in rebuking the parents for desiring to have Jesus bless their children. How could the disciples be so out of touch with the heart and mind of the Lord Jesus Christ? The disciples did not understand the heart of Jesus, they were eager to get on with setting up the kingdom and children didn’t really have any place in their thinking. They probably thought they were just doing Jesus a favor by helping to protect His time and conserve His energy. In other words, they didn’t consider children worthy of Jesus’ time. Their attitude is very strange given the fact that Jesus had already taught them to receive children in His name and to be careful not the cause children to stumble. In rebuking the parents, the disciples revealed their own priorities. The disciples had very little time for those who had no religious or political power, and they discounted the importance of children in the kingdom of God. It is a serious thing to look lightly upon children and their place in God’s plan. Children represent the possibility of infinite good, and when we think of the over 60 million children who have been aborted in our nation with the stamp of our government’s approval, we think of the loss of talents and gifts they could have contributed to our world. The disciples consider these children an imposition as they thought it was below the dignity of their Master to be occupied with little ones. I can hear them say, “Jesus doesn’t have time for you”. How awful it would be to be hindered from bringing your children to Jesus Christ. Let us do everything we can to reach out to children to bring them into the presence of Jesus, so He can touch their hearts and lives.
Jesus’s response was to rebuke His disciples. In fact, the word “indignant” (NIV) is a combination of 2 Greek words which means “much grieved”. The word carries with it deep emotional significance. The verb in Mark’s gospel is a highlighted word in the Greek language. Our Lord actually became indignant as he openly rebuked his disciples for standing in the way of children coming to Him. Jesus viewed the children as significant creations of His heavenly Father, and He loved them and so He speaks with frustration against His disciples. “Let the children come to me”, carries the idea of getting out of the way and stop preventing them from coming to me. Again, they thought His mind was occupied with tremendous things and felt He shouldn’t be disturbed when in actuality Jesus came to be a friend of children and anyone else who will call out to Him. Jesus was very displeased with the attitude of His disciples. Lord willing, next week we will consider His instruction about becoming members of the kingdom of God. Because of their simple faith, children are ideal converts who can understand how much God loves them in giving His Son for them. Next week will see Jesus announcing that children are better examples for the kingdom than adults. We tend to tell children to behave like adults, but Jesus tells adults to model ourselves after children.
Standing with Jesus for children also means standing for life as well. When we stand for life, we stand with the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the author of all life (John 1:2). Let us commit to value all life, while at the same time doing all we can to invite children to come and have a living encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Rejoicing in our Savior,
Pastor Rich Sivo