13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 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.15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.
(Mark 10:13-16 NIV)
Jesus was on His way from Capernaum to Jerusalem and stopped in Judea. The Pharisees were the ever-present naysayers in the crowd; they had posed a question to Jesus in hopes of tripping Him up or finding fault with Him. Their question centered on marriage and divorce. The Pharisees asked the “what” question; Jesus answered with the much deeper “why”.
As we step into today’s passage, we see Jesus continue to deal with the family, namely, children. People in the crowd were bringing their children to Jesus to be blessed by Him. It was normal for mothers to bring their children to a well-known rabbi for his blessing upon them. While verse 13 uses the vague term “people” to describe the ones bringing the little children to Jesus, some scholars suggest this could have also included fathers as well as other children bringing their younger siblings to meet Jesus.
When Jesus’ disciples saw what was going on, they tried to intervene and move the kids away from Jesus. The disciples probably thought that Jesus was far too important to be bothered by the likes of little kids swarming around Him.
Jesus saw what His disciples were trying to do, and became indignant toward them. Once again, we see Jesus’ emotions coming forth, expressing His frustration with His disciples for their lack of understanding and their hard-heartedness.
Jesus’ emotion was not wasted, however. Jesus used the opportunity to teach His disciples, the crowd, and us about the kingdom of God. So what can we learn from Jesus’ teaching? Why did He say the kingdom of God belongs to the likes of little children? And why do we have to receive the kingdom of God like a little child?
- Children are helpless – they have no intrinsic ability to generate value or worth. Their condition is just like ours before God – we bring no redeeming qualities, no righteousness before a holy and just God. Our worth, value, and redemption are a gift from God alone.
- Children receive a gift with humility and without suspicion or doubt. They don’t reject a gift given in good faith and pure motives because of pride or the feeling that they must earn it. So we must come to Christ and accept His gift of eternal life by faith. We can’t earn our way into heaven; we can never be good enough to merit God’s favor.
- Children respond to simple expressions of love. Gentle words, a smile, a hug, the kindness in someone’s eyes, and an open spirit all communicate love to a child. While their parents or older siblings may have brought the little children to Jesus, the little ones experienced His abundant love for them firsthand and flocked to Him.
As the children gathered around Jesus, He proceeded to lay His hands on them and pronounce blessings upon them.
While we may be adults, may we have the same child-like response to Jesus’ love and care for us. Jesus is not a cruel taskmaster or relentless judge, demanding that we get our lives in order before we come before Him. Instead, He offers eternal life to all who will come to Him and accept His free gift of eternal life; He accepts us as we are, broken, hurting, and dirty with the sins of our attitudes, choices, and actions.
If you have not accepted Jesus’ free gift of eternal life and humbled yourself before Him and given Him control of your life, what is stopping you? If you come as a little child, He will not turn you away. While I can tell you that this is true in my life, you don’t need to take my word for it – Jesus said so Himself.