Mark 10: 13 – 31 NLT
Jesus Blesses the Children
13 One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.
14 When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” 16 Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.”
I want you to try to picture this scene in your minds. I don’t know where Jesus and his disciples are, but let’s put them in a meadow or field with stones you could sit on while they chat with each other. Then the families show up. The parents want Jesus to bless their children. (In Jewish tradition, Pharisees would touch and bless children. Obviously, these parents think highly of Jesus because they want him to bless their children.) The disciples are annoyed. They are dealing with crowds every day; sometimes they can hardly find time to eat. Now people want Jesus to pay attention to children, the lowest on the scale of valued human beings in that historic era. In the disciples’ minds, this is a waste of precious time.
Jesus is angry with the disciples. The New American Standard Bible translates the word as “indignant”. This is a pretty strong word. Jesus then took the children in his arms. I suspect there was more than one armful. Picture those children swarming around Jesus while he hugged them. In our pandemic time with no hugging allowed, that is a beautiful picture. Can you hear the children laughing and shoving to get close to Jesus?
Jesus tells the disciples, “the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.” What does he mean? Do we have to be innocent and naïve? The children who flocked to Jesus were not valued in their culture. They had nothing to offer Jesus. They didn’t even try to offer him anything. It was just his welcoming arms they wanted – something he could give them. That is how we come to Jesus. We have nothing to offer him. We may think we can impress God – that we are good people, and worthy of his notice – but we aren’t. Instead, God has everything to offer us. He wants us to come to him just because we want him in our lives – nothing else. Remember that chorus you may have learned as a child:
Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so,
Little ones to him belong
They are weak but he is strong.
“The Rich Man
17 As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. 19 But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’” (Exodus 20: 12 – 16; Deuteronomy 5: 16 – 20)
20 “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”
21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” 24 This amazed them. But Jesus said again, “Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God. 25 In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”
26 The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.
27 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.”
28 Then Peter began to speak up. “We’ve given up everything to follow you,” he said.
29 “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, 30 will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. 31 But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.”
This young man was the epitome of a great person. He has done the best he could to follow the Ten Commandments. He is wealthy. He wants to follow God. He looks like your basic wonderful person – honest and caring, successful in business, religious. What more could you want in a person? The disciples were impressed with him. Even Jesus loved him. “Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him.” (v. 21) He was just your nicest guy! But …
Jesus pins down the problem right away. When it came right down to it, the young man valued his wealth more than wanting to follow God. If we are honest with ourselves, we are like that young man. When we sense God leading us in some way, do we look at what we might lose – money, time, a good job, a certain reputation among our neighbours and friends, a comfortable lifestyle, etc.?
The disciples give a sigh of relief. They have given up family and jobs to follow Jesus. And Jesus acknowledges that. They have. He assures them that those who give up precious things to follow him will be rewarded. The rewards Jesus offers are rather interesting – “a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property”. Do you want a hundred times more children or mothers? I think Jesus is telling us that we will belong to a huge family of believers, a family that has a close bond like no other. I know that I have experienced that bond between believers as I’ve met other Christians in various places, and there has been a connection as soon as we realized we both loved Jesus. But we also can’t ignore the end of that sentence – “along with persecution”. Following Jesus doesn’t mean an easy life. Jesus didn’t have an easy life, and it ended in a horrendous way on the cross. There are both rewards and difficulties in following Jesus.
In some ways the story of the young rich man has ties to the account about Jesus loving the children. We follow Jesus with nothing to offer him. Like the children, some people have nothing by our world’s standards to offer him. Like the rich young ruler, we may think we have a lot to offer him, but not according to God. Every single one of us comes to God with nothing. That verse in the middle of the young man’s story tells us that. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked. Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.” (v. 26 – 27) God is the one who reaches out to us, and has paid the price for our sin. “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3: 16)
Nor one of us has anything to offer God. But, God offers us everything that matters.