Read Mark 10
Focus on verse 13-15
They can be cute, and they can be trying, happy and sweet, or angry and crying. Children are one of the greatest blessings we can experience in this adventure we call life. They can also cause us great anguish and hardship when they, or we, make poor choices.
My wife and I have been blessed with four children who at this point appear to have not only survived to adulthood, but seem to be on a path to becoming productive members of society. As of this year, they are all adults, in the last few years we have been blessed with two beautiful daughters-in-law, and more recently, one grandson.
As I think back on the early days of our family when the boys were young it was not always easy being a parent, but I wouldn’t trade the experience away for all the wealth in the world. To be fair, I suspect it was not always easy for them to have me as a parent either, but we all seem to have survived with minimal permanent damage.
Children can be the most wonderful and most annoying creatures on the earth, and the weird part is they seem to be able to make that transition from wonderful to annoying and back again with seamless precision. It is because of my experience with children over the years that I understand exactly why Jesus disciples might have tried to shoo the children away from Jesus as He was teaching the crowds. After all, Jesus was on a mission! He had important things to do, places to go, people to see and all that. I suspect the disciples thought they were doing Jesus a favor by protecting him from being distracted by a bunch of unruly children.
Imagine their surprise when Jesus turns this event into a teachable moment in regard to the kingdom of God.
And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (v. 13-15)
What does it mean to receive the kingdom of God “like a child”? How does a child receive things? Perhaps the most significant aspect of childlike faith is that children tend to be very trusting, and they take things very literally. Experts who study children tell us that most children don’t begin to fully understand abstract concepts until around age six or seven.
There is a secondary concept that Jesus may have been seeking to impress upon His disciples in regard to elevating the role and importance of children. Throughout much of human history, children have been viewed as possessions. In most agrarian cultures they were valued as additional labor on the farm. In some cultures children could be sold as slaves. There are places in the world to this day where young girls are valued by how many cows a prospective husband might pay to marry them.
Jesus statement of “Let the children come to me…” could be seen as an elevation of the value of children as human beings who have value to the kingdom of God and as whole people despite the fact that they were not yet adults.
The main point of what Jesus was attempting to convey however, was that in order to understand and enter into the kingdom of God, it requires childlike faith, like the faith that a child has in a father that they trust. When my boys were three or four years old, they asked a lot of why questions, but they rarely questioned the answers that I gave them. Ten years later that was no longer the case, and quite honestly I am glad they learned how to question and evaluate and don’t always take everything they hear as truth. The one place however where we can trust that truth is trustworthy is the word of God, and in order to enter into the kingdom of God – apparently God expects us to take His word for it – as a child would.