A mid-week devotional from Central Presbyterian Church helping us to help prepare our hearts for the day ahead. If you would like to receive these in your inbox, please let us know. Find the complete archive here.
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 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. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
Our girls are growing up fast. Too fast, actually. It feels like I went from becoming a first-time Daddy to being the Father of a ten-year-old in just the blink of an eye. Most of the time it seems like a decade lasted only a single day—although to be honest there have been times where a day felt like a decade. When our now pre-teen was still just a wee little thing, one of her favorite things was to have Mommy or Daddy sing with her every night as she got snuggled into bed. Even if it was getting late into the evening or she was already dozing off on the way to her bedroom, we were not allowed to leave the room without a song. Although Mommy has both the FAR superior voice and extensive selection of lullabies to choose from, our little one seemed just as satisfied when it was my turn to tuck her in. And every night she happily requested one of the three songs in my catalog: Jesus Loves the Little Children, Jesus Loves Me, or Amazing Grace. As is often the case, the simplest messages are often the most profound. Along with having a divine calming effect on an energetic little girl, the simple lyrics would often penetrate deep into my own heart and set my soul at rest.
Throughout the gospel of Mark we have seen that wherever He went, everyone gravitated to Jesus. In our passage today, it is a group of parents who came to Him. Just like the others who flocked to Jesus, they wanted something from Him. But they didn’t want Him to fill their bellies, provide a demonstration of His miraculous healing power, or even answer their controversial moral and ethical questions. Instead, they sought His blessing for their precious babies.
In the Roman world children were thought of as little more than personal property to be used at the sole discretion of the father. It was not uncommon for Roman families to discard undesirable newborns—like girls or those born with disabilities—by leaving them on the street to die. It was not until the mid fourth century AD, following the influence of Christianity, that the practice of infanticide was prohibited within the empire.
The Jews, however, had a much different view of children, at least in theory. The Scriptures taught that children were a blessing from the Lord, and a lack of children, especially sons, was often seen as a curse upon a woman and family. But although the Bible clearly taught the dignity and sanctity of every human life, in reality children were prized more for their utilitarian role in the family business and/or keeping the family name alive.
While bearing children certainly played an important role in Jewish family life, it was often thought better that they be neither seen nor heard. The disciples certainly bought into this line of thinking when they rebuked the families who came with their little one’s to Jesus. To them, Jesus was an important man with important things to do, He was certainly much too busy to be bothered by ordinary infants and toddlers.
Jesus, however, did not agree with their assessment. He saw their actions and He became, our Bible translation tells us, “indignant.” This Greek word, translated “indignant,” occurs only here in all of the New Testament, and it is actually a compound word that literally means “much grieved.” Jesus wasn’t just perturbed at the stubborn ignorance of His disciples, He was heartbroken.
We can imagine Jesus racing over before the families had a chance to get away. In their presence, He reprimanded His disciples and demanded, “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.”
The disciples saw the children as a distraction from the important work, but Jesus knew that this was the important work. The families came to Jesus not because the little ones were maimed or sick or dying, but with the simple faith that He would bless their children. They may not have known much, but they knew enough to know that it was good to be in the presence of Jesus, and Jesus not only honored their faith, but commended it.
Jesus explained to His disciples that not only must they never prevent little ones from coming to Him, but they should actually follow their example. Unlike the others who came to Jesus, they did not do so with an agenda. They were not looking for Him to affirm their outward acts of righteousness or excuse their sinful behavior. They did not ask Jesus to tell them who was greater or promise them a place of honor. They came humbly and simply.
For the children, and their families, merely being in the presence of Jesus was a joy and delight. They did not seek His blessing so that they would become famous or wealthy. Rather, they believed that Jesus was good and He loved them. A simple faith. A true faith.
How do we come to Jesus? When do we seek Him? Do we come with agendas? Do we want Him to bless our plans? Do we turn to Him only when everything else has failed, when we have run out of options? Jesus wants us to come to Him with the simplicity of a little child. With faith that He is God, to trust that He is good, and to know that He loves us. Not because of who we are, but because of who He is.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, we confess that often times we make faith much more complicated than it needs to be. But the truth is that You don’t demand that we have all of the answers before we come to You. We don’t have to wait until we get our act together. You have told us that we can simply come to You as we are, mess and all. You are our good and perfect Father, and only You can offer forgiveness and save us from our sin. Give us tender hearts and remind us of these simple truths today. We love You. Amen.