Reading for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost:
And they took to him little children, so that he might put his hands on them: and the disciples said sharp words to them. And when Jesus saw it, he was angry, and said to them, Let the little children come to me, and do not keep them away; for of such is the kingdom of God. Truly I say to you, Whoever does not put himself under the kingdom of God like a little child, will not come into it at all. And he took them in his arms, and gave them a blessing, putting his hands on them. (Mark 10:13-16, BBE)
Jesus took the children in His arms and blessed them. Jesus’ touch showed the children were worthwhile.1 The Psalmist writes, “Sons are a gift of the Eternal, and children a boon from him.”2 Jesus, unlike the disciples, saw the potential in the children.3 The Messiah’s touch blesses,4 gives value to those who are not valued, and saves.
Children are a sign of God’s investment in humanity.5 They show the Lord has not washed His hands with humanity. He is allowing another generation of people come into the world. More importantly, He is touching another generation, blessing them, saving them, just as He touches, blesses and saves you.
The disciples may have been trying to protect Christ. Perhaps they did not want Jesus’ time being wasted. Their actions made it difficult to have access to the Messiah.6 Clearly the disciples had no right to decide who had access to Jesus.7 Notice Jesus’ reaction. He was angry! That is a lesson for us.8 We should not stand in the way of people coming to the Messiah.
Denied the Master’s touch
This passage made an impact on me. I wonder how many times I have discouraged people from bringing their loved ones to the Lord, the times when I discouraged those who just wanted to experience the Master’s touch. But they were not important, not good enough to me.
My mind also turned to the many people who churches discourage from coming to Jesus for a blessing, for a healing touch. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender believers are discouraged from coming to the Christ.
Churches place restrictions and demands on gay and bisexual believers that they would not place on anybody else. Queer Christians are sensitive to that, to receiving the right foot of fellowship for wanting to see Jesus. That said, we need to be careful to ensure we do not treat others as we have been treated. We need to be especially careful we do not move from being the spiritually bullied, denied and abused to being the spiritual bullies, deniers and abusers.
In churches, those people who are not welcome tend to be poor, impoverished, unemployed, disabled, under-educated, or have the wrong ethic or racial heritage or political affiliation. When churches make people feel unwelcome, churches effectively stop people from receiving God’s blessing — people who desperately need that blessing.
A spiritual Bill of Rights
Feel powerless, unwanted? This passage is for you. You see, one person referred to this passage as the children’s Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights for children.9 This could be viewed as a spiritual Magna Carta, a spiritual Bill of Rights giving children value and access to the Messiah.
This passage is more than just a spiritual Magna Carta for children; the children in this passage are symbolic of all those who are powerless, of those who are often excluded from access to the Savior, by those of us who serve the Lord. This verse is the spiritual Bill of Rights for all who have been prevented from having full access to God — including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians. This is God’s way of saying, “In Christ you have important connections. You have influence.”
Verse 15 tells us:
Truly I say to you, whoever does not put himself under the kingdom of God like a little child, will not come into it at all.
A few qualities of children include:
Gusto and enthusiasm. When my nephew was little, he did nothing halfway. Grandma was in the basement. He ran downstairs as she was coming upstairs and threw himself into her arms. Fortunately, Grandma was able to catch the human cannonball. I can imagine an enthusiastic tyke throwing himself into Jesus’ arms, knowing He is safe in the arms of the Lord.
Dependent. Children depend on people. They are not able to handle all of the challenges of life without assistance. We give up our own wisdom and our self-sufficiency10 and we become totally dependent on God11 to give us salvation. In the area of salvation, we are as helpless as a newborn. “We can no more earn the kingdom than a child can earn his livelihood.”12 As a child rests its head on the Savior’s arms, we can rest our souls on the Savior.13
Short memories. Children do not hold grudges and bitterness like adults.14 Oh, to have the ability to forget, as children forget!
Trusting. Children tend to have confidence in people, even strangers. A child can make friends with a perfect stranger. A young child will even think dad knows everything.15 We can have complete confidence in the Ruler of the universe, even with our salvation, because He really does know everything!
The qualities of a child are ideal for the kingdom, not because children are innocent, but because children are dependent, receptive16 and free from worry.17
And he took them in his arms, and gave them a blessing, putting his hands on them.
The Greek word that is translated “bless” is related to the word “eulogy.”18 To bless is to speak well of somebody.19 When Jesus blesses you, He speaks well of you. And that is what He does every day. He speaks well of believers to God. We call that interceding. And Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the Father saying good things about you, interceding for you.20
Believe me, one thing you want is to have a good eulogy. You do not want just a friend or family member saying good things about you at your funeral. What you really want is the Messiah, the Son of God, standing up and saying wonderful things about you. You want Jesus’ blessing.
And today, as in the story, Jesus has opened the door. He has opened the door to you by giving you a Bill of Rights. The religious handling people have been put in their place. Jesus’ hands are open, welcoming you, ready to bless you. He is waiting to say good things about you to the Father, now and forever. All you need to do is to be like a brave child and step up for a blessing.
1. Brian Atwood. “The Touch of Children.” Sermon Central. (Internet Web Site: http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermon.asp?SermonID=50596&ContributorID=1807, 1999).
2. Psalms 127:3, Moffatt Bible.
3. Edward E. Hindson and Woodrow Michael Kroll, eds., The KJV Parallel Bible Commentary. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Pub., 1994), 1989.
4. Atwood, internet.
5. Steve Shepherd. “Should we Invest in Humanity?” Sermon Central. (Internet Web Site:http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermon.asp?SermonID=32919&ContributorID=1281, 2000.
6. A. Cole. St. Mark: an Introduction and Commentary. (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1983), 159.
7. John MacArthur. The MacArthur Study Bible: New King James Version. (Nashville: Word, 1997), 1481.
8. Cole, 159.
9. Ray. C. Stedman. “The Plight of the Overprivileged.” Sermon Central. (Internet Web Site: http://www.sermoncentral.com/outsideURL.asp?OutsideURL=http://pbc.org/dp/stedman/mark/3319.html).
10. Christian Community Bible. (Manila, Philippines: St. Pauls, 1999), NT 100.
11. Donald Senior, et. al. eds. The Catholic Study Bible: New American Bible. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), NT 84.
12. Jean M. Alley, et. al. eds. The Open Bible: New Living Bible. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Pub., 1998), 1310.
13. Frederick Carl Eiselen, Edwin Lewis and David G. Downey, eds. The Abingdon Bible Commentary. (New York: Abingdon Press, 1929), 984.
14. William Barclay. The Daily Study Bible: Mark. Revised Ed. (Toronto: G.R. Welch, 1975), 242.
15. Barclay, 242.
16. A few of the commentators that indicate being receptive is critical include: Eiselen, Lewis and Downey, 984; Kenneth Barker, et. al. eds. NIV Study Bible: New International Version. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Pub. House, 1985), 1514.
17. Eiselen, Lewis and Downey, 984.
18. Spiros Zodhiates, ed. The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible: King James Version. (n.p.: AMG Pub., 1991), 1718-1719.
19. Zodhiates, 1718.
20. Romans 8:34.
A lifelong counselor, teacher and educator, having worked in elementary and secondary education for 25 years, Gary Simpson is a member of the Canadian Counseling and Psychotherapy Association and has spoken and led workshops on gay-straight alliances, bullying, spiritual self-defense, gay Christian identity, and the needs of GLBT youth and young adults.
Currently studying at Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, Calif., he holds a B.Ed. from Union College in Lincoln, Neb., an M.A. in Guidance and Counseling and Ed.S. in Educational Psychology from Loma Linda University in Riverside, Calif., a Master’s in Religious Education from Newman Theological College in Edmonton, Alberta, and a Certificate in Sexuality and Religion from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif.