Today Pastor Choi expounds on Jesus’ blessing of little children. In the time of Jesus, children were not treated equally as adults. Jesus changed that understanding and gave a fresh look on children as follows: 1) The Kingdom of God is theirs. Be like them. 2) Receive God’s Kingdom with simple heart, with sincerity, and with humility like a child does. At the end, Jesus fervently blessed the children that they would walk humbly with God throughout their lives.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Blessing of Children Mark 10:13-16
Mark 10:13-16 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Jesus Blesses Little Children
13 And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” 16 And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.
Before I do my sermon, I would like to give you background info on the status of children in the time of Jesus. Back then, children along with women were not counted in number in any gatherings. E.g. Jesus’ miracle of feeding 5,000 men with five loaves of bread and two fish (Matthew 14:21). Children were often “presented as either examples of unreasonable behavior or objects to be trained” (Jerome Bible Commentary, p. 618). They were surely less important than adults and often treated as a second class citizen in society.
Enter that understanding into today’s text. Here’s what was happening: One day Jesus was engaged in a serious teaching session with folks on divorce (Mark 10:1-12). Then, a few parents and grandparents brought their children to Jesus with a hope that He would touch them (v. 13). As soon as the disciples of Jesus saw them approaching their Master, they rebuked (and shooed them away) both adults and children (v. 13). The disciples believed that their Rabbi shouldn’t be bothered or diverted from teaching by anyone else, let alone by little children! Well, they immediately found out how wrong their assumption was about their Master. As soon as Jesus realized what was going on, He got indignant (v. 14).
Now, the word ‘indignant’ is a very strong word. Not often, Jesus got angry or displeased: I know of only three occasions in the New Testament when He was displeased—eight times He said “woe to you” to the hypocrites (Matthew 23), twice “woe to you” to those unrepentant cities where He demonstrated many miracles (Matthew 11:21), once He overturned tables and chairs in the Temple of God and whipped out the money changers, the sellers and buyers of animals from the Temple court (Matthew 21:12). This time, Jesus surely got upset with the way the disciples treated the children. He directly expressed his anger toward the disciples. Then, He gave them a fresh lesson on how to think about and treat the children.
He said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (v. 14). My translation of the sentence– ‘the kingdom of God belongs to such as these’– is this: the Kingdom of God is theirs! Seldom in the New Testament did Jesus give to anyone such an assurance that ‘the Kingdom of God is yours!’ E.g. He did in Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Another time to the criminal on the cross (Luke 23:43– And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise”). Other than that, very few times to very few people. But here, He clearly says that children will be in God’s Kingdom. It is theirs!
I am a firm believer that children indeed have a very special place in God’s heart. I also believe that when children die unexpectedly, they will be brought directly to God’s presence. E.g. During the medieval times, the Catholic Church taught that baptism is necessary for salvation; infant baptism was crucial among folks, because the infant mortality rate was rather high, so the parents wanted to make sure that their children went to Heaven in case they died young. My personal belief is that when children die young, below their age of accountability, baptism or no baptism, they go to Heaven.
Anyway, Jesus continues on here in v. 15 with this teaching moment: Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all (v. 15). Two places deserve our attention here: First, Truly I say to you—(verily I say unto you—KJV). My translation would be this: I am telling you the truth! I am not kidding you! Take it seriously!
Then, Jesus goes on saying, “…whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” My translation of the same sentence would be: Unless anyone receives the Kingdom of God like a child, s/he will never, ever enter it. The Greek grammar of double negation (ου μη ) is not affirmative, but emphasis on the zero possibility of getting into the Kingdom of God. That’s why we’d better pay attention to it. Once again, what makes it a zero chance to make into God’s presence? The way we receive the Kingdom of God.
Let’s think about the meaning of receiving the Kingdom of God for a while. What does it mean to receive God’s Kingdom? My study of the Bible and prayers convince me as follows: to receive God’s Kingdom means first, the way we hear about God’s Kingdom, and next, the way we understand it and keep God’s commandments. In other words, to receive God’s Kingdom means the way we take God’s Kingdom in our thoughts, words, and actions. To receive God’s Kingdom means to hear and understand what Jesus says about it and put it into practice day in day out. Only hearing without practice and only intellectual understanding without daily practice wouldn’t cut it. It must include the put-into-action part! That’s what it means to receive the Kingdom of God.
So, Jesus says here unless we hear/understand/ put into practice like a child does of what Jesus says about the Kingdom of God, we will not make it. So, the next question for us is this: how does a child receive God’s Kingdom? Two things come to my mind. First, the child takes it with a simple heart and mind. When the child hears the Gospel, the child takes it with a simple faith. No complications, no doubts, no reasoning, but just believing. E.g. All the high-criticism methods in theological circles in the 19th and 20th century killed the simple spirit of faith. E.g.2. Drought in the South. A church called for a prayer meeting for rain. Only one girl came to the meeting with an umbrella.
Next, to be childlike means no hypocrisy. Remember how much Jesus disliked the hypocrisy of adult religious leaders? I always try to be sincere in my personal and professional life and I always learn from a child to be so. E.g. A son asks for $10 from his father—Dad, can I have $10? Simple and to the point, right? Imagine the child making the request with big words: “Oh, my benevolent Father, I daily thank you for your loving kindness for me. Would you kindly consider helping your loving child who is in desperate need of $10?”
Let us receive the Kingdom of God in simple faith and with sincerity.
Immediately after His teaching, Jesus did one of the best things He did for the children: Blessing. You know, in my humble opinion, the adults who brought the children to Jesus got more than what they had hoped for. Originally, all they wanted from Him was a touch (v. 13). But, in the end, this is what they got: He embraced them, laid His hands on them, and blessed them (v. 16).
Picture yourself: Jesus taking one child at a time, hugging one child at a time, laying His both hands on one child at a time, and blessing one after another! The Greek tense of the verb ‘to lay hands’ is present: that means ‘repeated action.’ In other words, He kept laying His hands on the children until all were blessed! One commentator says this way: “He (Jesus) fervently blessed them. The Saviour (sic) lifted up to His Father, in behalf of the little ones, the fervent desires of His heart, and thus invoked ‘down’ upon them a blessing” (James Morison, A Practical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Mark, p. 282).
I wonder what kind of blessing or ‘fervent desires of His heart’ Jesus bestowed upon each child? Do you think it was all about things down here such as health, prosperity, and wealth? Like, “I bless you my child so that you become Miss America, so that you go to Harvard, so that you become a billionaire?” Or, did He truly put His heart onto the blessing that eternally matters; the blessing that reflects His fervent desires for each child? I believe this is what’s inside of Jesus’ blessing: each child to become a true child of God; to know God, to love God with all their hearts and minds, to love their neighbors, and to keep God’s commandments. I believe He blessed them so that they would walk humbly with God throughout their lives and hear and do what Jesus has commanded them to.
Whenever we have children’s presence with us, let us remember how Jesus treated them: He welcomed them, He embraced them, He laid His hands on them, and He fervently blessed them. Let us imitate our Lord and do the same with our children. Let us also remember what He says about the Kingdom of God and receive God’s Kingdom with a simple and believing heart and keep Jesus’ Word without hypocrisy.