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.
Like other religious leaders of his day, Jesus is approached by parents wanting him to bless their children. The disciples try to prevent this. To their way of thinking, Jesus' time and energy are much too valuable to waste on those who can do nothing to further his kingdom. Jesus responds by assuring his disciples that anyone desiring to enter his kingdom must become like these little children.
Parents (Mark 10:13)
While the main focus of this passage is the children, we can learn much from the parents, as well. As parents, they were responsible for protecting and guiding their children. They refused to be deterred in their mission of bringing their most prized possessions to Jesus. They trusted him with them. They saw and heard Jesus use their children to teach some valuable lessons regarding God's kingdom. As the children grew up, doubtless they would often be reminded of the time their parents took them to Jesus so he could bless them. "How wonderful that in later years believing parents would be able to say to such a child, now arrived at the age of understanding, 'Think of it, when you, my child, were just a suckling, Jesus took you in his arms and blessed you. Then already you were the object of God's tender love. And he has been with you ever since. What, then, is your response?'"957
Children (Mark 10:13)
The fact that Mark placed this episode immediately after Jesus' teaching on divorce should remind us that bearing and raising children is one of God's purposes for marriage that is dramatically undermined by divorce. Both here and in Mark's earlier account (see Mark 9:36), we see Jesus taking children into his arms (Greek enagkalizomai: "to put one's arms around someone as an expression of affection and concern - 'to embrace, to hug, to put one's arms around.'"958), a display of tender affection made even more noteworthy by the fact that Mark is the only gospel writer to record it.959
Jesus then "placed his hands on their heads and blessed them" (v. 16). While the Bible in general and the NT in particular contain many examples of someone offering or extending a blessing, Jesus' was a very special blessing. While "bless" in general means: "to ask God to bestow divine favor on, with the implication that the verbal act itself constitutes a significant benefit,"960 in recording Jesus' blessing of the children, Mark used a unique "intensive compound verb ... (kateulogei, imperf., occurring only here in the NT) [that] emphasizes the warmhearted fervor with which Jesus blessed each child who came to Him."961 As one source notes: "Jesus did not rush through the process or pass it off as unimportant. It probably brought him great joy to spend time with little children whose faith and trust was so pure and simple. The receptiveness of these children was a great contrast to the stubbornness of the religious leaders, who let their education and sophistication stand in the way of the simple faith needed to believe in Jesus; and the dullness of the disciples, whose self-centeredness continued to blind them to Jesus' true mission. No wonder Jesus used children as an example for hard-hearted adults."962
Jesus' attitude is in stark contrast to that of his disciples: "the disciples scolded the parents for bothering [Jesus]" (v. 13), evidently seeing the children as a disruptive distraction.963 "Considering their inability to have any quiet time together, the disciples may have viewed these parents and children as another intrusion and drain of time and energy."964 Thus once again the disciples display a misunderstanding of "both Jesus' compassion and his mission."965 Jesus' rebuke and Kingdom statement highlights the fact that "[a]ll, including children, who come to Jesus in childlike trust and dependence, are given free access to Jesus.966
Like these children ... like a child (Mark 10:14, 15)
Jesus said that "'the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children'" (v. 14). "Children are a picture of those whose simple trust illustrates what faith is all about. The remark illustrates how everyone is important to God, even those whom others regard as insignificant."967 Jesus also said that "'anyone who doesn't receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it'" (v. 15). Thus we understand that "God's kingdom is not gained by human achievement or merit; it must be received as God's gift through simple trust by those who acknowledge their inability to gain it any other way."968 God's kingdom cannot be gained by asserting our alleged authority or demanding our supposed rights.969 As one source puts it: "Jesus is talking about the simple, humble, unquestioning, trustful manner in which a child accepts what is offered to him."970 It needs to be said that this includes actual children. At times we tend to think that children must come to Jesus the same way adults do when, in fact, Jesus said it is actually the reverse.971 (It is "mature" adults, not children, who oftentimes "feel supremely powerful, perfectly righteous, or totally autonomous" - all childish fantasies which must be laid aside before we can come to Christ.972)
Luke's parallel account (see Luke 18:15) notes that parents were bringing even their "babies" (Greek brephos: "a very small child, even one still unborn"973) to Jesus to be blessed by him.974 The positive qualities of children are a vivid illustration of true discipleship. Like children, we are to be open and receptive to what God offers us. Like children, we are to trust completely in, and rely completely on, our Father. Like children, we are to be humble and obedient.975 (It goes without saying that we should avoid the negative qualities of children such as being stubborn, selfish, rebellious, spoiled etc.976) With infants in particular, we are to imitate their trust and dependence.977
There's a true story of a family who were driving along the coast of Florida as part of their vacation. They came across a sign that read "Naturist Camp" and assumed it was the same as a naturalist camp. And so they drove into the camp, parked their car, and began walking toward the beach.
To their utter embarrassment, they realized they were wrong about the camp when they saw a group of bicyclists, all completely nude, peddling along the beach. The "naturist" camp was actually a "nudist" camp!
When they saw the cyclists, the couple's five-yea-old son stopped and stared in wide-eyed wonder. He pointed at the group and said, "Look, Mom and Dad. Those people are not wearing safety helmets!"978
The five-year-old noticed what, to him, was the most important thing: the absence of safety helmets. As God's children, we are called to help others see the most important thing they are missing: a real and personal relationship with the real and personal God who made them. As we consistently ask God to fill our lives with a love for others, he will increase our childlike faith and use us to impact our world for Jesus Christ.
??? What are some practical things we can do to foster the positive qualities of children in ourselves and others?