Meeting Jesus: Children


“Meeting Jesus: Children”
A Message on Mark 10:13-16
For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
April May 5, 2019
By Doug Wintermute

Mark 10:13-16 (NRSV)

People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

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We’re continuing our sermon series on people whose lives have been changed by meeting Jesus, and today were not focusing on one specific individual but a group of people: children.

Children are creative and smart in ways that adults aren’t. Here are some examples of answers to tests and homework that students have given. (Show slides)

Here’s a brilliant answer that is also correct. “What ended in 1896?” The answer the child gave: “1895.”

“Where was the American Declaration of Independence signed?” Answer: “At the bottom.”

Here’s one that was counted wrong but that I argue is 100 percent correct: “What is the strongest force on earth?” Answer: “Love.”

I love this one. The assignment is this: “You are to assume the role of a Chinese immigrant in 1870 and write a letter home describing your experience.” As you can see the answer is written in Chinese, which is great. I have no idea what it says, and I doubt the teacher did either, but I think it’s brilliant!

One more from a math test. Question: “Bob has 36 candy bars. He eats 29. What does he have now? Answer: “Diabetes. Bob has diabetes.”

While those are funny and accurate answers, there was nothing funny about being a child in the Middle East in the first century. To really understand the significance of the scripture we just read from the gospel of Mark we need to understand what the perception of children that people had in the first century.

Children were important to carry on the family name, especially male children. But beside that they were pretty much viewed as a labor force to help with what people had to do to survive. They could work in the fields, watch sheep and goats, milk goats and cows, help with the nets for fishing, and things like that.

They certainly weren’t fawned over like they are today. Today families often revolve around the children. It would not have been that way in Jesus’ time.

We find that when parents started bringing their kids to Jesus that the disciples tried to prevent it. Jesus was too important, too much of a holy man, to have anything to do with children. It was a waste of his time.

But Jesus viewed it differently. Mark tells us he was “indignant” at the disciples. Other translations say “much displeased” (KJV) or even “irate” (The Message). Those are pretty strong words, but it was a serious matter to Jesus. A very, very serious matter.

“… whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

So what does it mean to “receive the kingdom of God as a little child”?

I like The Message paraphrase of that phrase: “Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.”

Sometimes as adults we complicate things to much that the main thing ceases to be the main thing. We get caught up in all the minutiae and the rules and trying to make ourselves look better than others that we miss seeing the forest for the trees.

Children have no problem believing in miracles. They have no problem believing in things they cannot see. Children are not racist and don’t hold stereotypes until they are taught those by adults. Children are joyous, optimistic, inquisitive, willing to dance crazily while not caring what other people think. Children are passionate.

Those are the kinds of things I think Jesus meant when he talked about receiving the kingdom of God.

Today these seven confirmation students have those qualities. I have met with them weekly since January, and they are smart, articulate and passionate, but at the same time asked some theologically deep questions. And today they made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. They have received the Kingdom of God.

So my challenge to you this week is to be like children, to be like these confirmation class members. Believe in miracles and things that you cannot see. Don’t be racist and hold stereotypes, but be joyous, optimistic, inquisitive, and passionate. Be willing to dance crazily to however the music and Holy Spirit moves you, not caring what others might think.

And if you ever need help on a test, ask a kid. After all, they’re pretty smart.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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