Summary: In one magnificent moment Jesus painted a lasting portait of greatness that demonstrated and mandated our attitude towards children.
“Doing It to Jesus”
Like a good carpenter Jesus never missed an opportunity to drive the nail home. He capitalized on making teachable moments out of the ordinary scenes of life. He majored in turning the values of society upside down. Can you picture the scene here in Mark 9?
Jesus and his disciples were walking to Capernaum. On the way the disciples, thinking they were out of earshot of Jesus, were arguing among themselves who was the greatest. Discussions of rank and status were important in Jewish society, but apparently they were sure Jesus would not approve so they argued quietly. They did not yet understand that Jesus hears and knows everything. So when they arrived in Capernaum and went inside the house – probably Peter and Andrew’s house – Jesus asked them “What were you arguing about?” Caught red-handed they were silent and unresponsive. And that gave Jesus his teachable moment. So Jesus sat down, something rabbis and teachers did when they were ready to teach. “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all,” He said. And then He drove the nail home. He took a little child and had him stand in front of them. After a moment of silence for them to focus on the little child, Jesus took the child in his arms and then said “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me (alone) but (also) the one who sent me.”
In one magnificent moment Jesus painted a lasting portrait, a masterpiece, of greatness. And it turned the disciples’ world upside down. And more than that, it put our world on notice about greatness. And more than that it demonstrated and mandated our attitude towards children.
Let’s think about JESUS’ HEART FOR AND MINISTRY TO CHILDREN. We need to keep in mind that expressing concern and love for children in Jesus’ day was the exception, not the rule. CHILDREN WERE VALUELESS IN JESUS’ DAY. Children were at the bottom rung of the social ladder, with only slaves beneath them. In fact Mark uses a Greek word which is neutral; he is literally saying that Jesus took a little child and placed it among them. Research has shown that “Childhood in antiquity was a time of terror. Infant mortality rates sometimes reached 30 percent. Another 30 percent of live births were dead by age six, and 60 percent were gone by age sixteen…Children had little status within the community or family. …The term children could be used as a serious insult.” A child could not advance anyone’s career, or prestige. So Jesus’ actions and words were shocking.
But they shouldn’t have been. JESUS CONSTANTLY GAVE CHILDREN VALUE. Jesus kept putting flesh on the prophet Isaiah’s words (1:17) “Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the Fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” In their Gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke all make frequent mention of children around Jesus and being ministered to by Jesus. All three, in fact, mention the scene many of us were introduced to in our early youth – “Then the little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them. For the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ When He had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.” (Mt. 19:13-15/Mk.10:13-16/Lk.18:15-17) Let’s never forget that concern for children was not invented by the government – it goes back to Jesus.