Summary: The disciples either missed or failed to apply Jesus teaching in Mark chapter 9 verse 36. They rebuke parents who were bringing little children to Jesus, but Jesus was indignant when he saw this. Jesus blessed children and he asks us to learn from them.
What a difference a week can make! This time last week I was in a car travelling from the Judean Desert east of the River Jordan, heading towards Capernaum on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. After spending a few hours in Capernaum with my friend Michael, we then retraced our car journey travelling south east back to the Judean Desert east of the River Jordan. It was a misty day. There was a haze over the Sea of Galilee, and I am grateful for the photographs I took and the notes I made to help me remember the events and to consider how those events are going to impact my life and my ministry as the Vicar of this church; and so I say again, “What a difference a week can make!”
In Mark chapter 9 from verse 33 we see Jesus and the twelve disciples spending time in Capernaum on the shore of the river Galilee, and this immediately gives me a personal sense of déjà vu.
Jesus had been teaching and correcting the disciples over several issues and as a physical illustration in Mark chapter 9 (verse 36); “He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, ’Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.’”
Just in case that visible illustration was not enough, Jesus went on to say this (Mark 9: 42), “If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.” In other words, children, little ones are important! As we welcome a little one, we effectively welcome the Lord Jesus himself; and not just Jesus but also his father, our Heavenly Father.
But what a difference a week can make.
At the beginning of Mark chapter 10 (verse one) we are told that Jesus left Capernaum travelling into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. On foot, he took roughly the same journey that I took in the car this time last week through rolling hilly country. The journey must have taken him several days. I am guessing that it might have taken a week, because what a difference a week can make! And as I say that I am reminded of a car sticker I first saw about 20 years ago. Some of you will have heard this before: ’one week without prayer makes one weak.’
I’m certainly not suggesting that the disciples neglected to pray during their journey from Capernaum to Judea. Far from it. However, they do not appear to have learned from Jesus teaching. If we are honest with ourselves and with God we will recognise that is also true of us. God teaches us something, either as we’ve read the Bible for ourselves, or as we listen to Bible teaching.
We hear the teaching but we fail to apply it. I know that has been true of me and there were areas of my life I needed to surrender afresh to God as I was away in The Land of Promise for nine days.
Today is week two in a series of sermons entitled, ’What did Jesus do about ...’ Last week was ’What did Jesus do about privacy and prayer.’ Today is ’What did Jesus do about children.’ Next week will be the third instalment of this preaching series. So, what did Jesus do about children?
It’s easy to get frustrated with the disciples! Just a few days after Jesus had taught the disciples concerning children, ’people were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them’ (10:13). Literally, seeking to protect Jesus from crowds of parents and little children the disciples shooed them away. “Go away! Not today! He’s busy. He’s tired. We’re busy learning from Jesus.”
I made that last bit up as we do not know precisely why the disciples rebuked the parents, but we do know that ’when Jesus saw this, he was indignant’ (10:14). Jesus was not amused. He was greatly displeased, and so followed these famous words: “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” Jesus then ’took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them’ (10:14 to 16).
Had the disciples forgotten what Jesus had taught them just a few days earlier? No, I do not think they had, but what a difference a week can make! They were allowing their particular circumstances to govern what they did. They knew what Jesus had said but they did not put it into practice, so it is no wonder that Jesus was indignant. The King James Version of the Bible says that Jesus ’was much displeased’.