I love the story of Jesus and the little children from Mark 10. It’s such a well-known story. The problem with well-known stories is that we often stop paying attention to them. “Oh, yeah… I already know this one,” we think, and we let our thoughts wander elsewhere. But God always has something new for us even if we hear a story for the 100th time – if we are willing to pay attention to the details and if we let the Holy Spirit guide us!
Let’s have a look at the story. It starts with people who are bringing their little children to Jesus ‘to have Him touch them’. They wanted their children to be blessed by Jesus, because they somehow felt that this would be a good thing for their kids. But the disciples were self-appointed body guards that day. The Bible says they rebuked the parents. Basically they said something like, “You’re bringing… who? Your little kids? Are you kidding me? In case you haven’t noticed, Jesus is very, very busy. Jesus is busy with real ministry – adult ministry. He has no time for your kids! What in the world were you thinking to bring… kids!! Little kids at that! Just get out of here!”
But then Jesus realized what was going on. He heard the commotion and came over to see. And when He saw what the disciples were doing, He became indignant. That’s right, indignant. We don’t read very often that Jesus was upset, but this time the disciples were in for a rebuke themselves. Right in front of all these parents, Jesus became indignant, because they got it so very, very wrong and it made Jesus angry to see them treat the children like this.
‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, because the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’
I think there was a strong a hint of sternness and rebuke in His voice as Jesus said these words to the disciples. Read it again, and think of a strong, stern voice. ‘Let them come! Do not hinder them! What are you doing, keeping them away from Me?’ It was not just because Jesus thought these kids were cute and that He liked to give them a nice little pat on their heads – it went way beyond that. Jesus proceeded to tell the disciples that the Kingdom of God belongs to the little kids. Not to the ones who have been Christians for twenty-six years, not to those with a degree from seminary, not to the evangelists and not the people who have memorized the most Bible verses. The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the kids. To the little kids. They are the ones who have the greatest ability to receive His kingdom. They are the most receptive, the most open. Pure, little children, those are the ones who own the Kingdom.
Jesus took it even further. ‘Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of heaven like a little child will never enter it.’ Jesus turned everything around. It’s not about children who need to stop acting like kids and should be acting like grown-ups; it’s the grown-ups who need to change and become like little children. Imagine that! If we don’t, we cannot even enter the Kingdom of heaven. Isn’t that just so amazing…
Then Jesus showed His love to the kids. I can just imagine Him crouching down, opening up His arms wide… Kids run to Him with huge smiles on their faces, throw themselves at Him so that He almost tumbles over with them… Kids giggle as they receive a big bear-hug from Jesus. I just wish I could be one of those children and look Jesus in His eyes, as lifts me up and puts His hand on my head and He speaks a blessing over me. Right then and there, Jesus gave the children His full attention. He was definitely not too busy for them. He loved them so much and was excited to show His love to them so that they would know for the rest of their lives: Jesus loves me. He sees me. He highly values me. He has time for me. He embraces me. He delights in me. He blesses me.
Jesus’ love and deep concern for kids is just all over this story. Jesus loves kids, and He sees how we treat our kids. Jesus takes how we treat children very personally. So when I stand up for children, Jesus stands with me. When I embrace a child, Jesus embraces that child with me. When I invest in them and plant seeds in their hearts, Jesus is right there to make the seeds grow and bear fruit. Bear fruit now.
The disciples hindered the children. I bet they didn’t really realize what they were actually doing, and I think this often happens in churches today too. Children are hindered from getting close to Jesus. They face obstacles. Sometimes these obstacles are just there, and sometimes we put them in their way without realizing it. But Jesus clearly tells us not to hinder them. So what do the barriers look like? And how can we remove them and encourage children to grow close to Jesus?
I’ve thought about this question, and I have identified six barriers that often get in the way. In the following articles I will explain what those barriers are, and what we can do to get rid of them, not just for one week or one month, but to get rid of them permanently. The trick is to replace the barrier with a value. We must value the solution to the problem so much, that we will let the value guide us in how we minister to our children. We must replace the Barriers with Values.
Read about the first barrier: No Relationships.
You can download the full document here.