Mark 10:13-16 (NRSV)
13 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.
Jesus is a starnge but amazing man. I met him only once. I had heard how Jesus was announcing that the exile was finally over, proclaiming in words and actions that the kingdom of God was being established.
In synagogue I would listen to the prophets and my heart would stir with hope and longing that God would one day act in history to bring salvation and deliverance to his people. Since I can remember I have celebrated the passover with my family every year and on re-enacting the story of the Exodus I have wished, and prayed, that God would vindicate his name and his people in the midst of the pagan idolatry. My prayers, hopes and dreams for the kingdom were never put into action. As I struggled to keep bread on the table I am unable to join the zealot movement to oppose the empire and those who collude with it. Perhaps, I thought, I have no part in this kingdom movement as I have no expertise in the law, or any weapons I can raise against Rome. Then things changed…
He arrived in my village, everyone was excited. I thought he would probably go to the house of the synagogue official. But he didn’t, he sat in the village square. Some parents. brought there children to Jesus hoping that this teacher, who displays healing power, might bless them. What were they thinking bringing children to this kingdom-proclaiming man?They had no power, no strength, no influence. Why would Jesus want these children hanging around. The disciples shared my thoughts and rebuked the parents and refused to let the children near Jesus. I guess they thought they were doing the right thing for Jesus was a busy man who needed rest and shouldn’t be distracted by children of all people.
I saw Jesus’ face change, he became angry. It was then he uttered the words which I will never forget,
‘ Do not hinder them, for to such belong the children of God’.
I was shocked and it took me a few moments to realise what I must do. I ran into my house and took hold of Miriam and Matthew and led them to Jesus. Jesus was already surrounded by other children but he embraced and blessed them all. He looked to the disciples and said ‘you must become like a child to enter the kingdom of God.’
Chatting with my friends that evening we chewed over the events of the day wondering whether Jesus was truly the bringer of the kingdom. If he was, we thought, then the kingdom is not simply for the religious elite, for the powerful or wealthy, nor is the kingdom for the zealots. We marvelled to think that the kingdom belonged to children who had no status or influence. Perhaps, I thought, the kingdom is also for people like me who have no influence, money or power. I prayed that night and thanked God that we cannot force his hand but can, by his grace, receive gifts from his hand.
Children in antiquity, who had no control, no claim, and no status, could welcome whatever came their way with open arms, not because they were innocent and trusting, but because they had nothing to lose and everything to gain. According to the Markan Jesus, people enter God’s realm, not in a proud triumphal procession, but in complete vulnerability, with no claim to any rights or status. It was not what the disciples had in mind, and the next incident proves even more devastating to their preconceptions.
Dowd, S. E. (2000). Reading Mark : A literary and theological commentary on the second Gospel. Reading the New Testament series (104). Macon, Ga.: Smyth & Helwys Publishing.