“People were bringing little children to Jesus to have Him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, He was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And He took the children in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them.”
As Mark continues his discussion of discipleship in this second half of his Gospel he confronts us with the real nature of the Kingdom of God which we are entering into through Christ. For many of us it seems as if the Kingdom of God is to be entered only by the strong and the self righteous. We must, we think, make ourselves worthy of it. To stay in it we must keep ourselves worthy of it. When we look around for those that we feel called to evangelize we often find our attention falling on those who are worthy. I am reminded of a conversation I had with a young woman, close to thirty years ago, about the need to evangelize a particular couple that she knew. Her reasoning was that this couple, of all the people that she knew, were the most worthy of my labours because they were people whose lifestyle was almost that of believers except they did not yet believe in Jesus. She reasoned that once they were converted they would make wonderful Christians.
Now I was not against evangelizing them but my friend’s reasoning was flawed. We do not make ourselves worthy of salvation by our behaviour. We come into the Kingdom of God as those who are broken and needy, absolutely humbled as we, in all of our sin, encounter the holiness of God. This is what Jesus is saying as He deals with His disciple’s pride in this text. If we don’t find ourselves coming to God as those who are among the weakest and most vulnerable in society then we will never enter into God’s Kingdom. The word that Mark uses here for little children is actually best translated as babies, infants. In the Greek and Roman, as well as the Hebrew society of Mark’s day these were the very lowest in society. They had no rights. Often they would be discarded by the important people of their day. Historians tell us that in Roman and Greek society a father even had the right to discard a child for any reason. This was a practice that was followed by many and which was not outlawed until the fourth century AD.
Jesus tells His disciples that if they are to enter into the Kingdom of God they must become like these humble children. They must in fact come to the Lord as those who are in reality nothing in the world’s eyes. Being in this position we have nothing to bargain with. All we can do is receive the gift that God gives us in Christ. Once in the Kingdom we discover that we only stay in it by grace. We cannot maintain our position by power, or any other strength that we might think we have. Our position is held only by the will of our faithful God. It is based upon His faithfulness. Therefore we are secure because God will never be unfaithful to His own sovereign purpose.
Having come to Jesus in this way we then discover that there are many others, including children, who can enter this Kingdom. It is open to anyone who will enter it through faith in Christ. No one need be excluded because entrance does not depend upon us except in this one way we must accept the gift that God has given us in Christ. Won’t you come and join us in the Kingdom of God.