Last week I promised to talk more about Jesus’ attitude about children.
First of all, Jesus came to earth as a helpless baby; He grew for 9 months in a poor girls’ womb and was born at an inconvenient time for His earthly family. The Incarnation should provoke many responses in us, not the least of which should be awe for the dignity of the lowliest newborn baby. Jesus spit up, soiled diapers, needed to be fed and rocked and potty trained. If it was noble for Mary to do this, how is it ignoble for you and I to do the same things?
Jesus always interacted with children in patience and love. We see in the gospels that Jesus doesn’t have to be physically present with someone to heal them, yet when Jairus asks Him to heal his daughter, He follows him to his house, takes the little girl by the hand, and speaks to her to heal her saying, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” (Mark 5:41) I love the sweet intimacy of this story.
When the disciples argue about who among them is the greatest (in Mark 9), He says,
“If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And He took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” (Mark 9:35-37)
The most familiar passage to most of us, of course, is in Mark 10:13-16:
And they were bringing children to Him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And He took them in His arms and blessed them, laying His hands on them.
Did you know that this is the only passage in the gospels where Jesus is said to be indignant? That’s food for thought, isn’t it! Jesus hugged kids, blessed them, touched them, and said His kingdom belonged to such as them. In a culture where children were often seen as possessions, little better than slaves, Jesus was indignant when His followers hindered the children from coming to sit on His lap. His words and actions proclaim that, in the words of the old Sunday School song, “they are precious in His sight./ Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
Our society is in many ways child-centric, but in other ways, we don’t value kids any more than first century Jews and Romans. We’ll run our kids to a million activities every night of the week so that all will admire our dedication to our kids’ dreams (and their talent, which obviously reflects well on us). We don’t allow them to get bored (because we fear that sitting around the house all day would be boring for us). We work longer hours to make a little more money, which we insist gives our kids more opportunities, more toys, more fancy vacations, never stopping to consider that maybe they’d enjoy us joining them to play with the legos they already have more than getting the fancy new lego set. We say that we’re devoted to our children, but our timecards tell a different story. We come home late, feed our children a late dinner, put them to bed late, and rouse them at the crack of dawn to be on time for daycare and work.
How often are we willing to put our adult agenda aside to just cuddle a little child on our lap, as Jesus did? What in the world do we think is more important in life than leading our children to Him? What are we doing in our lives that could hinder them in that? Jesus knew that His time on earth was short–just three years of public ministry. Instead of maximizing His political impact by initiating urban ministry and focusing on the rich and powerful, He is recorded time and time again as leaving the crowds to minister to the poor, blind, crippled, outcasts, racially unclean, worthless, and children. God’s economy is upside-down from ours. Service to the least of these is service to Him. As mothers, our time with our little ones is also short. What a privilege we have to follow Christ’s example as servant leaders! Let’s strive to emulate Him in our interactions with the little children He has put in our lives.
And Jesus called them to Him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)