Jesus And The Children
Mark 9:33-37; 10:13-16
1. I would like to take us, because of the moment we’re in just before our Vacation Bible School, to a detail which comes up twice in the Gospel of Mark.
2. It’s the Lord’s thinking about, and his connection with, children.
3. I think it might offer us a needed “learnable moment” (in contrast to the ‘teachable moment’ of the political world in the last couple of weeks) that may touch issues more far-reaching than just our VBS.
1. Appreciating the Scenes
a. All you have to do to understand why I find this so fascinating is to imagine the seriousness of what Jesus had to do, and the shortness of the time he had in order to accomplish it.
i. Mark’s trademark word in describing the ministry of the Lord is “straightway,” or “immediately.” (Cf. 1:12, 18, 20, 23, 29, 30, 42)
(1) He uses the term over and over again to suggest the constant activity in which Jesus was engaged.
(2) It reminds us how busy he was, how many demands there were on his attention and energy. There were things to do, places to go, people to see – and it never stopped.
(3) It’s the kind of situation in which children might be expected to be regarded as an interruption, or a hindrance to what was waiting to be done.
ii. Mark also records several statements which indicate something of the importance of the work the Lord had come to do.
(1) 2:17 – “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
(2) 10:45 – “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
(3) 9:31 – “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” There doesn’t seem to be a place for kids in this picture.
b. That looming purpose, and the pace of the activity which was moving toward it, makes these two episodes in which children are prominent all the more striking.
i. Mark 9:33-37
ii. Mark 10:13-16
2. Addressing Attitudes
a. Humble self-forgetfulness which values people, not argumentative self-promotion which seeks position, must be the way among those who are of Christ.
i. In that first scene the disciples had been arguing with one another over which of them was the greatest, and they were too embarrassed to admit it. (9:34)
ii. Jesus called the twelve to him, took a child and put him in the midst of them, then took that child in his arms as if to demonstrate the point he wanted to make. (9:36)
iii. He taught them that no one can be the servant of all unless he could receive one such child because of him. (9:35, 37)
b. The kind of person who will enter the kingdom of God will also be willing to be inconvenienced by those who want and need to be touched by Christ.
i. The disciples appear to have been irritated by the people who were always bringing their children around in the way – enough so that they rebuked them. (10:13)
ii. But when Jesus saw what was happening, he was indignant with the disciples – for two reasons. (10:14, 15)
(1) They were turning away the very kind of people to whom the kingdom belongs!
(2) They were turning away the kind of people they were going to have to be themselves if they were going to enter the kingdom!
iii. We can either put out for people or be put out with people, but it will say something about how we stand in relation to the kingdom of God.
c. An atmosphere of tenderness and affection is in order where Christ is, because that is the only kind of environment that will bless people.
i. Did you notice that in both these scenes Mark specifically says that Jesus took the children “in his arms”? (9:36; 10:16)
ii. That they would allow him to do so tells you something about him, and that in doing so he blessed them tells you even more.
iii. This is the kind of spirit that exists among people who receive the kingdom of God like a little child. They are not always on guard or on edge.
3. Application Time. I’d like to apply these scenes by telling you about three things I’ve heard said over the last few months about Vacation Bible Schools.
a. “A VBS drains the life out of a church.”
i. That statement was made to a friend of mine by a staff member of a large congregation.
ii. I suppose an activity like this may intrude on our routines and take some of the energy that might be spent doing something for ourselves, but, honestly, does this saying sound more like Jesus or his immature disciples?
iii. Why can’t it be that putting ourselves out to touch other lives and to be a blessing breathes life into a church? Doesn’t that depend mostly on whether we have the attitudes Jesus taught his disciples?
b. “Having classes with all these decorations and games and activities will give people the wrong impression of what to expect if they come to our classes the rest of the year.”
i. There are two possible reasons for a statement like this.
(1) One is that someone doesn’t understand what we’re actually doing in our VBS, and why.
(a) We’re using material written by two young men who are faithful members of the church.
(b) Each lesson uses the Bible account of some person in the scriptures to teach about one quality of godly character.
(c) Each of the activities used in that lesson helps to communicate or apply that quality.
(2) The other is that someone doesn’t have an adequate understanding of what we have to be doing in our classes throughout the year.
(a) Bible classes need not be just lectures on varying levels.
(b) Even in the scriptures, all kinds of methods are used to appeal to hearts of people. A number of different words are used to describe the teaching process.
(c) It is appropriate for us to use our imaginations to think of ways to illustrate or apply Bible lessons that will stick with our students.
ii. Be careful not to confuse the method with the message.
iii. Remember, as we’ve tried to point out, that the purpose of a VBS it to offer Bible classes that make memories.
c. “I know a family at our congregation who got started coming to church in VBS last year.”
i. An eighteen-year-old young man said this to me when I told him we would be working on VBS when we got back from camp.
ii. He had no questions about whether it could be worth the trouble; he had seen what can happen.
iii. Perhaps we can be reminded that we’re here to enable people to come to the Lord Jesus Christ. Maybe our sense of joy in fulfilling our purpose can be renewed.
1. Appreciate these scenes of Jesus with the children. Consider carefully the attitudes they are addressing. Apply them to your heart well.
2. It’s not, of course, just about whether we have hearts that are open to children. Jesus said, “Whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” (9:37)