By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
“Let the children come to me, and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you that whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” — Mark 10:14-15
FIRST OF TWO PARTS
November is designated as Children’s Month. As Christian parents, we are responsible for many things with respect to our children. We are called upon to provide our children with food, shelter, and clothing. But in the words of our Biblical text, our greatest responsibility as Christian parents is to let our children come to Jesus Christ our Lord. When we do not do this, then we have failed somehow in our Christian responsibility to our children.
Jesus touching little children
Our Scripture lesson from the Gospel of Mark (chapter 10) speaks to this particular concern. It is a very familiar Biblical text and yet we often miss the point. Most often than not, we see this story of Jesus and the children, as a sentimental and heart-warming incident. We see Jesus as one who loves the little children because they are so nice and sweet and innocent. But that is not the point at all.
Mark the Gospel Writer tells us that some parents brought their children to Jesus, because they wanted him to touch their children. Well, these parents were not hero-worshipers, who wanted the thrill of this great teacher touching their children. They were not sending their children to Jesus to get his autograph. It was not a superficial and shallow excitement that they were after. No, they wanted Jesus Christ our Lord to change the lives of their children.
Touching in the Scriptures is a means of bringing blessings to a person. We are reminded of Isaac – though he was fooled into thinking it was Esau – he touched Jacob and blessed him (Gen.27). We are reminded of Jacob on his deathbed. His twelve sons and the sons of Joseph came before him and he touched each one and blessed them (Gen. 48).
Yes, we also remember Jesus touching someone or being touched by someone. When the woman who was bleeding for 18 years touched Jesus, the life and healing power and strength of Jesus flowed into her. When Jesus touched a man born blind he was given sight. When Jesus touched a man with leprosy he was healed. Whenever Jesus touches someone, that someone is changed in some way. Somehow the life of Jesus flows in and through his or her life.
Now, some parents, then, wanted Jesus to touch their children. But then our Scripture lesson tells us that the disciples drive them away. Perhaps, the disciples considered Jesus to be a very busy person, and they knew that children can be bothersome. And so, they wanted to keep Jesus free to attend to more important matters. Perhaps, the disciples did not think children are important enough to receive Jesus’ attention.
It is surprising to note the disciples acted in this manner. Because it was just a short little while before, and we can read this in Mark 9, that Jesus had taken a child in his arms and said, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me …” (Mk. 9:37).
Children are very important to Jesus, so important that he became angry with his disciples for what they did. We read Jesus saying in Mark 9: “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck” (Mark 9:42). Or, to paraphrase this Biblical text, Jesus was in effect saying, “If anyone gets in the way and prevents children from coming to me, if anyone causes them somehow by example or words or attitudes or deeds to lose faith or weaken faith in me, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.”
These are very strong words, but we have to understand that for Jesus children are very, very important. Jesus Christ our Lord admonished his disciples for their behavior, he said to them: “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them.” Why? “Because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these”.
This is the whole point of this passage. The children were not received by Jesus as being little Gentiles who needed to be converted. They were not received by him as being outside of the covenant. They were not received by him as being outside of the church or of God’s salvation. Jesus taught that the Kingdom of God also belongs to the children. Yes, our children are also sons and daughters of the Kingdom of God.
Now, what does it mean our sons and daughters belong to the Kingdom of God? It simply means that our children are God’s possessions. They are gifts to us of God’s wondrous grace. And we, as parents, are stewards of these precious possessions; we are stewards who must someday answer to the Master for how we have managed what are entrusted in our care.
Parents bringing children to Jesus
And so, since our children belong to the Kingdom of God, they must be brought to Jesus so that he can touch them. And as they grow up, they are brought to a full understanding how important they are in the eyes of God.
We need to do this as soon as possible, as early as possible. Our children should be learning to pray as they learn to talk. Our children should be reading the Bible as they learn to read. At an early age, then, we need to bring our children to Jesus so that he can touch them and bless them. If we would like to have a truly Christian nation, then we have to start with the children.
Now, how do we do this? What does the Bible say to us? From beginning to end, the Bible stresses the duty of Christian parents to give their children a Christian education and nurture. If we want our children to be touched by Jesus, if we want to bring our children to Jesus, we need to give them Christian education and nurture.
Deuteronomy 6 says, “Israel, remember this! The LORD – and the LORD alone – is our God. Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Never forget these commands that I am giving you today. Teach them to your children. Repeat them when you are at home and when you are away, when you are resting and when you are working. Tie them on your arms and wear them on your foreheads as a reminder. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates” (Dt. 6:4-9).
In his Letter to the Ephesians, Apostle Paul also said, “Parents, do not treat your children in such a way as to make them angry. Instead, raise them with Christian discipline and instruction” (Eph. 6:4).
The message of the Scriptures is clear: we parents have a responsibility to give our children Christian education and nurture. And this is our responsibility, because our children belong to God, because they are part of the Kingdom of God. # nordis.net
Continued next week