There is something really delightful and very challenging about today's picture of Jesus embracing little children.
As we've been reading Mark's gospel these past weeks, it is easy to see how frustrated Jesus must have been by the religious leaders who have been unable to accept him or his message. They try to entrap him in something that will allow them to condemn him. He really gets on their nerves. They can't stand Jesus because he softens the Law that holds their religious identity together, and he challenges them in their in-authenticity. It must have really stung them, as the crowds enjoyed how Jesus unveils their arrogant holiness, to reveal a very unattractive un-holy inside.
The people seem to always sort through these religious controversies. They are bringing their children to Jesus, "that he might touch them." The disciples of Jesus, now taking on the role of his "managers," rebuke the people. What were the disciples thinking? Jesus is "too busy" for the children? The children take time away from his "real work"? This deep religious stuff is an adult thing, not for children? Whatever their objection, Jesus doesn't buy it. He just embraces the children. And, he takes the discussion deeper, as he so often does.
"The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these." I imagine the puzzled looks on the faces of the religious leaders and the disciples. And I imagine the smiles on the faces of the parents and the children. But, then Jesus gets to what he wants to get to. "I say to you, whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it."
Jesus' message is about how we accept the Kingdom of God. He is urging us to shed our cynical, guarded, clever, arrogant, judgmental ways. Jesus is contrasting those who regard themselves as very religious, but can keep Jesus at arm's length, with the children who just run up and embrace him and rest in his embrace. Jesus is inviting us to be more child-like in our trust of him.
What does it mean for me to "accept the Kingdom of God like a child"? What in me needs to "soften"? Where does my trust in God need to grow? In what areas am I keeping Jesus at a distance? What patterns in my life are "off limits" to the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God? In what ways do I need to be freer, less rigid, less a source of conflict within my family or church or work, less impatient and judgmental?
Oh, Lord, transform the Pharisee in me into a child that can run
into your arms. Bless the upcoming season of Lent with the graces
I need and desire. Shine your light into my heart and reveal to me
the still small desires you are placing there. May your Kingdom come
and your will be done in me.
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook