“The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: ‘Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.’ Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.” Mark 10:13-16 (The Message)
I’m picturing the children in my church family right now. The ones whose parents faithfully bring (or drag) them to church every week. The ones who spill things on the carpets. The ones who make paper airplanes out of their service folders. The ones who fill their plates with the choice snacks during Fellowship time. The ones who kick balls in the courtyard (and manage to get balls stuck on the roof, in the trees and occasionally hit an innocent worshiper in passing).
Get a picture in your head of the children in your life and read this passage again.
Why do we bring our children to worship if not in hopes that Jesus might somehow touch them?
The answer to that question is probably closely linked with our own answer to the same: why do we attend churches and worship services and Bible studies? Is it sincerely because we hope to get close enough to Jesus for Him to lay His hands of blessing on us? Or does it have more to do with obligation? Tradition? Ritual? Social circles? Appearances? Habit?
The parents in today’s Gospel story knew that a touch from Jesus could heal, restore and forgive. As eager as adults were to get close enough to touch the hem of His clothing, you can imagine how parents might have hoped to see their children blessed by being in His presence as well.
Be honest, though. You can also relate to how the disciples must have felt.
- This is important ministry that Jesus is doing!
- To be in His company is a really big deal – a privilege! A gift!
- These kids are just goofing off and getting in the way of His teaching and healing.
- They’re keeping those who need Jesus from being able to get close.
- Where ARE the parents of these kids, anyways?
- Somebody get these kids a babysitter!
Their reaction isn’t unlike our own, is it? I can’t tell you how many times words like these have been spoken (or unspoken) by adults in the church, concerned that the distractions created by children are wreaking havoc with the ability of the grown-ups to worship and study on Sunday mornings.
- This is an important meeting that we’re having!
- To be here in worship is a really big deal – a privilege! A gift!
- These kids are just goofing off and getting in the way of the Pastor’s teaching. They’re distracting the adults from their focus on Jesus!
- Where ARE these kids’ parents, anyways?
- Somebody get these kids a babysitter!
Smacks, doesn’t it? Yet this is often how our worshiping communities react to the influence of children on the adult-centered worship experiences we’ve created. We want to meet with Jesus in the sanctuary, so we send the children down the hall, in blatant disregard of Jesus’ very heated words:
“Don’t ever get between them and me.”
If children are, as Jesus pointed out, at the very center of the life of His Kingdom, how dare we lay hands on them to distance them from our encounters with God when what Jesus wants to do is lay His hands of BLESSING on them!
Hands of care and concern.
Hands of gentleness and protection.
Hands that render a touch filled with love and acceptance – something that most of us (and most of them) are hungering for in our affection-starved lives.
Accepting the children around us, as messy and loud as they might be, is prerequisite to our participation in the Kingdom Jesus speaks of. Until we learn to see the ‘distractions’ that they cause as divine appointments with the Savior Himself, we will miss out on the richness of Kingdom life as it is lived in relationship to the lost and the least.
Until we remember that in the year 2014, the literal hands of Jesus ARE you and me; we are the ones withholding the blessing that He longs to shower on the children in our homes, in our churches and in our world.
I don’t know about you, but I heard the tone of His voice when He told them, “Don’t push these children away.”
I think He meant it.