Tonight I taught an online Bible study, using Mark 9: 38-50 as my text. I am struck by the stark contrast in priorities between the disciples and Jesus. The disciples, at that season in their lives, were consumed with concerns about their status in Jesus’ kingdom, and apparent issues of competition from a person who was not from the twelve, but was successfully casting out demons in Jesus name. Jesus, by sobering contrast, placed a small child among them and said, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me” (9:37, NIV).
He then proceeded to warn them of the consequences of causing a child to sin. Even then, his attitude still did not appear to sink in with the disciples, perhaps explaining his outburst of anger toward them in a separate scene later in chapter ten when they attempted to prevent children from having access to Jesus, totally disobeying his recent admonition. He rebuked them severely saying, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (10:14-15, NIV).
Polar opposite priorities in conflict. The disciples wanted position, prestige, power, all related to the expected overthrow of the occupying Roman Empire. Jesus came to serve. To give. To die. For the world, including the Romans and the disciples. Including all of us.
Children are not a casual concern for Jesus. Nor should they be for us, as Jesus is recorded as clearly having explained in the Markan account. They are central to his kingdom. They are not a mere illustration to make a telling comparison. They are a priority of family, church and community stewardship as we nurture them in the faith, protecting them from wickedness, and esteeming them as fellow sojourners in following hard after God.