The Gospel lectionary reading for today is from Mark 10:2-16....I would like to focus on the second half of this passage by asking several simple questions....
Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ They said, ‘Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female.” “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’
Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. He said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.’People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’ And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
When were the children brought to Jesus? Jesus had just finished responding to the Pharisees' question: "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" Jesus' answer, defending the ideal of lifelong marriage, offered protection for women and for children in a society that often neglected both. Jesus emphasizes the importance of the family for raising children and he indicates the tremendous worth of children by receiving them into his arms.
Who brought the children to Jesus? The Gospels do not tell us the answer to this question. It is most likely the parents who bring their children to Jesus for a blessing. However, it could have been someone else: an aunt, an uncle, a grandfather, a grandmother, a teacher, or a friend. Edith Schaeffer once wrote, "No one is free from influencing children in some way--whether it is the children next door, the children coming into the store or the library, or the children coming to one's class in school." (A Way of Seeing)
Why did they bring the children to Jesus? It was perhaps common in Jesus' day for parents to bring their children to a rabbi for a blessing. So, perhaps, the children were brought to Jesus for this reason. Mark says that "they were bringing the children that he might touch them." Whoever brought them simply wanted the powerful touch of this wonder-working prophet to be upon their children. Mark shows us that Jesus gave the children more than what was requested.
Where were the children brought to Jesus? They were brought to him while he was in a house. This is a living illustration of Deuteronomy 6:6-7, "And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." When we are teaching our children the Scriptures our goal should be to bring them to Jesus. This can be done at any available moment.
The children were also brought to Jesus "while he was in the way." At this time he was on his way to the cross, though that cross was still a ways off. It was on the cross that he would shed his blood for the sins of all his children.
How were the children brought to Jesus? The children in this story were brought physically. They were also brought continually. The verb in this sentence refers to a continuous action in the past: "They were bringing..."
How can we bring our children to Jesus today? We cannot bring them to Jesus physically, but we can do something far better. We can bring them to Jesus spiritually by the power of the Holy Spirit. We can do this by sharing Scripture with them and by praying with them and for them.
Henrietta Mears, who for many years led the Christian Education Department of Hollywood Presbyterian Church, started as a young child praying with her mother. One morning Henrietta happened to get up very early; peeked through her mother's bedroom door and found her mother on her knees by the bedside and moving her lips silently. She wondered what in the world her mother was doing. Her mother invited her to come and pray with her and allowed Henrietta to do so whenever she got up early enough from then on.
Just so, we need to pray with and for our children. We need to pray more than we preach. If we do so, God will be faithful to answer.
My parents prayed for each of their six children to come to know Jesus and accept him as Savior and Lord. As far as I know, each of us have done just that, and three of my siblings are now with the Lord.
In bringing our children to Jesus we must operate as we do in many areas of life. We must work as if everything depends upon us, but we must also pray as if everything depends upon God.