13 People were bringing children to Jesus so that he would bless them. But the disciples scolded them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he grew angry and said to them, “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children. 15 I assure you that whoever doesn’t welcome God’s kingdom like a child will never enter it.” 16 Then he hugged the children and blessed them.
Our world and culture tend to value children more highly than the culture Jesus lived in. In fact, Jesus' kindness to children was a major force in changing those attitudes. “In ancient society, children were powerless and often overlooked. Ancient speakers and writers typically offered powerful leaders as heroes and models for imitation.”* But Jesus loved children, and children loved him. Mark said Jesus was angry with his stern, overly “grown up” disciples. After he made it clear he welcomed the children, Mark added the lovely eyewitness detail that Jesus “hugged the children and blessed them.”
Lord Jesus, I need you to hug me and bless me. And I need your spirit to fill me, guiding me to bless even the smallest people who need me to show them your love and kindness. Amen.
* HarperCollins Christian Publishing. NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook: Bringing to Life the Ancient World of Scripture (Kindle Locations 220266-220267). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
** John Ortberg, Who Is This Man? The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012, pp. 75.
*** Peterson, Eugene H. The Message Numbered Edition Hardback. Navpress. Kindle Edition.
The GPS series this week looks at Jesus’ kindness as an irresistible attraction, drawing people into his message and way of life. We might call it (as Pastor Chrostek did) “one-anothering”--a daily posture that sees, hears, honors and blesses one another. And that means not just our friends and family, people we want to be around, but whoever shows up in front of us.
In this story from Mark (10:13-16) Jesus stops to really see and hear the folks who actually show up in front him. These folks happen to be children. The disciples scold the children to leave because kids were not the target audience the disciples had in mind. They had more important people for Jesus to meet, more important places for Jesus to go. They didn’t want Jesus to waste his time on children, who didn’t seem to matter in the big scheme of things.
Jesus calls out the disciples, insisting they allow the children to stay right where they are, next to him. Jesus doesn’t pause to calculate whether it’s worth his time to bless these children, or manipulate the optics to further his message or look around for more important people to engage. He stops right then and right there to see the blessing of the human beings in front of him, not the potential audience, the ideal human beings that his disciples were hoping for. Jesus “one-anothered” the children, seeing them fully as persons worthy of his attention and blessing.
Kindness is a powerful and radical posture in the world. One-anothering may sound warm and fuzzy or even sentimental. But the truth is: kindness is a tough practice that requires intentionality, self-discipline, and trust in the One who carries within God’s own heart the person standing right in front of me. It is not a news-grabbing, earth-shattering event, but it will change the world.
I’m challenged by this Jesus-following practice, especially when I’m disappointed that the person who shows up in front of me isn’t who I had in mind. I’m drawn to Jesus for precisely his posture of one-anothering. And, on those days when I can follow Jesus in this, abundant life awaits me, a deeper knowing of God’s love that weaves the universe together than I might have known otherwise.
Let’s try it today. Let’s follow Jesus and one-another together. Amen.
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