Updated: Nov 25, 2021
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Today, our culture moves at a very fast pace. From constant notifications to clips and soundbites on our Twitter feeds. The news comes and as quick as it flashes across our screens, the next breaking news article is in front of us. Because of the frequency, we have learned to receive information in bits and pieces. I wonder at times if we are conditioned to read our Bibles in much the same way. Just reading the bits, clips, and pieces and in doing so missing the story. I know that I have done this at times. I have opened my Bible and dropped into a text without considering the context. When I do, I often misunderstand the story being told. I miss what the Lord is intending to communicate through His Word.
As we look at Mark 10, there have been times when I have pulled this text out of context. I have jumped straight to the account of Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler without considering the story of the Messiah and His kingdom that Mark is communicating. Considering this text, what has been talked about? In Mark 8, Jesus predicts His death and resurrection. He does so again in Mark 9 and here in Mark 10. Since He first predicted His death, Jesus has been sharing keys to the kingdom of God through His miracles and teaching. I believe He continues to do so here in Mark 10 as Mark shares the accounts of Jesus blessing the little children, speaking to the Rich Young Ruler, and the application of leaving all to follow Him. What does the context teach us about the kingdom?
I am so thankful that the Lord is patient with me. Often times when I do not understand His heart and mind, I tend to jump ahead of Him in my plans and actions. Here, as in Mark 9, little children are brought to Jesus. As they are brought to Him, the disciples “rebuked” those who brought them.
Mark 10:14-16 (New King James Version)
“But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.”
It could be that the disciples simply think that Jesus just does not have time for the little children, that they are a hindrance to Him and to His ministry. Their actions, pushing the little children away, greatly displeased Jesus. As we see Jesus so often doing, again He uses this moment to teach the disciples about His kingdom and mission.
It’s interesting how this account is arranged in Mark’s gospel. This is the second time Jesus calls children to His side to teach about the kingdom. The first time He did so was in (Mark 9:36-37) as He had just predicted His death and resurrection and the disciples have argued about who would be “greatest” (Mark 9:33-35). In (Mark 10:32-34), Jesus for the third time will predict His death and resurrection and this is again followed by a discussion about “greatness” in God’s kingdom.
"They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.”
Commentators have differed on exactly what qualities “little children” possess that are important in receiving the kingdom. I believe that being last or a servant of all is one of the lessons we can learn from Jesus’ teaching.
Children are not seen as having any great power. Brenda’s uncle often comments at holiday gatherings that when he was young, adults got their plates first and children waited until the grown-ups were all served. Today, we often serve the little ones first. In olden times and in ancient cultures, children were last rather than first. As the disciples argued about who would be the “greatest” or who would sit at the “right” or “left” hand of Jesus, Jesus seems to be teaching “You don’t understand my kingdom.” My kingdom is not about greatness but about service and becoming the least of all. My kingdom is taking up your cross as you give for the sake of others.
Jesus embodies His kingdom as the least of all, the marginalized, the “little children” come to Him and He blesses them. This is the first key to the Kingdom that we see in this text: the Lord’s kingdom is not for the proud but for the humble.
God’s kingdom is for those who are willing to surrender. In (Mark 10), Jesus is next approached by a young man who is known as a ruler and as a person who has great possessions (or wealth). He asks Jesus perhaps one of the greatest questions a person can ask, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). Although there are many things we could discuss and many things worthy of our discussion in this account, I want to look at the lesson.
We don’t know the young man’s motivation for asking such a profound question. However, in His answer, Jesus calls this young man to radical discipleship. In essence what Jesus is saying to this young man as well as us is to lose ourselves and follow Him.
"Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”
Here we find the next Key to the Kingdom: What it takes to enter the kingdom is surrender. It’s giving up what identifies you. Whatever we may think is to our profit or gain in this world we must be willing to surrender. We must be willing to forsake our pride, our status, and our acclaims, to become servants who follow Christ. It’s losing our identity for the sake of His identity. His mission becomes our mission.
This is a lesson that seems to be repeated as we consider the Lord’s kingdom.
"When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?"
This is a very difficult lesson and one that is not easy to follow as we see with this young man. He “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” (ref. Mk. 10:22). Moving from first to last, losing our identity for His identity, surrendering our purpose for His mission, will not be easy and for some may seem impossible.
How difficult is it for us to enter the kingdom of God when we trust our own resources? How difficult is it for us to enter the kingdom of God when we cannot surrender our pride? How difficult is it for us to enter the kingdom of God if we are seeking to be first? Jesus says:
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (ref. Mk. 10:25)
Unless we are willing to serve and express the humility of a child, unless we are willing to surrender and lose ourselves for the purpose of His identity and mission, entering His kingdom is impossible.