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Mark 10:13-16 – Let the Little Children Come to Me

When I was a child, my parents always took us to church. Mom would read missionary stories to us at nap time. She would lead Bible clubs in our home. Both parents were involved in teaching children at church. It is little surprise that their children went on to care for children in various ways. My sister was a nanny who led several children to the Lord. My wife and I worked with children in various churches as well.

But children often cause problems. Some talk out during church services. They squirm and cause disruptions. They run about in the church and don’t think of the elderly who they might knock down. We all know children like that and sometimes wonder why they shouldn’t be left at home while the adults learn in a peaceful environment. But is that the way we should think about children? Should they be shuffled away where they won’t bother us? In today’s passage, we will see how Jesus responded to little children and will learn how we should respond to them ourselves.

  1. What does it say?

    People brought little children to Jesus hoping that He would touch them. The disciples rebuked those who brought the children to Jesus. But when Jesus noticed this, He was very displeased with them. He told them to let the little children come to Him and to not forbid them because of such is the kingdom of God. He made it very clear that the person who did not receive God’s kingdom as a little child would never enter the kingdom. After addressing the disciples, Jesus took the children into His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them.

    In other words, people were wanting Jesus to touch their children for healing or blessing but the disciples thought this was inappropriate. Jesus was not happy with their response and had to teach them that children were allowed to come to Him. In fact, only those who received God’s kingdom like a little child would enter the kingdom. To emphasize His point, Jesus picked up the little children and blessed them.
  2. What does it mean?

    To better understand what this passage means, we need to answer several questions.

    Why were people bringing children to Jesus? (Mark 10:13)

    According to verse 13, the people were bringing their children to Jesus so that He might touch them. The word touch1 is most often used by Mark to describe what Jesus did when he healed a sick person (Mark 1:41; 3:10; 5:27; 6:56; 7:33; 8:22). So the parents may have been bringing their children to Jesus so that He could heal them. However, when you look at verse 16, it says nothing about healing. Instead, Jesus put His hands on them and … blessed them. Because of that, it may be better to understand this as parents wanting Jesus to bless their children. “The ritual of blessings was well known in Israel. Noah blessed Shem and Japheth (Gen 9:26-27), Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau (Gen 27; 28:1-4), and Jacob blessed his sons and grandsons (Gen 48-49).”3

    Why were the disciples holding them back? (Mark 10:13)

    At this point, the disciples were not known for their discernment. On several occasions, they had expressed wrong ideas. They had argued about which of them would be greatest (Mark 9:33-34). They had rebuked someone casting out a demon in Jesus’ name (Mark 9:38). Now they were rebuking people who had brought their children to Jesus to be blessed. A rebuke is offered when someone thinks what you are doing is wrong. They see what you are doing, judge it to be wrong, and then reprimand you for doing so. This is what the disciples were doing. Perhaps they didn’t think that children were worth interrupting Jesus’ busy schedule. But they were wrong. Jesus was “greatly displeased” with the disciples’ response to these people and their children.

    What is the kingdom of God? (Mark 10:14)

    Jesus told the disciples to let the children come to Him because “of such is the kingdom of God.” Most of us don’t think about the kingdom of God very often. We think about Jesus coming back, our future in heaven with Jesus, and such like. But Jesus here talks about the kingdom of God. What is that? There are varied ideas about the kingdom of God. Some believe that it only refers to the physical kingdom which will be revealed during the millennial rule of Christ. While that kingdom is real and will happen at God’s appointed time, Jesus often talked about the kingdom as being present right then.

    The phrase “kingdom of God” is mentioned 77 times in the NKJV. Of those times, here are several from the Gospel of Mark.

    Mark 1:15 – The kingdom was at hand, so people should repent and believe the gospel.
    Mark 4:11 – The kingdom of God was a mystery revealed to the disciples in parables.
    Mark 4:26-32 – The kingdom of God was something that grew like a planted seed.
    Mark 9:1 – The kingdom of God was seen in Jesus at the transfiguration.
    Mark 9:47 – The kingdom of God was contrasted with Hell.
    Mark 10:23 – The kingdom of God was hard for rich people to enter.
    Mark 12:34 – The kingdom of God was in reach of someone who loved God and his neighbor.
    Mark 14:25 – The kingdom of God was a future place where Jesus would drink grape juice.
    Mark 15:43 – The kingdom of God was something waited for by Joseph of Arimathea.

    From these verses, it seems clear that the kingdom of God is something in the future but also something we can be a part of now. It will be revealed during the millennial kingdom, but it was also something that was growing, seen in Jesus, and something currently being entered. It seems to have a present and a future state. The present kingdom of God is “God’s present spiritual rule in people’s lives”2 and is limited to those who are believers. As we voluntarily submit to the rule of God in our lives, we show that we are part of His kingdom. And as more people are saved and choose to serve the Lord, the kingdom grows. The future kingdom will be physical and will be God’s rule over all the earth. This is where Jesus returns to the earth to setup a kingdom headquartered in Jerusalem. He will defeat all kingdoms and will reign over the entire earth. This is specifically talked about in Daniel 2:44 and Revelation 19:11-20:4.

    What does it mean to receive the kingdom as a little child? (Mark 10:15)

    Jesus told His disciples that only those who received the kingdom of God as little children would enter it. What does it mean to receive the kingdom of God? Here the word receive has the idea of welcoming, accepting, approving, or embracing something. Little children seem to have an easier time of believing things than do adults. They have no doubt but believe what they are told. Jesus was teaching His disciples that this child-like acceptance of God’s kingdom was the only way anyone could enter it.

    Why did Jesus bless the children? (Mark 10:16)

    There are at least two reasons why Jesus blessed the little children. First, He blessed them because the parents wanted Him to do so. They had recognized Jesus at the least as a great man of God. They had seen Him do miracles that only God could empower. But they had also heard the truth which He preached. Perhaps some of them also saw Him as the Son of God. But whatever the case, they wanted Him to bless their children. Second, He blessed them because He wanted to. Jesus saw the potential value of these little children if they would believe and enter the kingdom. He knew that children would eventually become adults and later become useful in God’s kingdom.

  3. How does it apply?

    We should see the value of children.

    I remember an old preacher who wasn’t very fond of children. He liked to quote part of verse 14 in the KJV. He would often say, “Suffer the little children” and leave out the rest of the verse. I’m not sure why he said that. Perhaps he didn’t have much patience with them. In any event, we should be more like Jesus than that preacher. Jesus saw something in children. He saw their child-like acceptance of the kingdom as an example for adults to follow. Children are special like that. But He also saw them as the next generation.

    We need to remind ourselves of the value of children. While they can be exasperating at times and require a lot of our time, we should remember how Jesus viewed them. He wanted them to be there when He preached. He wanted them to hear the truth. He wanted them to believe and become part of God’s kingdom.

    With this in mind, we should take inventory of what we are doing with children. In our families, we should love the little ones and teach them about Jesus. At a young age, they can be taught the truth and can believe for themselves. This is why it is good to have a children’s Bible story book at home. This is why it is a good idea to have a family Bible time. In our church, we should also make time for children. When there are children in our services, we should make sure that they understand what is being said. Things can be made simpler for them to understand. Sunday School classes, Bible Clubs, and Vacation Bible School are all tools that can help little children to learn about Jesus and come to the knowledge of the truth. In our communities, we should consider how we can become involved in the lives of families especially those with children. As we interact with them, we must remember that they are the next generation and that they need to know the truth to be set free.

    We should receive God’s kingdom as little children.

    As we have seen, little children are more trusting than adults. Their simple faith in Jesus and acceptance of the truth are examples to all of us. But may we never think that faith in Jesus is just something for little children. That is not what Jesus was saying at all. He was highlighting their simple faith but was telling us to have that same kind of faith. And note very carefully that without this simple faith in Jesus, you will never enter God’s kingdom. You must believe for yourself without any reservation.

    Have you believed in Jesus and received Him for yourself? Each of us must come to the place where we recognize our sin against God. We are all sinners who have offended God by our sinful thoughts, speech, and actions. Because of those sins, we are all deserving of God’s judgment and eternity in Hell. But God, who is rich in mercy, provided a way for sinners to be forgiven. He sent His only Son Jesus to die on the cross in our place. He died for us and now all who will repent of their sin and put their faith in Jesus can be forgiven and reconciled to God. Jesus paid the price now all that God requires is for you to accept Him with the simple faith of a little child. Will you do that today?

Conclusion

When Jesus left heaven to become a man, He revealed to us what God wanted us to know. What we see in today’s passage is God’s love for children. Aren’t you glad that God is that way. Instead of pushing children into the background, He wants to be a part of their lives. As God’s children, we need to have the same mindset for the children we meet this week. For some of us, it comes naturally. For others, it may be more difficult. But as you meet children this week, remember how Jesus responded to them and seek to point them toward Him.

Footnotes

1 ἅπτω as viewed at https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/hapto on 5/11/2024.
2 Grassmick 150.
3 Edwards 308.

Bibliography

Edwards, James R., The Gospel According to Mark, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002.

Grassmick, John D., “Mark” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983.

Hiebert, D. Edmond, The Gospel of Mark, Greenville: BJU Press, 1994.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. 4, Matthew through Romans, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983.