Pastoral Perspectives

“Let the Children Come to Me”

A man entered a supermarket with a trolley. Sitting in the trolley was his little boy.

As the man started pushing the trolley, the boy started shouting, “I don’t want to sit in this trolley! I want to get out now!”

“Patience! Billy, patience!” the father said.

As they passed the sweets section, the boy yelled, “I want some sweets! Please Daddy! I want some sweets!”

“Patience, Billy, patience!” the father said.

As they passed the toys section, the boy yelled again, “I want this toy car! Daddy! I want a toy now!”

“Patience, Billy, patience!” the father said.

And so it went on and on in the supermarket. Every now and then the boy will yell and screamed that he wanted this and wanted that. Each time the boy started shouting at the top of his voice, you could sense the awkwardness from the father.

Finally, they finished shopping and approached the payment counter, the boy started screaming again, “I don’t want to sit here! I want my candy sweets! I want my toy! I want to come out of this trolley!”

“Patience, Billy, patience!” his father said.

Another shopper who was walking behind the man heard and saw everything that was going on. As the father and son finally made it out of the supermarket, the shopper said to the man, “I must say I really admire your patience with your little Billy. The way you kept your cool throughout, I really admire you. You are a very patient Dad!”

“I’m sorry, the man replied. “You’ve got it all wrong. I am Billy!”

Can you remember when was the last time you got irritated and upset by a kid? It could be your own child or someone else’s child. What did they do? Did they pester you for a toy and when you decided that no, he or she is not going to add another to their collection of toys, they start crying and wailing like there is no tomorrow. Or did they keep asking you innocent questions like, “Are we there yet?” when you are driving on a long road trip? Or when you start a lovely Saturday morning after a long week, and just when you sit on your sofa with a cup of coffee and your papers, they come bug you with, “Dad, can we go out now?”

In Mark’s gospel, we see this account that happened.

In Mark 10:13-16 we read,

13 One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.

14 When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” 16 Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.

Here we see some excited parents bringing their children to Jesus for Jesus to bless them. It was supposed to be a happy situation but they got told off by Jesus’ disciples. Perhaps, the disciples said to them, “Wait! Don’t let the kids disturb Jesus! He is a very busy man, you know! He has other important things to do than to play with your kids.”

But Jesus didn’t respond the way his disciples did.

The NLT version says he got ‘angry with his disciples’. In the ESV, it says ‘he was indignant’ with them. In the Greek text, the word used to describe Jesus’ response is the word ἀγανακτέω (aganakteo) which has a meaning of ‘to be pained’ or ‘to be grieved’ or ‘to be angry’.

I guess the best way to understand Jesus’ feelings then is this: He was grieved or pained and he was affected by what he saw. And his probable response to his disciples was, “Aiyoh! Why you all like that? Let the children come to me! Don’t stop them!”

While I was serving as a school chaplain previously, one of things I enjoy doing was visiting the school canteen during recess time. Not because it’s recess time and I love to eat! But I love walking around the canteen to mingle with the children. I remember this incident that happened during the first day of the new school term. A Primary One student came up to me and offered me a packet of biscuits. I was so touched by her gesture until she said, “Uncle, can help me open my biscuits please? I don’t know how to open!”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. A teacher nearby who saw what she did quickly came up and said to the little girl, “Hey! Why you disturb Uncle Stan with these kind of things. He is the school chaplain. Don’t need to ask him to help you open your biscuits!” I quickly told the teacher that it’s ok and I am happy to be able to help the little girl. So I looked at the girl and said, “Sure! Uncle Stan can help you open it, but I need to tax your biscuits. You will need to share one biscuit with me!” And she nodded her head. Of course, I didn’t tax any of her biscuits that day! What a bad impression I would have left on her – a hungry pastor who had to ask a little girl to share her biscuits with him!

Jesus said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” 

Some thoughts for us for us to reflect upon.

Can we come to Jesus freely like a child? And we all know the answer is yes, we can! Not only we can, but we must! We must come to Jesus like children – children who are always helpless and dependent on their parents for their every need. We too need to come to Jesus as our loving Saviour, for our every need.

I don’t know about you but I find that as adults, we constantly struggle with coming to Jesus and saying, “Jesus, I need you because I don’t know what else to do!” More often than not, we adults tend to try to figure things out on our own and do things with our own strength and wisdom.

I have a nephew Lucas, who is seven. Recently his parents enrolled him in a sailing course. The only time I did some sailing was when I was in Sec 3 when we had to go for this 1 week camp at Outward Bound School in Pulau Ubin. It was memorable for me for all the wrong reasons as my friends and I were almost stranded out in the open sea when our sail broke halfway. And we had to wait for our angry instructors to come tow us back with a powerboat.

Back to my 7 year old nephew and his sailing course. Well, he made it through the course and was awarded a certificate of completion to show for it. And as his Uncle, I was so proud of him!

But what encouraged me was what he told his mom after that. He said, “I think my certificate belongs to Jesus because I don’t know what I was doing half the time, I just sing in my heart and He helped me!”

As a young boy, he knew Jesus can be his help in times of trouble or when he felt afraid! As his Uncle, I am so thankful that he knows Jesus and that Jesus has saved my nephew to himself.

We often think what do children know about trusting Jesus. They are young and we may think their theology may not be so right. But it is often the children who come to Jesus on their own because they recognise they need help.

And that’s what the simple theology of being God’s children is about. That’s what Jesus meant when he said, “For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” 

To Jesus, children are as important as we adults, and equally worthy of love. Children do not belong automatically in God’s kingdom. They must come to Jesus and receive him the same way we adults receive Jesus into our hearts and lives.  

And that’s where we have a responsibility as adults to point them to Jesus. In order for us to do that, it’s important to first see ourselves as God’s children as well. We – you and I, we are all God’s children. We become children of God by acknowledging His place in our hearts and lives.

And as God’s children, we need to rely on God the same way a child depends on a parent. We need God’s love, wisdom, instruction, protection, healing, and guidance in every way.

When Jesus says, “For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children,” He doesn’t mean his kingdom is filled with little children.

He means His kingdom belongs to those who are like children – the helpless and needy, empty-handed, weak, like how children are. Even as adults, we do not know everything and we will often feel weak and helpless. Yet, Jesus invites us to come to Him like a child – like a little child who needs his strong arms to carry, who wants to pester him with our questions, or speak to Him with our feeble prayers.

So can children know and put their trust in Jesus? They can – when they see and learn how we adults as children of God live out our lives trusting in Jesus for our every need.

May we all learn to be a child and trust in Jesus with a child-like faith because He is Strong and Kind!