Mark 10:1-16 1 And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them. 2 And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” 5 And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 10 And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
There is a natural tendency in all of mankind to compare ourselves with others. When a child is young their knowledge of the world is very limited. What they know of the world is seen primarily through their home and through the eyes of their parents or guardians and siblings. As they begin to go to school and ride a bike and go to different places their understanding of the world will grow beyond their family. And as they grow there is a natural desire to feel accepted and to be praised by others. Their identity is intrinsically associated with how their parents view them and love them and then as they grow based upon their friends and peers and eventually coworkers and society as a whole. But every person’s true identity is found in their relationship to God. This is the most important thing.
The disciples had a direct and personal relationship with Jesus of Nazareth. They walked and talked with Him. They believed that He was the Christ who came to save them. As Jesus walked upon this earth as a man over two thousand years ago He was establishing a new kingdom- the Kingdom of God. But Jesus acted in a manner that was very different than what the disciples had expected. As the disciples continued to follow Jesus it became harder to still believe that He was the Christ. And yet they kept following Him. When Jesus questioned them about His identity Simon Peter still identified Jesus as the Christ. At this point Jesus makes it clear to them all that He will soon formally establish His Kingdom but then He adds that He must die and rise again. Once again, this is not what the disciples expected and instead of humbling themselves and seeking God for the meaning of this hidden truth, they reverted back to their false beliefs of the Christ and believed that soon Jesus would rule over Jerusalem and they each would be given power and authority in His earthly Kingdom. They still struggled to see that Jesus was establishing a spiritual kingdom of individuals from every tribe and nation. They were in confusion and their unbelief blinded them.
At this point the Pharisees enter the picture again. They were among the religious elite in Israel. They were highly regarded for their religious fervour as they performed all kinds of external religious acts. But in fact they were separated from God. Their identity was found not in their relationship with God but in their favour with the people around them. And so they try to trap Jesus in a question about divorce. Jesus directs the conversation from divorce to adultery. The irony is that the Pharisees had committed adultery in their relationship with God. And adultery according to the Old Testament law was punishable by death (Leviticus 20:10). The Pharisees had condemned themselves from the very question that they asked to try and trap Jesus.
But what was the underlying problem of the Pharisees and the struggle of the disciples at this point? They were not willing to humble themselves before God. Their relationship with God was not the most important thing but rather how they were perceived by others. They desired to be great or at least better than the closest people around them. Their identity was not found in and through Jesus Christ. And so once again Jesus uses children to teach them. He says in verse 15: “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
Jesus had previously taught the disciples in Mark 9:36-37 using a child but it is obvious by His repetition here that they still did not understand. They still had not repented of their sin. Here He declares His teaching even more clearly. To enter into the Kingdom of God requires receiving it like a child. The Gospel message, the Good News of Jesus Christ, at its foundation is not difficult to understand. You don’t have to become a great person in society to make sense of it. You don’t have to have a great intellect or become a Pharisee or a philosopher or have lots of money to enter into the Kingdom of God. Rather it is often more difficult for those who are considered great to enter in. Why? Because it is a spiritual kingdom that is spiritually discerned. And God will never reveal this Kingdom to those who are filled with human pride- whose identity is found only in how other people perceive them. But He is willing to reveal His Kingdom to those who will receive it like a child- who will humble themselves before Him and recognize that the most important thing is what God thinks of them. Their relationship to God is the most important thing. Their sin has separated them from God and they are condemned to eternal death apart from Jesus Christ’s saving work upon the cross by dying in their place. Everything that they have believed about themselves and the world around them up to this point has been based upon a broken relationship with God. Until their relationship with God is restored it does not matter what their relationship with other people is like. To become like a child is to stop dead in your tracks and re-examine everything that you have known in light of this truth. To become like a child is to turn to Jesus Christ as the only means by which you can have a relationship with God. And when we get off track in our understanding of the truth as the disciples had at this point, we need to return to the simple truth of becoming like a child.
Do you know that you have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ? The only way to receive the Kingdom of God is to become like a child. Humility before God is the only way in.
Pastor Murray Hack