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Author:Rev. Klaas Jonker
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Congregation:Grace Canadian Reformed Church
 Winnipeg, Manitoba
 www.grace.canadianreformed.ca
 
Title:The kingdom is for children
Text:Mark 10:13-16 (View)
Occasion:Baptism
Topic:God's Covenant faithfulness
 
Preached:2004-02-29
Added:2004-03-23
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hy 4:1,4
Reading: Mark 09:33 - 10:12
Hy 1A
Text: Mark 10:13-16
Ps 8:1,2
Ps 103:7
Ps 136:1,2
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Klaas Jonker, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,

We are not a congregation of adults. The address at the beginning of the sermon is directed to everyone here present: is to the adults as well as to the children.

So, in Church the children are not unimportant. They fully belong! Every time a baby is baptized we hear God saying: You are mine; you belong to Me! I will care for you. I don't send you away.

God says to children: If you come to Me with you believing parents, or by yourself when you have grown up, I will make you happy. I will make you live forever. Or in other words: I will bless you, now and always. Yes, you are totally fine with Me. That's what the Word of God tells us this morning.

And do you know what?! - in a way the Lord even likes children better than adults. Why does the Lord give more praise to children? Let's listen to His Word to all of us, young and old:

THE BLESSING OF GOD'S KINGDOM IS FOR SMALL AND GREAT ALIKE
1. Christ welcomes His chosen people
2. Christ welcomes children and blesses them
3. Christ welcomes adults who become like a child

1. Looking at verse 1 we understand that our text must be dated at the end of Christ's ministry here on earth.

For nearly three years the Lord had taught that those whom the Father would give Him would be blessed by eternal joy. Through Him they would enter the kingdom of God. He would make that way through His death on the cross and through His resurrection.

In this regard an important question was and still is: Which people would receive His heavenly blessing? Thinking about this question the human mind immediately focusses the attention on what looks to be important: people who hold a high position; who have a lot of possessions; who are officebearers, who keep up the old traditions.

However, the Lord Himself used a different measure for giving his blessing. Time and again the Lord summarized his teaching concerning entering his kingdom with these words: many that are first will be last, and the last first (10:31).

For three years now the Lord told the Jews (the crowd) about this blessing through Him. He heals. He saves. He gives peace.

With the Father He had testified of Himself that He - Jesus of Nazareth - is the man of love and joy. He would restore life so that there is no sadness and evil anymore. He would give people a totally new life.

In this blessed life they are completely ruled and cared for by the Christ sent from heaven. That's precisely why He continually spoke about the Kingdom of Heaven; or the Kingdom of God; or the Kingdom of the Son. With Him people will be safe, always!

Jesus teaching is good news. For what else do people need than the blessing of eternal life - than the assurance that all is well with them?!

Yet, in all his teaching the Lord stressed the point that people cannot enter His kingdom on their own terms. They must not throw their own weight around. The fruit of total trust and full confidence in Him will make people share in His blessed and glorious life.

Here you have the answer on what is important for entering God's kingdom. This is Christ's answer and teaching: nothing from yourself is important, in fact you must be prepared to denounce yourself, to deny yourself completely.

Congregation, the gospels inform us that Jesus' teaching of giving oneself up in total trust and confidence in Him was constantly challenged by the Jews, especially by the Pharisees, the rulers and the rich, and even ignored by his own disciples.

Everyone stands himself in the way, thinking too highly of himself and what he does. He appears to be fine. He is, so to speak, a beautiful tree with a lot of green leaves.

However, the fruit of true humility is lacking so that the access to Christ's blessing is blocked. Yet even in this situation people still come to the Lord to be blessed ...; they are small children!

The greek word shows that they were infants as well as children of of pre-school and/or elementary-school age. In the other gospels it is said that the mothers brought them. However in our text, Mark uses masculine words which imply that the fathers also were involved.

These children were not seriously ill like, for example, the daughter of Jairus. You know Jairus urged the Lord to touch his daughter that she might live. That urgency was not there for the parents of our text.

And yet, the parents had the urgent desire to bring them to the Lord! - why? Those parents apparently were concerned about the real future of their children. They wanted their children to be blessed by the Lord.

The parents had heard that Christ's blessing would be of great benefit to everyone, including to their small and vulnerable children. So, they wanted their children to be partakers of the blessed life with the Lord.

They came at the door of the house where Jesus was taking a break from His hectic schedule of teaching the crowds. At the same time He used this break as an opportunity of instructing his disciples in private.

In such a situation parents, with their children, came to the door asking to see and visit the Lord Jesus. Please, they asked, bring our children to Jesus that He may touch them, that is: lay His hands on them, and - as Matthew adds - pray for them.

So, what do we see? I formulated the first point as follows: Christ welcomes His chosen people ... That's what we see in the gospels. During Jesus' three years of ministry we don't see that on their own accord people don't come to the Lord.

Everyone is taking offense to his teaching that man's work and wisdom does not make him a child of the kingdom. No one comes to Him in his own strength.

"One has to be brought to the Lord!"

I like to link our text to what we read in Matthhew 11. There, in a time that everyone is turning away from Jesus, rejecting His teaching to have everything in Him, the Lord shows who will be blessed by Him.

At that time Jesus said: "I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.

Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. That's the Lord's teaching here, too. He chooses to reveal Himself to the gentle and the humble in heart. Those who show this He welcomes.

The disciples still needed to learn this divine method of the Lord. According to the disciples the little ones must wait till they have grown up and can make up their own mind.

What a disappointment for those parents. They had hoped so much that their children would be blessed by Jesus. Would He, then, be a Helper only for big people?

2. Those parents with their children were not left with that question. As a true Shepherd of His sheep Christ was alert.

We have made the transition to the 2nd point: Christ welcomes children and blesses them. When He became aware of the spiritual insensitivity of his disciples Jesus was greatly annoyed. He was even indignant about his disciples who again showed a total lack of understanding as to how one enters His kingdom. After all, His salvation was a gift, wasn't that His overall teaching?

So, why won't God be able and willing to give this blessing to children? Why won't God accept even very small children? He surely will.

Thus, Jesus spoke those golden and comforting words: "let the little children come to Me, do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."

The disciples, who felt so important in themselves, had to step aside to make way for important covenant children!

The Lord admits them. And so the little children joyfully gathered around Jesus. The Lord welcomed them and spoke to them. In a few simple words He would have told them that, as the Good Shepherd He cares for them.

I think that He would have said somthing like this: "I only make you happy. I only give to you all that you need. All your wrongs and your naughty things will be taken away by Me. No one will grab you from My hand!"

No one had ever spoken to them in such a way. They saw the Man of love and joy. With all that He did He made clear to them: you are my children, You are the lambs of my flock.

No doubt, the eyes of those children would have expressed something! They would have shown great excitement for they heard that the Lord was friendly to them and cared for them. Jesus made them happy by giving them His love and attention.

Now, - what did these little children not do? They did not question Jesus like people do when they are growing up and have grown up.
.. Jesus why do you do this?... why don't you do that?... how can this be true?... don't we have to do this or that?

No, beloved, these little children did not start arguing with Jesus. With the openness, receptivity and naivety of a child they felt at peace with Jesus. They heard His voice and they just knew: with Him one is safe.

For the Lord did not only speak to them: He also clearly showed them that they have nothing to fear from Him. He took them on His lap; He took them in His arms, He put His hand on each of them and blessed them.

No doubt, those children with their parents went home happier than they had ever been! That's how we may go home every time when in Church we have heard the Lord speaking to us and blessing us.

Even though we cannot see Him, we may go to Him, everyone, the little children included. Yes, the desire of parents of today must be to bring their children into the presence of the Lord. For it's here in church where He speaks His Word and gives His blessing. Here He says: "come to Me". Here He takes us in his arms, so to speak, when we were and are baptized. He promises to keep us safe, always!

Indeed, parents, know that when you take your children along to church, you bring them to the Lord. And children, know that when Mom and Dad take you along to church, they bring you to the Lord.

So, every Sunday in Church He says to us: "Come to Me that I may bless you; and be happy in my presence; sing your psalms of praise!

Especially when we witness a baptism, then we see parents presenting their children to the Lord so that the Lord may say: You are Mine; I bless you.

And when you have grown up - and this concerns our youth and in particular the adults - you may and must, by God's grace, joyfully accept your place in His church, i.e: your free place in the covenant.

Do not let your own wisdom confuse you with all your human questions. Simply enjoy being in the Lord's presence and listening to His voice.

Your joyful response must be: "I am not my own but I belong to my faithful Saviour, Jesus Christ." He is my salvation. I don't want to live for myself. I totally want to live and die for Him.


3. How do we do this? We have to listen and to accept the Lord's instruction to adults: "always approach me like a child, yes become like a child!"

This brings us to our last point. We have seen how the disciples hindered the children coming to Jesus; they did not admit them to the Lord.

Through their approach they again - as on other occasions - showed that they did not understand the Lord's way of salvation yet.

They felt that somehow they knew better; that they were more important and better than others who were not as close to the Lord.

During such a discussion among his disciples (Chapter 9) the Lord already said to them, after having called a child and placing him in their midst: "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me."

In Matthew 18 we read a similar instruction: "Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven; whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

At the time of our text the followers of Christ had not yet fully learned this lesson from Christ. That's why Jesus repeats the lesson in our text. This time He is doing so with a stern rebuke. Oh, disciples, do not tell those parents and children off; you yourselves need to be rebuked. For, don't think that you can enter the kingdom like very important people. You must not act like busy bodies throwing your weight around, barring the way.

Look at those children whom you tried to send away. You thought to tell them something - that they had to come back when they have grown up ...

Well, let me tell you the truth - the Lord used the affirmative biblical word "amen" here - You yourself need to grow up spiritually.

For do you know what? - to such little ones belongs the Kingdom of God! "Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it."

You have to become like little children, who are not concerned about they have to do; they are not concerned about the future. They are just happy when you receive them in a friendly way and put your hand on them. Like such children you will receive the happiness and blessings of the kingdom.

Yes, we must have a good understanding of the meaning of these words as follows. It does not mean of course that adults must act like children all the time, that they must be childish.

Remember, here the point of comparison is the usual openness and receptivity of children. The kingdom of God must be received as a totally free gift.

Children receive a gift with great excitement without thinking: what must I give or do in return? Little children depend on the wisdom and care of adults; they are carried in their arms, and they naturally take what others give them.

Now, in such a child-like manner people must accept the blessedness of the kingdom of God. Christ's word for the disciples and for all adults is therefore: receive my (free) grace and love like little children do, and be happy and joyful.


And yet, that remains very difficult for adults; why? The reason is not that the Lord makes it hard for us. We make it hard for ourselves and others. By nature we are unable to accept the Lord's blessing just like that.

We find (! of course we don't say it) ourselves too important. Next to God's grace we feel that something must be achieved that is our own work. And we are kind of proud about what we have achieved so far.

We can be on a power-trip like the disciples when they rebuked the parents for bringing children, assuming that people must come on their own accord.

Yet, human uncertainty often is hidden behind such a power-trip. We want to keep things in hand; we want to make sure that things don't change, but we know that as human beings we don't have it in our hands.

But the Lord does! To Him is given all power in heaven and on earth. That's why in true faith we have to leave things in His divine hands. We must be governed by one desire, that those hands bless us and all who come to Him. That's why we all have to be totally changed. That change does not happen overnight.

Beloved, where in the Bible does the Lord focus the attention on our greatness and excellency, saying: blessed are the high-minded people?

NOWHERE! ...

On the contrary - His humbling teaching is: blessed are the poor in spirit - for theirs is the kingdom of heaven! Like the disciples needed this teaching so do we; we need the repeated Word of Christ as a revealing lesson that He Himself admits to His lap.

His lap is now - in His congregation, in the Christian family, in the Christain school since it is organized on the basis of the true confession.

There Christ admits, blesses and touches His Children. Here He says: Come to Me! His teaching is: "Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

Here we are taken into his arms. Now His hands are on us and He blesses us.

Don't argue about it. Be not concerned about your life and future. We are safe in Christ's lap!

Amen.



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Klaas Jonker, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: www.grace.canadianreformed.ca

(c) Copyright 2004, Rev. Klaas Jonker

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