RECEIVE THE KINGDOM OF GOD LIKE A LITTLE CHILD
Mark 10:1-16 Key Verses: 10:15
“Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Through last week’s passage, we learned that Jesus wanted his disciples to accept the message of his suffering, death and resurrection. The disciples could not understand because they were self-centered and seeking their worldly glory. When they were self-centered, they were constantly arguing among themselves and became a stumbling block for God’s work. Instead of co-working with the man who was driving out demons in the name of Jesus, John stopped him because he was not one of the chosen 12. Instead of rebuking John and the other disciples for their immaturity, Jesus taught them true greatness in the sight of God. We can be great in God’s eye when we welcome needy and childish people and serve them in Jesus’ name. The more God-centered we become, the more needy people we may be able to welcome and serve them with the love of Christ. The more we become God-centered, the more human limitations we may overcome and be united with other coworkers for the kingdom of God. May God bless each one of our members to grow in Jesus’ humility and love so that we can unite in Christ, serving the needy people sent by God. When we do so, may the people of the world see the love of God among us. Amen!
In today’s passage, Jesus is teaching the true meaning of marriage to the Pharisees and to the disciples. The disciples rebuked people who brought little children even though Jesus just taught them to welcome them in his name. Jesus taught the disciples to welcome little children again. Jesus wanted them to accept the word of God like little children. Jesus wanted them to have simple faith in Jesus’ teaching, especially in the original meaning of marriage. A marriage should be and is ordained by God. May God bless each one of us to accept Jesus’ teaching like a little child, especially on marriage. Amen!
I. God Ordained Marriage (1-12)
Look at verse 1. As this chapter opens, Jesus left Galilee and went to the region of Judea across the Jordan, also known as Perea. Again crowds of people came to Jesus and, as was his custom, Jesus taught them. Wherever he went and whatever he did, he took a chance to give the life-giving word of God. What did Jesus teach publicly? The first thing he taught was, “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (1:15) Jesus taught with amazing authority from God. Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (2:17). Jesus taught how David ate consecrated bread and then said, “the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (2:27). It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath (3:4). A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand (3:24). Whoever does God’s will is Jesus’ brother, sister and mother (3:35). Jesus taught the secrets of the kingdom of God in parables (Ch.4). Jesus taught that faith in him can bring healing and even raise the dead to life. Jesus taught the Pharisees that they should obey the commands of God more than human traditions (7:8). Food doesn’t make a man unclean but sin, so they should clean not only outside but inside sin. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
As Jesus taught, some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” The Pharisees are mentioned 11 times in Mark’s gospel (2:16,18,24; 3:6; 7:1,3,5; 8:11,15; 10:2; 12:13). This is the 10th time. We already know that they were the main critics and opponents of Jesus and his disciples. Five of their critiques had to do with eating. They were quite legalistic about keeping the law of Moses. They didn’t approve of Jesus’ teaching and activity. The first test they asked Jesus was for a sign from heaven, but Jesus refused (8:11). They wanted Jesus to prove his authority, like Moses who did miracles in Egypt. Actually, Jesus had already done so many miracles of healing and exorcism in public. Among these, Jesus even healed some right in front of them, like the paralyzed man who was lowered down through the roof (2:12) and the man with the shriveled hand (5:5).
This time they tested Jesus on a divorce issue. How was this a test? Perhaps they were testing Jesus’ knowledge of the law. Also, they were trying to get Jesus into trouble. After all, John the Baptist was imprisoned for saying to King Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife” (6:18). John’s clear teaching on marriage caused him to be murdered. Jesus was in the line of John the Baptist and would answer the same. So they would put Jesus in to the same trouble if Jesus reply in the same way.
How did Jesus reply? He turned the question back to them: “What did Moses command you?” Since they asked about what is “lawful,” Jesus directed them to Moses, who received and passed on God’s law to the children of Abraham. Jesus pointed them back to the Bible in order to clarify the law of Moses based on the original meaning of marriage.
In response, they said to Jesus (4): “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” They were quoting from Deuteronomy 24:1 which reads as follows: “If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house…” Hebrew scholars debated two phrases in this verse: “displeasing to him” and “something indecent about her.” Liberal scholars allowed for anything such as a miscarriage to be a ground for divorce, while conservative scholars said only marital unfaithfulness would be a proper ground. Perhaps the Pharisees were trying to draw Jesus into this debate so he would have to take sides, like in a political party. But Jesus was not drawn into the debate.
What was Jesus’ answer? Look at verse 5, “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” In the Bible hard hearts come from stubbornness, pride and unrepentance. Hard-hearted people do not listen to God’s word. They are like Cain who ignored God’s counsel and became a murderer and a restless wanderer. Surprisingly, even Jesus’ disciples were rebuked by Jesus for being hard-hearted, having eyes but failing to see and ears but failing to hear. Moses gave certain laws to his people because they were too hard-hearted to simply accept God’s word. The Pharisees were being the same way by rejecting Jesus’ words and deeds.
In his compassion, Jesus took them back to Genesis in order to teach the original meaning of marriage. Look at verses 6-9. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” There are a few lessons Jesus was giving. First, marriage is ordained by God. It is God’s idea, creating one man and one woman to form one family, not one man and one man or one woman and another woman. It was not man’s choice or woman’s feeling. It was God who brought Adam a suitable helper. When God brought Eve to Adam, he was so joyful that he could not but write a poem: “You are my bone of bone, flesh of my flesh. So you shall be called woman because God made her for me and she is a special part of my life.” This is the first marriage God ordained for them live in the paradise he created.
Secondly, God created a godly family to be united. How could they be united? In order to be united, both must have the same purpose. Without the same purpose, they cannot be united. For example, if one person wants to serve God on Sunday, and another person wants to have a drinking party, they are divided. Even with the same purpose, it’s not easy for two individuals to become one in heart and soul. They have grown up and formed two different characters and, thus, have different opinions on how to achieve that same goal. If a husband insists his own way, he is going to break the heart of his wife and their relationship. Both must work hard to listen to each other and understand, yet that is not enough because one cannot completely understand another human being. That is the reason why the Bible commanded that a husband should love his wife as himself, and a wife should obey her husband. This is not easy, but when a couple has the same purpose to serve God, they can overcome themselves and follow the word of God.
Finally, a man cannot break what God has joined together. Look at verse 9 again, “Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” Everything in this world is made by God. When we break nature, we know that we are causing natural disaster. These days, people constantly talk about the global warming issue whenever we have crazy weather. Here is another example. God holds all elements with great power. When we break a little bit of uranium, it releases a tremendous amount of energy. Enough to destroy and entire city, or even the whole earth with just a few of nuclear bombs! Though we use its destructive power with an enormous structure, calling it nuclear energy, its failure in a slight way has damaged too big to ignore; yet we forget so soon and go after them, saying that it is for everyone’s happiness. In our conscience or sub-conscience, however, we know that the world will end by fire, specifically nuclear power, sooner or later. If we believe that a family is created by God, a man cannot or should not break it. When a sinful human breaks, it brings a great destruction. When I talked with a few who went through divorce, each of them confessed that they experienced hell on earth. Yet a proud and sinful human being does not listen. They forget and break it again and again, saying it was for their own happiness.
More than that, many Christians do not believe that a marriage is ordained by God or should be established in God. They even do not consider God in their marriage. So they do not work hard to be united in order to serve God. They can break the marriage because they believe that it was made by their choice. The divorce rate of Christians in America is as high as that of non-Christians.
But when God’s people left God out of their marriage, God took it very seriously in Genesis 6:2 and 3. It says, “The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them chose. Then the Lord said, ‘My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.’” When believers married unbelievers according to their outward appearance, God decided to put an end to the world. Why did God take it so seriously that he had to destroy the world? It is because a family is the core unit of his creation. Ungodly families produce ungodly children and a godless society. No doubt that’s why the moral standard of America is going down so quickly. This is the reason why God commanded the people of Israel not to marry unbelievers. I pray that each one of our young unmarried members marry in God, by God and for God. May God ordain your marriage and bless your faith to be united in Christ for God’s purpose. Amen!
What was the response of the disciples to Jesus’ teaching? Even Jesus’ own disciples had difficulty understanding Jesus’ words. So when they went into the house, they asked Jesus in private about this teaching. Jesus answered them (11-12): “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” Jesus was teaching the fundamental reason why people divorce. The main reason is adultery.
Why do people divorce and remarry? Basically, because they think they will be happier to unite with someone else, someone “better” for them. They also feel that their marriage is broken and unfixable, or not worth fixing. But if their marriage wasn’t dissolved by God then they are committing adultery, according to Jesus. One Christian scholar condenses strong marriages into one essential ingredient: they REPAIR well. Every relationship has problems and challenges that result in damages. Strong marriages and strong relationships deal with differences through respectful communication, repenting their selfishness, and giving and receiving forgiveness. In that way, both grow mature in Christ, being united to be one in serving the work of God.
I would like to share my marriage in Christ. After I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior, I decided to stop dating going through emotional turmoil and to wait on God. God saved me from my sins and promised the kingdom of God through Jesus, so I decided to trust in Him who promised in Matthew 6:33: When I seek his kingdom and his righteousness, he will bring a godly woman who would like to serve the work of God together with me. As I concentrated on my school studies and grew in Christ through 1:1 Bible study, testimony writing, and Sunday worship, God blessed me with scholarships and growing disciples. In God’s time, around the time of my graduation, God brought a pure-hearted woman from above. I could not but give thanks to God for his provision. But it was not easy to be one in Christ. There was a time I fell into doubt of God’s ordination because the differences between us were like day and night. Instead of thinking of divorce, I came to God asking, “Why did you put us, two totally different people, together?” Then, God spoke, “That is the reason why I made two of you together: to understand things completely, like the two sides of a coin. A one sided coin can see only one side, and you need a story from the other side to understand everything completely.” Aha! From that time on, God enabled me to listen to what she had to say, understanding that there are people who see and think different from me. As I grow in Christ, our relationship grows closer so that we may serve the work of God together for His eternal kingdom. Amen!
II. Blessed little children (13-16)
Look at verse 13. Jesus dealt with the serious and weighty topic of divorce. Just then, people were bringing to Jesus little children for him to place his hands on and bless. As we know, Jesus was a busy man who was in high demand. Many people came to him with serious life problems. Jesus only had 24 hours per day to do everything, including sleep, like everyone else. He probably needed 12 secretaries. So his disciples tried to help him by screening his personal visitors. In this case, the disciples were disturbed and rebuked those who brought their children. Maybe they said, “Don’t you know Jesus doesn’t have time for such trivial affairs? Get your kids out of here!”
As we know, children can be really cute and make us smile at times, but they can also be quite annoying and disruptive, especially when they want something and throw tantrums. Also, they generally are not very helpful in accomplishing great tasks or solving difficult problems. They are simply too weak and too ignorant.
Isn’t it surprising that Jesus had just taught them a short time ago to welcome little children in his name? Jesus made it a point by having a little child stand among them. Then, taking the child in his arms, said, “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.” But Jesus’ message went through the disciples’ one ear and out the other. They were slow learners.
When Jesus saw what his disciples did, trying to send the children away, he became indignant. Jesus was very unhappy as if he had been insulted. He was very displeased with his disciples unlearning and immature nature. They were frequently saying and doing things contrary to the mind and heart of Jesus. So Jesus made it another teaching moment. He said to them (14-16), “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.
Why does the kingdom of God belong to little children? Children are curious, constantly asking questions. They have simple faith in their father and mother. They accept almost anything their parents tell them like a sponge soaking up water. They simply believe in Santa when they hear about the story, and write a letter, confessing their sins and making a new decision. Their minds are so pure that what is written stays in their hearts for a long time as written on a blank chalk board. Often you do not need to try to teach them. With eagerness they learn by looking at you. So they do what they see their parents are doing at home. Little children are weak and vulnerable. They want someone to protect them, to provide for them, and to love them. They naturally believe in their parents’ protection, provision and love, so they always run to their father or mother with absolute faith.
There is another reason Jesus blessed the little children. It is because they came to Jesus, or were brought to Jesus, for his blessing. Jesus delights in blessing those who come to him humbly, just as they are, for his blessing. Jesus invites us to come to him, in faith and in humility.
Jesus made little children a standard for heaven: “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (15). Here, the children contrast the Pharisees. The Pharisees came to test and trap Jesus. They came to shame and defeat him. Why? Because they thought they had nothing to receive from Jesus. Rather, they felt threatened by Jesus, as if they would lose too much to accept Jesus’ teaching and side with him. They were not prepared to give up anything, especially their sinful life. Their minds were full of laws and regulations, hiding sinful lives underneath. They were not open to accepting anything from Jesus, even the kingdom of God! What about Jesus’ disciples? They were in danger of becoming like the Pharisees, that is, self-centered and worldly glory seeking desire. They must be like little children, accepting Jesus’ teaching with eager desire of learning, pure-hearted, simple and absolute faith; otherwise, they cannot have the kingdom of God.
We must receive the kingdom of God like a little child to enter it. We must come to Jesus, just as we are, for his blessing. We must simply accept God’s message and messenger, Jesus, rather than justifying our sins through complicated excuses. God blesses those who have an absolute faith in him as a match maker. Jesus blesses all who come to him like a child for his blessing with pure heart and learning mind. May God give each one of us faith in Him who created heavens and the earth, and ordains a marriage! May God bless us to be like little children with simple and absolute faith in Jesus’ teaching so that we can enter the kingdom of God! Amen!