People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. – Mark 10:13
There are deep ironies in the disciple’s restraint of the little children. The disciples had perpetual access to Jesus, yet they sought to limit access with even those who had limited opportunity to come to him and who would see him only briefly. The disciple’s should have known Jesus’ character best, particularly his bent towards kindness and compassion, but they acted contrary to his desires.
They were the adults, yet they barred the children.
14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. – Mark 10:14a
Merriam-Webster defines indignant as “a feeling or showing anger because of something unjust or unworthy.” This rare outward display of anger from Jesus is consistent with the kind of anger that he expressed in Mark 1:41 when the Pharisees refused to acknowledge the justice and mercy of his healing the man with the withered hand.
14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. – Mark 10:14
Jesus’ response towards the disciples not only centered on their lack of compassion, but for not seeing the greater faith picture in the children’s desire to see him. Put another way: Who does the Kingdom of God belong to? It belongs to those who come to him like little children. It belongs to those who see their need of him and embrace him without reservation.
The key to the verse’s meaning is found in the phrase “such as these.” Heaven will comprised not of earthly children, but of the children of God and Jesus defines God’s children as more than mere title, but possessing qualities consistent with little children.
15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Theologians have long debated what Jesus meant by “receive the kingdom” and “like a little child,” but taking the whole of the Gospel into account, the receipt of the kingdom has to be consistent with the qualities of faith. Little children receive knowledge and what that knowledge reveals about the world, with an unwavering trust in their teachers. They are dependent and vulnerable. These qualities actually better position them to receive difficult or lofty truths than a questioning adult. Similarly, Christ’s people must learn to trust through difficult truths until their knowledge and experience matures them to see him more clearly.
16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them
More than just a picture of Jesus’ kindness, here is a metaphor that harmonizes with earlier imagery: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” – Matthew 23:37
“And he [Jesus] will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” – Matthew 24:31
Christ will readily gather, without discrimination, those who are his.
Faith Lesson: Christ’s command to his disciple’s not to hinder the little children serves as a warning to us not to hinder anyone who would come to him. In view is Jesus’ first woe in Matthew 23:13: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” Christ will take every sinner as they are, but only if they see their need for him by seeking forgiveness of sins and desiring the new life he offers.