Jesus Loves All The Little Children Of The World
Pentecost 16B Mark 9:30-37
Futher texts: Mark 10:13-15, 1 John 3:1-2a
Yes we know the song. “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow black and white, they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the children of the world.”
Yes, we can see images of Jesus, the gentle presence of God, taking a small child into his arms and blessing that child.
In our mental images, Jesus is usually a fair skinned young man with a full head of hair and a full but short beard. He is smiling or has a pleasant expression on his face. The children around him are nicely dressed and well fed and everybody looks happy.
I looked up pictures from the Internet under the category “Jesus, children.” There were more than 16,000 pictures of Jesus with children. I looked at 500 such pictures, and the 500 pictures were all pretty much the same.
Look carefully at the following pictures. Not only at the young face of Jesus. Not only at the full head of hair and short beard. Not only at the color of the skin of Jesus and the children. But look at each picture and you will see Jesus’ arm around a child. That is what we are to remember. That is what we are to see. That Jesus held children in his arms or lap. It is the loving caress that we are to see and remember. And also as you examine each picture, look at the trusting feelings of the children.
See a child on Jesus’ lap. Notice Jesus’ right hand gently touching the child at his right. Notice that all children seem to feel safe around him.
The mental image is deeply ingrained that Jesus loves all the little children of the world, of all races and nations.
Notice the black child on Jesus’ lap and the Asian child to his right. Again, notice Jesus’ right arm around the child so the child feels secure and safe. Notice the trust in the faces of the children. We know that children come into your arms ONLY when they trust you.
In the next image, we again see various nationalities but all children have light colored skin.
Don’t focus on Jesus’ beard and hair. Don’t focus on the color of his skin. That is not the point. Instead, see Jesus’ hands touching the face of a child, so the child then trusts Jesus. Children let you touch their face ONLY when they trust you.
In the next picture,
Notice Jesus’ left arm around the boy and the little girl with her head on Jesus’ shoulder, showing deep trust that only a child can have…when that child trusts a parent, family member or close friend
It is with these images of Jesus and the children that we approach two primary teachings of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark. These two stories are found in Mark 9 and Mark 10. In both stories, Jesus will be holding, touching and enfolding children into his arms. In both stories, Jesus will talk about his disciples trusting like little children. Both stories are told by our eye witness on the scene, Simon Peter himself.
The first story is this: Jesus and his twelve disciples were returning to his hometown of Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus and the twelve had just been up north, outside the boundaries of Galilee. Jesus and three of his disciples had been on the Mount of Transfiguration and these three disciples, Peter, James and John had seen a spectacular scene of Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Meanwhile, down at the ranch, back in the village, down on the lower plains, the other nine disciples encountered a boy who had epileptic seizures and kept throwing his body into a fire. The nine disciples could not heal the sick little boy.
In the very next scene, we hear the disciples arguing about which ones were the greatest disciples? The three on the Mount of Transfiguration or the nine who could not heal the little boy who was throwing himself into a fire. Strange, eh? To be arguing about who was the greatest disciple.
They got to the house in Capernaum. Notice the detail. We are in THE house. Peter gives us the juicy details of precise location of this conversation. The disciples were conversing with each other on the way to Capernaum but it was only when they all got into THE house, that Jesus talked to all of them about their conversation on the road.
We have been in a house several times in Peter’s account of what happened. Perhaps this was Jesus’ house. Perhaps Simon Peter’s house.
Use your imaginations and get inside a small house. The twelve disciples and Jesus were inside this house, perhaps Jesus’ own house, perhaps in the living space, and Jesus asked them what they were discussing on the way into town. The disciples became silent because they had been arguing about who was the greatest of the disciples.
The gospel story continues to be very specific in its details. Jesus sat down on the floor of the house, as was the position of a rabbi as he began to teach. We can see Jesus sitting down on the floor. The twelve gathered around him and he began to teach and share his wisdom.
We then hear Jesus’ words. “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” We could stop right there as Jesus shared this basic and essential wisdom for life. Disciples were to be lowly servants.
Jesus then continued. There was a child in the room and Jesus gently took that child and brought him/her to the center of the room to be an illustration. Jesus then did something special. The gospel text says, “Jesus took the child into his arms.” We can see that. We can visualize that. Jesus holding a child in his arms. Look carefully at the following pictures.
Jesus the Son and God our loving Father takes each one of us into his arms and holds us. That’s good. That is the gospel. That is the truth that Jesus taught about God, our Abba, our pappa, our Father. Jesus took the child into his arms and Jesus takes us into his arms as well. That is the gospel. That is the truth.
As children trusted Jesus, so you and I are invited to trust God our heavenly Father, trusting in his goodness and gentleness towards us, just as the children trusted Jesus in the many pictures that we saw. In this story about Jesus, we are invited to trust God, to trust Jesus, as these children did in the paintings and photographs that we saw.
In our modern world with our modern concept of an infinite endless universe that is some fifteen billion years old, it is sometimes hard to imagine that the Living God is as personal with us as a father who enfolds us into his arms, looks into our eyes, rustles our hair, knows our name and loves us.
Jesus then continued to teach and he said, “Whoever receives/welcomes one such child in my name, receives/welcomes me and God who sent me.”
Wow. Whoever welcomes one such child, welcomes Jesus. Whoever welcomes a child, welcomes God. The child is the face of Jesus, the body of Jesus, the person of Jesus. When you welcome a child, you welcome not only God but Jesus.
No wonder the Christian church has always been involved in caring for children throughout the world.
I remember being at an orphanage in Kenya and how well these children were cared for through the sponsorship of Lutheran World Relief. What a memory. What an experience. God loves all the little children of the world who are none other than the face of Jesus and the presence of God.
Whoever welcomes a child in my name, welcomes me.
And the schools that our congregation sponsors through our Haiti ministries and Lutheran World Relief. That is the face of Jesus that you are seeing. That is the presence of God that you are looking at. Jesus taught: Whoever receives a child in my name receives me and the God who sent me.
A vocational school sponsored by LWR with help from our congregation. Older children in Kenya who are the presence of Jesus and God. Whoever receives such a child in my name receives me and the Living God who sent me.
Whoever cares for a child cares for Jesus.
Let's stop looking at these pictures for a moment as I tell you a story from yesterday. Yesterday, I had a wedding and a funeral. I would like to share with you the story of the funeral. It was the funeral of Bill Grant who died at age 59 from pancreatic cancer. Bill was married to Mary for almost forty years. Our sacntuary was nearly full. Here in the front right were seated men and women who went to Mississippi with Bill to help rebuild homes after the hurricane. Bill was in charge of the feeding of 300 folks each day, beginning at 4:00 AM and ending at 8:00 PM. Over there on the left were the young men and women from Bill and Mary's restaurant who worked for Bill and Mary and thought that they had the best bosses in the world.
During the open microphone time, a young man stood up to speak. He was in his young twenties and he was one of the twenty four infants who Bill and Mary had taken care of in his first two years of life. Yes, Bill and Mary had been foster parents to twenty four infants. He told how he didn't remember but knew that he had been raised by Bill and Mary for this first two years. After that, Bill and Mary sent him and his brothers and sisters cards twice a year, at Christmas and at their birthdays. He said that he loved those birthday cards and Christmas cards. This young man told of going to the state mental hospital each year to see his biological mother who was declared legally incompetent to care for him, even when he was an infant. As this young man went to see his biological mother in the mental hospital, he said that as he read the list of people who visited his biological mother, he realized his emotionally disturbed mother had four visitors a year. This young man told that Bill and his son Michael went to see his biological mother on this past Christmas day to see his biological mother, even though Bill and son didn't know this woman. This young man was deeply touched by Bill's compassion for his mom.
Jesus taught, "Whoever cares for children cares for me." When Bill and Mary Grant took in this young boy as a baby and when Bill visited the young boy's biological mother much later in young adulthood at a state care facility, Bill was caring for Jesus' himself.
Jesus said, "Whoever cares for the least of these cares for me."
Jesus clearly taught, "Whoever welcomes one of these children welcomes me."
Let’s briefly recall the second story in Mark’s gospel about Jesus and the children. The first story was from Mark 9. The second story is from Mark 10. The themes of the two stories are the same.
This story occurred later in Jesus’ ministry, when Jesus was traveling south in Judea, near Jerusalem. Parent were bringing their children to Jesus that he might touch them. Jesus was regarded with deep respect and a holy man, and parents centuries ago and still today want their children blessed by a holy person, a person that they deeply respect. Believe it or not, the disciples rebuked and reprimanded these parents for bringing their little children to bless them. The disciples still didn’t “get it” about Jesus and so they admonished the parents to buzz off and leave Jesus alone.
Then in the specifics of the text, Simon Peter, the story teller, tells us that Jesus was indignant at the disciples. Jesus was annoyed, perturbed, exasperated, ticked off by the disciples’ reprimands to the parents and children.
Jesus then spoke directly to the disciples: “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them for to such belong the kingdom of God. Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child shall not enter it.”
Wow. Jesus, the master teacher and source of all wisdom about God, taught his disciples that we are to become like little children or we will not enter the kingdom of God.
Remember all the pictures that we saw earlier in this sermon. The children trusted Jesus, felt safe with Jesus, felt comfortable with Jesus. Likewise, we are to trust the Living God who is our Heavenly Father, feel safe with God, comfortable with God, like only a child can feel.
Little children become the model of true faith, genuine faith, and authentic trust in the presence of a loving savior like Jesus.
But the storyteller is not done. Simon Peter, the eyewitness, tells us that Jesus took the children up into his arms and blessed them and laid his hands on them. That is just like in the first story about Jesus and the children that we heard in our gospel lesson for today.
We need to get this image into our minds: Jesus holding the children, enfolding the children, touching the children and blessing the children. Children won’t let that happen unless they trust that person. We are to trust the Living God, our Heavenly Father, as a child trusts a parent or closest friend.
See some pictures:
See the child seated in Jesus' lap, trusting Jesus.
In the black artist named Mafa, we see that Jesus is black and that Jesus has a child seated on his lap and other children are coming to his welcoming presence. We see the children, all trusting Jesus.
Here we see children in Jesus' lap and huddled around him, trusting him.
Do you understand Jesus’ teaching when he enfolded children into his arms and they trusted him? Do you “get it?” Do you get the gospel? It took a while for his adult disciples to learn.
For this particular Sunday, a new gospel reading could be created with three parts:
I John 3:1-2a, 1 See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God's children now;
Mark 9:33-37, “33 Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the way?" 34 But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all." 36 Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37 "Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me."
Mark 10:13-15, 13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it." 16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
The Old Testament reading could be from Deuteronomy 6:1-9:
1 Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, 2 so that you and your children and your children's children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. 3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. 4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6 Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7 Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9 and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
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