Mark 10: Receive the Kingdom of God Like a Child
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At this point in Mark, the central turning point has already been reached when Jesus announced his forthcoming death and the way of discipleship (Mark 8:31-38). The way of Christian discipleship is the way of the cross:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” – Mark 8:34-35
This is the distinctive shape of life for anyone who follows Jesus, and it is one that turns the normative expectations of this world on their head. Isn’t God’s King to rule with victorious strength, power, and unflinching authority? Then why must the Messiah suffer many things, be rejected, and killed? And aren’t his followers also to lead boldly from positions of power and influence as key pillars of society? Then why must they deny themselves and walk the low and humiliating way of crucifixion?
It turns out that Jesus up-ends many of our expectations for what life and discipleship should look like in the Kingdom of God. The Messiah is one who gives up his life in obedience to the Father in order to receive eternal life. And his disciples, likewise, are to follow in the footsteps of their King: giving up their life in order to save their life. It’s in this context that Jesus again makes another radical statement about the Kingdom of God in Mark 10:13-16. This time Jesus places a child at the heart of what it looks like to enter the Kingdom of God.
The disciples of Jesus perhaps thought they were doing Jesus a favour by turning away the children from Jesus, but instead they aroused his indignation. For, it turns out, that the Kingdom of God belongs to children such as these. These are children that are still under the care and direction of someone else for they are being brought to Jesus for him to touch them—not of their own accord. These are children and not independent adults who, humanly speaking, direct their own paths. And Jesus says these are the kind of people who belong to the Kingdom of God: they are people who depend on others. They are people who know what it is to receive from the hand of another. They are people whose entire existence relies on accepting what is provided for them.
There is a valuable lesson here that Jesus makes abundantly clear in verse 15: to enter the Kingdom of God you must receive the Kingdom like these dependent children receive everything. Here again is the radical core of Christian discipleship that Jesus declared back in Mark 8:34. You cannot enter the Kingdom of God if you want to set your own terms for life. You cannot enter the Kingdom of God if you want to secure life for yourself independently. You cannot enter the Kingdom of God if you want to earn your place or assert your claim to its blessings. You can only enter the Kingdom of God by receiving it like a child. You can only enter the Kingdom of God by receiving it from the gracious God who delights to provide life for you as your loving Father.
Every little child reminds us about this character of the Kingdom of King Jesus. When we begin to feel entitled or are tempted to feel as though God is lucky to have us on his side, or come to believe that we are somehow worthy of salvation because of the life we live, we should look to the little children in our midst and remember that the way they live in complete dependence—receiving everything they have for life—is how we enter and live in the Kingdom. This is how the little ones among us, in fact, disciple us:
“And he [Jesus] took them [the children] in his arms and blessed them” – Mark 10:16
The Lift Up Your Hearts devotional series for the month of March 2021 are provided by Canon Craig Roberts, CEO, and his colleagues from Anglican Youthworks in Australia. Today’s devotion was written by Rev. Mike Dicker, Dean of Students, Youthworks College. You can find more of Youthworks excellent resources here.
Pray with us today's prayer request:
'I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.' John 17:20-21.
The Anglican Church of Australia is facing theological and legal challenges over the issue of blessing same-sex marriage. Pray for their unity in the message - in the apostolic teaching from the Bible.
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