are approaching the time of the Triumphal Entry. Before this last week begins,
Christ has some examples for his disciples which should ring with us today.
and the Children
little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and
pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them.
14 Jesus said, "Let the little children
come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such
15 When he had placed his hands on them, he
went on from there.
were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the
disciples rebuked them.
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.
15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not
receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."
16 And he took the children in his arms, put
his hands on them and blessed them.
were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples
saw this, they rebuked them.
16 But Jesus called the children to him and
said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for
the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
17 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not
receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."
helps to know a little background here. First, the superstition of the time
was that to have your baby (translated “little children” here) touched by a
great rabbi was bound to bring blessing to the child. Some of the rabbi’s
piety would rub off, somehow. It’s still carried on to this day, in a sense.
Have you ever asked for a celebrity’s autograph?
somewhat of a “wow” factor in this. Oliver Wendell Holmes, justice of the US
Supreme Court many years ago, tells a story about this. Someone asked to shake
his hand. “You don’t know how it feels,” said the young man, “to shake the
hand of someone who fought at Gettysburg.” Holmes replied to the contrary –
for as a young boy he had shaken the hand of a man who had suffered with
Washington at Valley Forge.
disciples see the matter in a different light. Jesus has set his face toward
Jerusalem; he therefore should not be delayed by unimportant things.
Particularly, there should be no delay because unimportant people (women) were
bring other unimportant people (infants) to him – just to be touched.
a little respect here,” they might have said. It is a misuse of dignity. As
Isaiah had it,
Isa 57:15 NIV
For this is what the high and lofty One says--
he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
"I live in a high and holy place,
but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the contrite.
is recognized that Christ was not teaching infant baptism here; rather, he is
teaching the attitudes needed in the kingdom. Here are a few for your perusal,
taken from the children of the time:
know that obedience pleases, as we should be pleasing to God.
are naturally curious, never satisfied with the first explanation. And
our attitude towards the Scriptures is?
are open to being taught. A good teacher can do much.
when raised in love, reply with trust and loyalty.
are all good things for us to imitate in our walk with the Lord. But may I add
one that might have escaped your notice? Children are in over their heads.
Daily there are things in their lives they don’t understand, which they must
take on faith in their parents.
16 Now a man
came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get
17 "Why do you ask me about what is
good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want
to enter life, obey the commandments."
18 "Which ones?" the man inquired.
Jesus replied, " 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal,
do not give false testimony,
19 honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'"
20 "All these I have kept," the
young man said. "What do I still lack?"
21 Jesus answered, "If you want to be
perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have
treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
22 When the young man heard this, he went
away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I
tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a
camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the
kingdom of God."
25 When the disciples heard this, they were
greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?"
26 Jesus looked at them and said, "With
man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
27 Peter answered him, "We have left
everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?"
28 Jesus said to them, "I tell you the
truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious
throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the
twelve tribes of Israel.
29 And everyone who has left houses or
brothers or sisters or father or mother
or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and
will inherit eternal life.
30 But many who are first will be last, and
many who are last will be first.
17 As Jesus
started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him.
"Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal
18 "Why do you call me good?"
Jesus answered. "No one is good--except God alone.
19 You know the commandments: 'Do not
murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do
not defraud, honor your father and mother.'"
20 "Teacher," he declared,
"all these I have kept since I was a boy."
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him.
"One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have
and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow
22 At this the man's face fell. He went away
sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples,
"How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"
24 The disciples were amazed at his words.
But Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!
25 It is easier for a camel to go through
the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
26 The disciples were even more amazed, and
said to each other, "Who then can be saved?"
27 Jesus looked at them and said, "With
man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."
28 Peter said to him, "We have left
everything to follow you!"
29 "I tell you the truth," Jesus
replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or
father or children or fields for me and the gospel
30 will fail to receive a hundred times as
much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and
fields--and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.
31 But many who are first will be last, and
the last first."
18 A certain
ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal
19 "Why do you call me good?"
Jesus answered. "No one is good--except God alone.
20 You know the commandments: 'Do not commit
adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your
father and mother.'"
21 "All these I have kept since I was a
boy," he said.
22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him,
"You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the
poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
23 When he heard this, he became very sad,
because he was a man of great wealth.
24 Jesus looked at him and said, "How
hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!
25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go
through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of
26 Those who heard this asked, "Who
then can be saved?"
27 Jesus replied, "What is impossible
with men is possible with God."
28 Peter said to him, "We have left all
we had to follow you!"
29 "I tell you the truth," Jesus
said to them, "no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents
or children for the sake of the kingdom of God
30 will fail to receive many times as much
in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life."
is this man’s problem?
man comes very close to the “ideal” religious person. To his credit, he knows
that he’s missing something in life – and evidently this is a conclusion on his
part, not just something from the Mosaic Law.
he goes to God and asks what he is missing. An ideal strategy; who would know
better? Indeed, he must ask from God because he knows it is not in the Mosaic
Law, for if it were he would be doing it.
we see the dilemma before Nicodemus: what does the man of ordinary holiness
have to do? Nicodemus saw no need for repentance, for he had lived a holy
life, sacrifices atoning for his sin. To the sinner Jesus says, “repent.” To
the man of ordinary holiness he says, “Be born again.” Or, as Jesus has it
here, go from the life you know so certainly to the life you cannot know –
barrier of wealth
common view of wealth of the time was that it was a sign of favor from God. It
granted the wealthy the privilege of giving generously. That is a warm and
But as Chrysostom had it, “Great is the barrier of wealth.” We are taught the
evils of the love of money.
But for those whose wealth is only a barrier to Christ, not a competing love,
what shall we say?
will note that Jesus, in his reply, does not quote all ten commandments. He
omits the ones that deal with God, and cites only those which are
interpersonal. Even then he omits one – about covetousness – since this fellow
is more likely to be envied than envy. He thus brings out the ordinary
holiness of the man – and likewise Jesus’ love for him.
Jesus command his wealth away in a stern tone? I suspect not; rather He would
have combined the seriousness of the occasion with the sadness of one who knows
what the answer will be.
this will surprise you, but Jesus didn’t even make the fullness of his demands
known. He has, in fact, asked the man to do only what is easy. For the
fullness of the command is much more bitter: deny yourself and take up the
Cross. And this is much more difficult than sell all you have.
disciples evidence two concerns here:
they are accustomed to the idea of wealth as God’s favor. This man had
great wealth and a pious life; if he couldn’t make it into the kingdom of
God, who would have a chance? Hence we have that all things are possible
with God. We would do well to remember whose kingdom it is.
come to think about it, we’ve given up all we had to follow you. What
about us? Christ understands our ways; that’s why the Judgment includes
reward for those who followed Christ faithfully.
Mat 20:20-28 NIV
Then the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling
down, asked a favor of him. (21) "What
is it you want?" he asked.
She said, "Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your
right and the other at your left in your kingdom." (22) "You don't know what you are
asking," Jesus said to them. "Can you drink the cup I am going to
"We can," they answered. (23)
Jesus said to them, "You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my
right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom
they have been prepared by my Father." (24)
When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. (25) Jesus called them together and said,
"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their
high officials exercise authority over them. (26)
Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be
your servant, (27) and whoever wants to be
first must be your slave-- (28) just as the
Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a
ransom for many."
Mar 10:35-45 NIV
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. "Teacher,"
they said, "we want you to do for us whatever we ask." (36) "What do you want me to do for
you?" he asked. (37) They replied,
"Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your
glory." (38) "You don't know what
you are asking," Jesus said. "Can you drink the cup I drink or be
baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?" (39)
"We can," they answered. Jesus said to them, "You will drink
the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, (40) but to sit at my right or left is not for me
to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been
prepared." (41) When the ten heard
about this, they became indignant with James and John. (42) Jesus called them together and said,
"You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it
over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. (43) Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to
become great among you must be your servant, (44)
and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. (45)
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give
his life as a ransom for many."
need to know a little about the times to understand this.
in any enterprise, was mostly about who you knew, not what you could do.
So what James and John were doing was typical for the time and place.
It’s just that they didn’t yet understand what they were asking for.
are, however, getting the picture a little bit – they understand that
Christ, unique among leaders, highly values women and children. No doubt
it was quite clever to have mom do the asking.
dealt with the mothers and children, having sent the rich young ruler away with
his wealth, Christ now reveals some interesting facts to them:
don’t know what you’re asking for. This is much more dangerous and
painful than you think.
then, such a position is not mine to grant; rather it belongs to the
don’t worry; you may not get the positions, but you will get the suffering
that comes with such a commitment.
seems rather a painful reply, but even at that, the rest of the disciples are
resentful at the asking.
disciples – dealing with ambition
just heard that suffering and misery go with the job, and that they’ve asked
the wrong person, you’d think the disciples would be smiling at the comeuppance
of James and John. But they’re not; they’re indignant. So Jesus explains to
them how the kingdom works: servant leadership.
about it: what does the average pastor/minister do? His days are filled with
other peoples’ problems. He visits the sick; those in prison (yes, it does
happen that way) and generally performs well as the servant to his
congregation. It is the typical servant leadership of our time. Being a
pastor is not a time-clock employment.
it does have a surprising result for those who aren’t pastors. Servant
leadership is a style. Those who use it get surprising results:
people who work for such a leader are extremely loyal to him.
are also those who perform beyond expectations. Such a leader will often
hear that his people are mediocre (when he takes the job) and later hear
complaints that he’s hogging all the good people.
does it come down to? Simply this: the imitation of Christ. If you pattern
your ways after him; if you follow him no matter what or where; and if you
bless his name that he lets you do so, you will be great in the kingdom – even
if the world never notices.