Welcoming Jesus (Mark 9:30-37) Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018

Jesus spent some time trying to teach his disciples as a way of preparing them to be ready to continue with his work when he was gone.  He chose a path where there was not much of the destruction so that they could focus on what was ahead.  Instead of focusing on Jesus’ teaching, they started to argue among themselves, wondering who was the greatest among them now that Jesus was about to leave.  I can imagine each one of them trying to put their case forward.  Some would probably argue that Jesus called them first.  They did it in a way that Jesus was not supposed to know, but Jesus was God and he already knew what they were talking about and that is why he confronts them when they get into the house.  He asks them what they were arguing about on the way.

As we approach this sermon today, I would like us to remember what triggered Jesus talking about the child.  It was the disciples talking among themselves in secret thinking that Jesus was far enough way not to hear their discussions.  The topic was as simple as “who was the greatest among themselves.” They wanted to know the pecking order in case Jesus left.  The struggle was for personal success, motivated by pride and insecurity.  I can imagine how the disciples’ eyes were wide-open for their secret to have been discovered by Jesus.  The eyes were open like a deer before the headlights at night.  It is from here that we see Jesus is shifting the understanding of greatness according to God’s view.  This greatness is based on three important principles:

  • Not being first but last.
  • Not being master but being a servant of all.
  • Serving people, not using them.

In the midst of this teaching Jesus introduces a child.  He brings a child to them to teach them a process by which they can allow him into their lives.  A child becomes an illustration to the process.

In many cultures, though, children are protected, they don’t occupy a prominent place in the society hierarchy.  In many cultures, children can’t talk when adults are talking, sometimes they eat on a separate table, sometimes their food is different and the list goes on.

In the same way, the Old Testament people had a place for children but it was more of a back burner where children were called to obey, sit back, not question, they were the last to receive and always not counted as the front-runners for anything.  The children were not allowed much privilege when it came to community life.  One good thing is that children were usually protected from any kind of harm.  But we also know that children were innocent, no status or legal rights.

Several times in the New Testament Jesus used children as a way of teaching a certain truth to the listeners.

  • Jesus is seen blessing the children
  • Jesus uses the little boy’s sack lunch to feed the five thousand.
  • Jesus heals boys and girls in his ministry.  We remember the healing of the 12-year-old, Jairus’ daughter.
  • Jesus uses children to illustrate that unless people receive the kingdom of God like children they will never get in.

Let us focus on how we can welcome Jesus in our lives in a childlike manner…

  1.  Welcoming Jesus Calls for Trust – Many will know that children have a higher tendency of trusting the adults.  This trust develops as each time the child sees the adult doing the right thing or what they may have promised.  Trust, therefore, is a good quality that is demonstrated by a child.  Trust comes with having the right relationship.  Indeed, trust is part of honest and open relationships that are developed over time.  If we take the same and apply it to our relationship with Jesus, it will make a difference on where we find ourselves and what we do everywhere.  We need to ask ourselves what makes us not trust God?  Yet we know God is trustworthy all the time.  We know God does not disappoint his people.  Pride, sinfulness, and insecurity push us away from trusting God.  The call for us, then, is to start ways of trusting God, like the child trusts his adults.  It is the word of God that reminds us that he will neither leave us nor forsake us no matter our situation.  The one way to learn to trust is by keeping some record, either in writing or memory, of how God has been faithful in our faith journey.  Those who journal their daily events do well.  How may were scared being in the dark when you were little?  I was, but what seemed interesting was that when I was with my parents or other grown-ups, no matter how dark it was I was never scared.  Their presence made a difference and there was some form of assurance within me.  In the same way, when we trust in Jesus there will be that inner confidence of knowing that our Lord is there for us no matter what.  If we can trust in God that all shall be well it will surely happen.
  2. Welcoming Jesus Calls for Dependency – Most people will encourage children to be independent, which is a good thing but we know as a child that we depend on God to provide certain things in our lives.  We know we can’t bring rain even if we want it so badly.  In the same way there will be issues in life that we will have to depend on God to carry us through, moments of life that are over and above our control.  We depend on God for protection and security.  We can express this faith by bringing our burdens to him.  We are reminded through the Gospel of Matthew 11:33 that we need to bring all our burdens to Jesus and he will take them on.
  3. Welcoming Jesus Calls Us to Be Willing to Receive – Jesus is offering us a free gift of the Holy Spirit to all that believe and trust in him.  God offers his son, Jesus Christ, as our savior.  Jesus offers us eternal life to all who believe.  How many of us are then willing to receive these free offers?  This character of willingness to receive is childlike but it is the only way that we can move forward.  Jesus opens up his arms for us and we have to make the effort to go forth and accept the gift of love.  Sometimes it calls for us to be ready to listen.  Listening is an important aspect of growing our faith.  We know faith comes from hearing and hearing the word of God.  God’s offering to us is free and all we need is to open up and receive it.
  4. Welcoming Jesus Means Accepting to Follow:  Many might remember when they held their child’s hand as they went to the park or walked across the street.  Some of us have also witnessed others doing it.  What is true in most cases is that children will be ready to follow depending on their age.  Remember the song “Where he leads me I will follow.  I will go with him all the way?”  Why do we have to follow Christ?  Psalm 23 is a good example, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside the quiet waters. ” He knows the way, we trust him, he is dependable and always there.  To follow here means our readiness to do what God instructs us to do.  Following God’s instructions are not easy.  He tells us to like our enemies and forgive those who persecute us and we can do this with Christ himself being our helper.  When we accept following Jesus he will always lead the way and we will experience his blessings.