They liked to play video games, their favorite being Goldeneye, which was a first-person shooter game based on the James Bond characters. I was most definitely NOT a gamer, so I would lose – badly.
They would usually sit in church with me every Sunday morning. But one Sunday, we had a bit of an issue.
We were worshiping along with the worship team, clapping in a syncopated style, which I taught them, and that’s when it happened. The woman sitting in front of us turned to them and said, “Can you stop that? You’re messing everyone up.”
Imagine that – you have teens engaged in and enjoying worship, and they get rebuked for how they are clapping, like we’re going to be on a recording or something.
Imagine squashing the enthusiasm and energy of a young person simply because of the way they are clapping–Or the way they are dressed–Or the music they listen to–Or how much of a mess they make–Or how they smell–Or how much they talk or how much attention they require.
Well, this lady was not the first person to be annoyed with young people. In fact, Jesus had a pretty strong rebuke against his disciples, who were hindering children from coming to him.
YOUNG PEOPLE NEED A BLESSING
“People were bringing children to Jesus so that he would bless them.” (Mark 10:13a CEB)
Regardless of how you define the word ‘blessed,’ I would venture to say that every healthy parent would want their kids to be blessed. We want good things for our kids. We want them to grow up happy and healthy, to have good relationships, and to be free from the struggles of life.
Good health was undoubtedly on the minds of the parents of those kids being brought to Jesus.
Estimates say that 30% of children died before their first birthday, and 50% died before their 15th birthday. For those of you bad with math, that’s half. Fully half of the people born in this era did not reach their 15th birthday, so of course parents would do whatever they could to receive the blessing of good health.
Our kids today need healing, too, don’t they?
The CDC reports that, “More than 1 in 3 high school students had experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in 2019, a 40 percent increase since 2009.”
And that was before the pandemic, which only accelerated feelings of depression that young people experienced. The young people in our circles and our community desperately need the healing that Jesus offers.
With consistency and intention, we must bring our young people to Jesus.
When those parents brought their kids to Jesus long ago, things didn’t go exactly as they intended. All they wanted was a simple blessing from Jesus, that’s all. But that’s when the disciples step in.
As the parents bring their kids forward, we read, “But the disciples scolded them.” (Mark 10:13b CEB)
Much like the woman in my home church did to my friends for clapping back in the day, the disciples responded with rebuke.
Why would they do such a thing?
The Pharisees were a very influential group of individuals. They were considered to be the keepers of the Law, the document, given by God, that provided guidelines for pretty much every aspect of a Jew’s life. They were well-respected during this time, and it was common practice for them to engage others in debate about various aspects of life and faith.
In the minds of the disciples it would have been seen as far too important a conversation to be interrupted by some rotten kids. Kids were not seen as particularly valuable in this culture, not particularly productive, and were seen as second-class citizens, at best. The disciples assumed that Jesus didn’t have time for them.
YOUNG PEOPLE ARE IMPORTANT
“When Jesus saw this, he grew angry and said to them, “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children. I assure you that whoever doesn’t welcome God’s kingdom like a child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:14-15)
That’s not the meek and mild Jesus. Jesus is hacked off!
Earlier in this gospel, Mark tells a story about the Pharisees trying to lure Jesus into a trap by using a man with a malformed hand to see if Jesus would heal on the Sabbath, thus breaking the Law, and Jesus gets angry with them because that man was in need of healing. And we also read how Jesus drove the moneychangers who were taking advantage of those who were trying to get close to God out of the Temple.
In each case, Jesus gets angry for the ways that someone is trying to limit who gets to experience the kingdom of God, whether it be a disabled man, the devout poor, or in this case, “insignificant” children. We don’t get to say who gets in and who doesn’t, who gets to experience the kingdom of God and who doesn’t. And when we do, when we try to say yes to some and no to others, well, Jesus gets ticked.
JESUS ELEVATES YOUNG PEOPLE
What Jesus does here is elevate those society was trying to keep down. Young people – not particularly important in that society at that time.
Jesus recognized a child’s simple faith. He knew the level of belief they possessed.
In an article on Sojourners.com, the author suggests four reasons why kids ‘do faith’ better than adults.
One, they ask questions. A recent study found that kids ask an average of 73 questions every day. We adults like to think we have everything figured out. It’s embarrassing when we don’t know. Not kids. They ask away.
Two, they’re honest. Sometimes, too honest. They are vulnerable and don’t hold anything back, usually at the most inopportune times.
Three, they are passionate and excited. They are always pumped to do whatever they are doing.
Four, they are adventurous. They don’t take the safe route. If it looks fun, they go for it. They don’t think about whether or not they could get hurt or if it’s a smart thing to do. It’s gonna be a blast, so let’s go!
Jesus elevates that kind of faith.
He tells the disciples that day, “I assure you that whoever doesn’t welcome God’s kingdom like a child will never enter it. (Mark 10:15)
Jesus elevates the young people. Let us not push down what Jesus elevates.
When the parents brought their young people to be blessed, which would have been physically symbolized by a simple touch. Jesus goes, “Aaahh, not good enough.”
“Then he hugged the children and blessed them.” (Mark 10:13-16 CEB)
He didn’t simply bless them with a touch – he hugged them.
He embraced them.
Those whom society said were not deserving of his time and attention he wrapped up in his arms to show them how valuable and loved they were.
“The embrace is a public demonstration of children’s acceptance and value in the kingdom.” (Craig A. Evans, Word Biblical Commentary)
This embrace was the outward and tangible expression of the love that Jesus had for these young people.
When I first started working with teenagers, there was a ratio that was commonly tossed around in youth ministry circles. 1:5. What that meant was that, for every five kids you have in your ministry, you need one caring, trusted adult to help guide and disciple them. Since then, the script has flipped. The new ratio is 5:1.
It is essential that every kid in our circle has five caring, trusted adults in their lives.
Whether you lead a small group of kids or teach a class of students or welcome kids by name at the door or serve food at special events, together we create the environments where kids can find their way to Jesus.
One person who is making an impact by the way she treasures young people is Melodee Reasor. Melodee impact kids and students on a regular basis, and I wanted you to meet her and hear her story.