‘To come to Jesus we must come not as know it alls but as needy’
Scripture: Mark 10:13-16
When I was very small, I saw a picture of a lorry with a flat trailer and something on it under a tarpaulin and ropes. “What’s that, mother?” She said, “Nobody knows.” And for many years I went around thinking that lorries with stuff under a tarpaulin were carrying secret cargo that only the driver and maybe the Secret Service knew about. Young children trust kind adults that they know implicitly.
Mark 10 depicts Jesus as dealing with how different the values of the kingdom of God are from those of society in general, including the Jewish religious society at the time. He’s done marriage and divorce, he is going to do wealth from v17, here he does being adult and self-reliant in one’s way of relating to God. Of course his point is not that we should in every aspect of life avoid becoming adult – the whole of Christianity encourages self-reliance in the sense of being able to tie your own shoelaces and do all kinds of other things in life that mean you don’t have to be a drag on others. (Yet we all need other people for all kinds of things, throughout life, more than many of us would like to think!) But deep in our hearts and on the biggest matters, such as who am I, do I have value, what is the purpose of life, how am I going to cope, and be safe, and have some happiness, is there a God, what does he think of me, will he judge me, how will that be OK? etc etc – on these sorts of questions and matters, God does not want us to be like adults but like little children.
V14 is indicating the importance of children (Luke 18 makes it clear these were very young, just one or two years old), who were largely ignored and often cruelly treated in the ancient world – even child exposure was allowed and not necessarily frowned upon. Little children can easily become members of God’s kingdom even without understanding the gospel and having conversion experiences etc. It’s a matter of God’s initiative and saving grace.
V15 is the main point – see “Truly I tell you.” He means this:
To be saved by Jesus and be a member of God’s eternal kingdom you have to come to him not as an adult but as a 2-year-old child would come to a kind adult they already know.
1. You trust what God says. Isaiah 66:2b: Do we tremble at God’s word, and believe it even when we can’t see how its statements fit together? Even when its teaching contradicts our common sense? We are limited – it makes sense to trust God, especially on things we can’t investigate or directly do experiments on. And anyway, we tend to be so biased that having the Bible, his word written, is a great thing – we can test our hunches and feelings by something solid. After all, Jesus indicated it is God’s unbreakable word, John 10:35. And if you need any persuading that we tend to let our desires affect the straightness of our thinking, just remember the bankers who, leading up to 2008, had good reasons to think it was all going to go pear-shaped, but carried on buying bundles of debt without any idea of how much of it was good rather than bad (Warren Buffet warned in 2002 this was foolish – they didn’t want to agree with him).
2. You trust God’s grace when you are ready to receive from him without thinking that your faith or prayer or anything else that may be good is your contribution. Young children in a happy family just receive their presents on Christmas Day without worrying about what to give back to Mum and Dad; they just say Thankyou (if well brought up!) and then look forward to the next birthday or Christmas! If we just go round to a friend’s for supper or dinner, we want to take flowers or wine and I’m not against this, but if we feel “we must”, we’re probably not wanting to live by grace. Young children aren’t worrying about getting under the control or binding obligation of their parents – they know they are loved and they are quite happy to depend on the love and largesse of Mum and Dad. Not us, especially vis a vis God!
Augustus Montague Toplady sums it up well in his great hymn Rock Of Ages; here are verses 2 and 3:
Not the labours of my hands
Can fulfil your law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my zeal for ever flow,
All for sin could not atone,
You must save, and you alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to your cross I cling;
Naked, come to you for dress,
Helpless, look to you for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly,
Wash me, Saviour, or I die.
“Ah but, Chris, we are meant to do good works; the Bible even says so in Ephesians 2:10: ‘We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.’” Yes, once we have truly come to Jesus by his grace, our hearts are changed and we live differently, to some extent, and that difference then grows as we keep in fellowship with him. BUT NOTICE WHAT THAT VERSE MEANS IN CONTEXT: The whole point of that bit in Ephesians is that even the change and the love for God and the good stuff that comes from being forgiven and having Jesus now as Saviour – it’s all 100% the product of God’s grace; it’s not from us at all!! Philippians 2:13 is similar. Our lack of childlikeness in relating to God even comes out in distorting the meaning of the verses in the Bible that do mention change of life and good works after we come to the Lord. May God help us all, including me. “…may God work in us what is pleasing to him” (Hebrews 13:21) starting with a deeper, more childlike attitude of implicit trust.