Children’s Workers are the Greatest (Mark 9:33-37)

Children’s Workers are the Greatest (Mark 9:33-37)

From the DoM (Director of Movement)

In God’s upside-down kingdom, things are very different.  They are just not what we expect.  What we regard as important becomes insignificant (e.g. wealth) and what we see as relatively trivial has top billing (e.g. helping).  So it comes as no surprise that somehow children have a key role in this strange kingdom.

Our small group was puzzling over Psalm 8:2, “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies to silence the foe and avenger.”  Somehow the praise of kids has an important role in silencing powerful evil forces in the spiritual realm.  Now that’s wild and completely unexpected isn’t it.

Jesus  takes up the importance of children on numerous occasions.  One of them is in Mark 9.

33 They came to Capernaum.  When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?”  34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

The culture must have been different back then.  The disciples were openly arguing about which one of them was the greatest.  It seemed to have got quite heated.  I can’t remember ever having a discussion like that – about which one of the group was the most significant – not even among senior pastors.  Of course, those thoughts roam around in many of our minds, but we would be reluctant to openly express them.  Not in Baptist circles anyway.

But among Jesus’ disciples the argument raged.  “I’m closer to Jesus.” “I’ve done more miracles.” “Jesus is lining me up to be in charge.” “I have more experience and education.” “I’m more passionate about Yahweh.” Something along that line.  Obviously, they were embarrassed about it afterwards when Jesus asked them, but on the road it had seemed significant.

The Roman world of Jesus’ day was strongly hierarchical.  Everyone had a place.  Everyone knew their place.  The disciples saw their relationship with Jesus, the Messiah, as the chance to jump to the top.  He had chosen them so obviously they would all have prominent roles in his new kingdom.  But who would be the most eminent and influential?

35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

So Jesus had another go at explaining his topsy-turvy kingdom.  “The greatest are those in the back row – the slaves of everyone.” That just didn’t make sense.  It still doesn’t.  How could the most insignificant be the most important?  No-one thinks like that.

36 He took a little child whom he placed among them.  Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

To explain his point, Jesus gives his mates an illustration.  He brings a child into the middle of the huddle and takes this child in his arms.  I love the picture.  This single God/man in his early 30s comfortably cuddling a toddler.  How precious.

Perhaps this is not entirely unexpected for us.  Children are very important in our culture and are often given great prominence.  Some families revolve around the needs of the children.  Some younger pastors can be seen holding their children in online services.  But back then, children were minors in every sense of the word.  Many of them would not survive.  They were insignificant.  No wonder the disciples wanted to chase them away from Jesus.   Why on earth would he waste his time with kids?

But Jesus takes this small child as an example of the least and says that the greatest in the kingdom serve the smallest, the weakest, the most vulnerable.  If you want to be right at the top in God’s hierarchy then don’t fight for your place but get out and serve the small.  And children are a good place to start.

My conclusion: Children’s workers are among the greatest in the kingdom.  So are parents.

John Sweetman
Interim Director of the QB Movement