The Ministry of Children

Nineteenth after Pentecost: Mark 10:13-16.
By Hugh Farquhar

I remember well a day when I went to visit a man whose vibrant spouse had just died after a lengthy illness. I was feeling something of the pain in his life and was looking for the right words to say when I arrived. As I got out of the car and started toward the house, I saw a little body down the street calling and waving to me. She was one of my five-year-old friends from church, out for a walk with her mother. She came running up to me and I bent down to greet her. We had a chat, and when I straightened up, I felt a healing of my spirit.

This week’s Gospel tells how Jesus welcomed children. “People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant, and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs . . . And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.”

We have tended to think of Jesus as the giver in this story. He was the one who reached out, touched, and blessed the children as they gathered around him. It was customary for parents to bring their children to a religious leader to be blessed, and it is a beautiful scene – not unlike an infant baptism scene today.

But I have been thinking that perhaps it was just as much the children who were reaching out, touching, and healing him.

This story is placed at the time when Jesus was beginning to make his way toward Jerusalem, knowing full well what awaited him there. The disciples had sensed a new urgency and intensity about him. I think that’s why they had tried to protect him from the children whom they regarded as bothersome.

He would have none of it – “Let the little children come; do not stop them.”

He was open to the ministry of children, and as they reached out and touched him, he found his spirit lifted and his resolve to hang in there strengthened, just as I did on that street in Riverview when a child ran toward me, delighted to see me.

A few verses later we read that Jesus and his disciples “were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; and they were amazed” (Mark 10:32) – amazed at his courage and determination in risking danger in Jerusalem.

I wonder if it wasn’t partly because he had been touched, blessed, and energized by the hands of the children who had been brought to him that he might touch them. The blessing was reciprocal.

All of us have the capacity for openness to the Spirit of God that we might become human instruments of care and healing, and children no less than the rest of us.

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