Last Sunday was Father’s Day. Here’s an extended story I once told the children in our congregation. Perhaps some Moms or Dads might want to tell it to your children or grandchildren. And sometimes a story meant for others unexpectedly hits home to us even more!
What does your Dad do to make you feel special? I’m sure there are many things. But since I’m a Dad, here’s something I loved to do with my kids when they were smaller like you. I loved to have them climb into my lap. It just felt good to hold them, and I think it felt good for them too. I could hold them while we read a story, or talked, or even just watched TV.
Our gospel writers tell us a story about Jesus and what he did to make some children feel special and important to him (Mark 10:13-16):
One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.
When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.
Can you imagine what this must have been like? I think maybe it was a little like when you and your parents visit Santa Claus in the mall….(Have you done that sometime???)
You know there are lots of kids and Moms and Dads milling around, all waiting for their turns for a few seconds on Santa’s lap. But this time—with Jesus—suddenly, everything came to a halt and everyone was very quiet.
Jesus holds us a little child just about your age and says: “Here’s the one who’s going to enter the Kingdom of God. Unless you all receive the Kingdom like this child, none of you will enter it.”
Can you imagine how puzzled the adults were? They looked at each other with stunned expressions on their faces! They had just expected a happy family outing, like when you go to visit Santa. Maybe take a few pictures with Jesus…but that was it. Suddenly, Jesus is telling everyone something no one expected to hear.
“But what could a little CHILD do to enter the Kingdom of God?” That’s what the adults must have asked themselves. Jesus had tried all along to make clear that there is nothing ANYONE can do, no matter how young or old we are. He’d told them many stories to make this very point.
For example, he’d told them the story of a King who had a grand banquet prepared for all his rich friends. But when they all made excuses and said they couldn’t come, he sent his servants out into the streets and alleys and found the homeless people living under bushes and sleeping on the sidewalk and invited them to come into his party instead. There was no way these poor people should be invited to the King’s banquet! But the King invited them just out of the goodness of his heart.
Then there was the story Jesus told about some workers who were hired at different times of the day to go out and work in a farmer’s field. Some were hired in the morning and worked all day long. Some were hired about lunchtime. And some were hired in late afternoon and only worked a couple hours. Yet at the end of the day when everyone was paid, the ones who only worked a couple hours were paid as much as the ones who worked all day long in the hot sun. That doesn’t seem fair! When they complained, the farmer says, “Can’t I be merciful if I want to be? Can’t I give people something even if they haven’t earned it?”
Jesus tells lots more stories about undeserving people who get something they don’t expect. They haven’t earned what they get. They haven’t done anything to get a reward.
- The only thing they have to DO is sit down at a wonderful banquet when a chair is pulled out for them.
- Or hold out their hand and accept the wages they didn’t work hard to earn and didn’t deserve.
I might be wrong, but here’s what I think happened.
I think when Jesus held up a child and said, “Unless you become like a child, you will never enter the Kingdom of God” he was giving everyone one more chance. It was one more chance to realize that NONE of us, even Moms and Dads, can do anything to receive God’s love.
God’s love comes to us as a totally free gift. We can’t control or earn God’s love. And we certainly don’t deserve it.
Your Dad loved you and changed your diapers and did everything he could to take care of you before you were old enough to even know he was doing it. And that’s exactly how Jesus loves you and me, and all of us.
Just like you know your Dad loves you and are glad to be loved by him, Jesus wants us to just accept his love. We don’t need to try hard to earn Jesus’ love. It’s already there for us.
I called this talk the “Child who crawled into Jesus’ lap” because I’m imagining that some of the boys and girls in the story must have wanted to sit on Jesus’ lap. I’ll bet Jesus wanted them too also!
Before I say a prayer for all of us, I thought I’d ask if one of you might come up into my lap for just a minute while I say the prayer? ….How does it feel to sit in someone’s lap? …Let’s pray that we’ll all feel this way with Jesus….
Question: What barriers keep people you know from freely receiving the love Jesus has for all of us? Please share your thoughts in a comment.