Sermon for Sunday October 7th, the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity

 

The Lessons: Genesis 2:18-24; Psalm 8; Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12; St. Mark 10:2-16

The Text: St. Mark 10:15

The Topic: The qualities of a child needed for entry into God’s kingdom

INTRODUCTION

It was a great privilege for young Jewish children in the first century to be taken to a distinguished rabbi, and for him to bless them and pray for them. This would happen especially when a child celebrated his first birthday. It was regarded as very important for a young Jewish child to receive a blessing from a notable rabbi, who would be like a spiritual father figure for him.

Our Gospel Lesson today records our Lord’s blessing of young children. The disciples at first rebuked the parents who brought them, perhaps because they saw that Jesus was tired. Whatever their reason, the Lord Jesus was very displeased with the disciples, and insisted that the children be allowed to come to him, since the kingdom of God belongs to them.

Our Lord then goes on to give his disciples one of his most profound sayings, “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein” (Mark 10:15, KJV).

RECEIVING GOD’S KINGDOM AS A LITTLE CHILD

This saying is important and profound, because it stipulates a qualification for entering the kingdom of God. It does not mean that if one doesn’t enter God’s kingdom when one is a little child, one will not enter it at all, since there have been many who have come into God’s kingdom only in adulthood, as for example, St. Paul, St. Francis, St. Martin, and many other saints. Rather, the saying indicates that whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child does, cannot enter it.

What, then, are the virtues or qualities of a little child that enable one to receive God’s kingdom and enter into it?

Trust, obedience and humility are three great virtues a little child is likely to have, that are necessary for entering God’s kingdom. A little child’s trust in his mother or father to look after him, and take care of his needs, translates into the faith and trust one needs to enter God’s kingdom. We can enter it only by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and obedience to him, in repentance and Baptism. Confessing our faith for ourselves either at Holy Baptism or Confirmation is evidence that we believe the Gospel and have responded to it. Just as a young child grows in his relationship with his father and mother as he shows trust in them and their decisions, and obedience to their instructions, so it is in God’s kingdom. We cannot enter it without faith and obedience, and we cannot grow in it without faith and obedience. Our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is not merely an intellectual thing, although there is an intellectual aspect to the knowledge of one’s faith, but also expresses itself in a way of life that shows obedience to God and to his commands.

Humility is necessary for entry into God’s kingdom as well, not confidence in one’s own wisdom, but trust in the superior wisdom of God, as the Book of Proverbs reminds us:

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.

It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.

(Proverbs 3:5-8, KJV)

As a young child ideally trusts in his father’s wisdom, listens to it, and obeys it, so it must be with the Christian, who receives his Father’s words (the Bible) with the trust that they will benefit him and transform his life, so that he may prosper and not languish away.

WHY ARE CHRISTIANS NOT FLOURISHING SPIRITUALLY AS THEY SHOULD IN GOD’S KINGDOM TODAY?

Why are Christians in so many instances not flourishing spiritually as they should be? Perhaps it is because they have not yet discovered what it means to be sons and daughters in God’s kingdom. We must live lives of trust in God the King, and be obedient to him in all things. If we are filled with our own wisdom, and believe earthly wisdom to be superior to God’s wisdom, then we are like teenage children believing ourselves to be wiser than our own parents are. This is pride, and not humility. It is the humility of the young child that our Lord is looking for in us, for it goes hand in hand with trust and obedience. But is our trust in God like this boy’s trust in his father or like his trust in his school friend in this story?

When I was learning how to sail, Dad would often say to me, “Go ahead and take the boat out, but take a friend with you.”

A forty-two-foot sailboat on a body of water the size of Lake Michigan is a big responsibility. But I’d find a junior high friend, and we’d sail past the breakwater, hoist the sails, and head out to open water. If I saw any cloud formation coming our way or the wind seemed to be piping up, I’d head back toward shore, take the sails down, and regain my normal breathing pattern only when we were safely tied up in the slip. Most of the time it was fun having a friend along, but in a storm I knew the kid wouldn’t be much help.

Other times my dad would come home from work and we’d take the boat out together. When I was sailing with my dad, I’d actually look for cloud formations and hope for heavy air. I loved the feel of the strong winds and huge waves when I was with him.

My dad had sailed across the Atlantic Ocean. He had endured five days of sailing through a hurricane. He was a veteran, and I was confident he would be able to handle anything Lake Michigan could throw at us. Everything changed when my dad was on board.

– Bill Hybels, The God You’re Looking For (Nelson, 1997) [1]

Thomas a Kempis wrote these words echoing the voice of Christ:

I taught the prophets from the beginning, and even to this day I continue to speak to all men. But many are hardened. Many are deaf to My voice. Most men listen more willingly to the world than to God. They are more ready to follow the appetite of their flesh than the good pleasure of God. The world, which promises small and passing things, is served with great eagerness: I promise great and eternal things, and the hearts of men grow dull. Who is there that serves and obeys Me in all things with as great care as that with which the world and its masters are served? [2]

CONCLUSION

Are you letting the Lord Jesus Christ be the navigator of your life, the Captain, who directs your course, as things should be in God’s kingdom, or do you want too much control? Are you simply trusting the Lord with your life, and obeying his commands, as a young child would obey his father?



[1] p. 258, Craig Brian Larson & Phyllis Ten Elshof (General Editors): 1001 Illustrations that Connect. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, Christianity Today International, 2008.

[2] p. 87, Bk. III, Ch. 3, A. Croft & H.F. Bolton (ed.): Thomas Aquinas: The Imitation of Christ. Milwaukee, USA: The Bruce Publishing Company, 1962.

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