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Emmanuel Church, Plymouth
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St Paul's, Efford
Tony's Reflection 79
“Children are a blessing from the Lord”.
They don’t always feel like it, though, do they?
I love having the grandchildren stay, but when I am confronted by every inch of my lounge floor full of toys, spilled drinks and biscuit crumbs afterwards, I don’t always feel “blessed”.
I might be a “grumpy old man” on occasion, but thankfully Jean, my wife, is totally different. She has endless patience and tenderness towards the grandchildren and just can’t get enough of them. It’s truly heartwarming just to see her with them.
We get an even more touching picture of Jesus with little children, today (
). But today’s episode is so much more than a sentimental little cameo from Mark. It has a message for us all.
Crowds follow Jesus wherever he goes. Getting a moment’s peace and quiet is such a rare luxury. It’s like arriving at an oasis when one comes…
Today is busier than usual. People are always thronging and pushing around Jesus. The disciples have the bruises and the aches and pains to prove it. They’re often shoved and jostled out of the way, by people desperate even to touch Jesus.
It is sweltering. The pressure of the crowd more oppressive than usual. Tempers are starting to fray. Not with Jesus. He has endless patience. Tenderness, a smile and a loving touch for everyone. It is the disciples who are feeling the stress.
The day is coming to an end. Surely Jesus is going to send this crowd home, soon? The disciples are tired and irritated. They can understand the blind and the lame pushing forward, just to get a healing touch from Jesus. They have seen that happening today, too. Yes, those lucky enough to get a touch had gone away ecstatic. But it just made more people push forward all the harder. Today the disciples aren’t feeling the joy. Just the pressure.
What really irritates the disciples, though, is the pushy parents. They are getting fed up with crying babies and squalling toddlers, themselves bewildered by the crowd and the noise, being pushed forward towards Jesus. Each parent thinks their “little precious” is the most wonderful thing ever and deserves a “magic” touch from Jesus. And that’s what it is. It’s just superstition. It would be different if there was something wrong with those annoying little kids.
The disciples have had it “up to here”. Can’t the parents see Jesus is tired? Won’t they just let us all go home at long last?
They begin to usher the parents and the children away. Jesus is very busy and it’s time to go. There is a polite veneer on their words, but no hiding their irritation.
“What’s going on here? What on earth are you doing?”
The disciples freeze. Peter tentatively gives a pat on the head to the child he was reaching out to push away. There is no hiding it, though. They have been rumbled. The usual warmth in Jesus’ voice has gone. He is irritated and the disciples know it. They are in trouble, now. His eyes are aflame with indignation. Shamefaced, they shuffle their feet and look at the floor, barely able to meet his gaze.
“Don’t you remember what I told you about welcoming little children? So what do you think you are doing, turning them away?”
The 12 feel guilty. At the same time they are humbled. Jesus loved the little children coming to him. He would never turn even one of them away. But that’s what Jesus was like - with everyone. It made him hard to work with, sometimes, but they had to admit to themselves that it was just as well he never turned them away, no matter how dimwitted they were.
Peter, as usual, is the one who says what the rest are thinking. “But what’s the point? It’s not like you’re teaching them anything. They can’t understand what you’re all about.”
Jesus just looked at Peter. He can’t believe what he has just heard, but there is warmth in his voice again, as Jesus seizes the teaching moment.
“That’s exactly it, Peter. They don’t understand fully. They can’t. All they know is they want a touch from me and something from God. So they come.”
Jesus fixed his gaze firmly on the 12. “It’s the same with you. If you are going to get anywhere with me, you don’t need to understand everything, just come. In fact, if you don’t “just come”, pure and simple, you’ll never get anything about me, or God, at all.”
“Just let the children come here,” says Jesus.
Yes, Jesus is tired. Yes, it has been a long, hard day for them all. But he kneels in front of the children. He holds his arms out wide and that radiant smile and the warmth in his eyes simply say “Come”.
And come they do. Every little child in the crowd. Some pushed forward by their parents. Some coming of their own accord. Jesus is almost bowled over flat on his back, so many run forward for a touch and a prayer. Jesus has a kind, gentle word for every one of them. Tears dry up – in the children, at least. The parents start to well up, as they see Jesus’ tenderness to their little ones. Hearts are touched and melted all round. They can sense God’s presence around and through Jesus. It is palpable. So warm and accepting.
The sun is setting and the crowd slowly melts away. Blissfully happy, knowing they have met their Father God in the loving, tender touch of his Son.
You can meet Father God, too, in Jesus. You don’t need to understand everything – just come.