Day Five: The Little People
While the disciples puzzled over Jesus’ statement that anyone wanting to be first would be last, the Bible says Jesus “took a child” and “set him in the midst of them” (vs 36). I imagine that little children flocked to Jesus in the way dogs and cats gravitate towards a kind master. The text seems to imply that He reached for the child in mid-sentence, as if one was already there, lingering. I see Jesus folding the child into His arms. He said,
Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me (vs. 36).
Now, the disciples didn’t value children much. Only a short time later when mothers brought their children to Jesus for a blessing, the disciples shooed them away, saying He was too busy for them. This upset Jesus, who said,
Let the children come unto me, and do not forbid them, for of such is the kingdom of God (Mark 10:14).
When Jesus placed the child before these men as an example, He presented humility as a replacement for pride. Children aren’t little angels, but life hasn’t afforded them the opportunity to build up defenses and ego the way it has afforded adults. The Lord loves a poor and contrite spirit that depends fully upon Him in childlike openness.
The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit (Psalm 34:18).
Jesus explained to the disciples that His kingdom is not characterized by earthly dignity or display. Rich and poor, learned and ignorant, high and low, meet together at His feet. As Jesus kindly explained the nature of His kingdom to the disciples, it awakened in their hearts a sense of self-distrust. Sheepishly they confessed that they’d seen some individuals casting out devils in Jesus’ name, and, rather than encourage them, they’d forbidden them as if they owned some kind of copyright. They thought they’d been concerned about God’s honor, but in that moment they began to realize that they were jealous for their own. As the reality of their hard-hearted exclusivism began to dawn, Jesus told them plainly, “Forbid them not!”
He went on to explain the grave danger of offending “little ones.” The word He used is micros, like our “micro,” and it implies people weaker than ourselves. In other words, Jesus wanted us to tread softly where we have a power advantage. In explaining the evil of harming micros, He poured forth some of the strongest language of the New Testament:
- If you do, you deserve death by millstone drowning;
- If your hand makes you offend, cut it off;
- If your foot makes you offend, cut it off;
- If your eye causes you to offend, pluck it out (Mark 9:42-47).
Whew! What was this, a horror movie review? Jesus wanted His disciples pay attention, or He wouldn’t have used those gruesome analogies. Harming those weaker than we are is a grave sin in the sight of a God who vigorously protects His most vulnerable children.
The high and lofty God bends over the earth, caring for all of His creatures. How it must hurt His heart when we use our power advantage to harm and exploit, or even carelessly disregard, a micros, a weaker vessel. The simple principle of God’s protectiveness of the vulnerable people of the world should inform all of our choices.
Heaven is My throne; and earth is My footstool. . . but on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word (Isaiah 66:1&2).
- Who are the micros in your life?
- Have you regarded them with heaven-born tenderness and protective love, or have they needed protection from you? If so, how?
Ask those you lead if you’ve ever frightened, intimidated, or harmed them, and if they say yes, ask them to tell you what it was like for them, giving as many details as they wish. Do not at this time offer your point of view. Listen in order to understand. Ask probing questions and occasionally summarize what they’ve said.
Dear, gentle Jesus, Your kind attention to the little guy touches my heart. Or at least it should. The use of power to exploit and abuse violates the principles of Your kingdom. May I never engage in that exploitation. I want to be like You, attentive to those that others pass by. Give me a heart that rejoices in the opportunity to be present with little ones in pain, and help me alleviate suffering whenever possible.