Gateway to the Classics: St. Mark by J. Paterson Smyth
St. Mark by  J. Paterson Smyth


Christ and the Children

St. Mark IX. 33, to X. 17.

"He called unto Him a little child."

T EACHER study parallel passages in St. Matthew. Recapitulate lesson of Transfiguration. After Transfiguration they went on through Galilee (v.  30), and came to Capernaum. On the road the Lord overheard a dispute going on behind Him. They thought He had not heard. He knows all our thoughts and words. Utterly confused and ashamed when, as they sat in the house, He quietly turned to ask them—what? Felt like school-boys caught in some wrong that they thought was not known. Already had learned enough to be ashamed of dispute. What was it about? Why this dispute now? Perhaps because Peter, James, and John chosen to be at Transfiguration. Perhaps the high praise given to Peter at Cæsarea Philippi. Lord was sorry to see this bad spirit. Tried to teach them the law of Witness of the Kingdom of Heaven—what? (v.  35). Meaning? THE HIGHEST GREATNESS IN GOD'S SIGHT IS THAT OF HUMBLING AND FORGETTING SELF FOR THE SERVICE OF OTHERS. THE LOWEST POSITION IN GOD'S SIGHT IS HIS WHO IS ONLY STRIVING AND STRUGGLING FOR HIS OWN GAIN AND GREATNESS. All class repeat this. Take case of boy or girl at home. Describe to me the sort that will be highest or lowest in God's sight? Take case of merchant, politician, etc. By such questioning into details make the subject real and practical to the children.

Such was Christ's sermon. What was His text? Strange text. Imagine preacher to-day in church saying before sermon, "This is my text," and lifting a child like M_____ on to the pulpit. Called unto Him a little child; perhaps one of Peter's little boys, as this was probably Peter's house. Did the child come? Yes. Don't you think the children in that house would be fond of the Lord who often came in amongst them? Do you think children soon find out who is fond of them? Some people don't care for children. Some greatly love them—which sort our Lord? Did He tell the little chap to stand away from Him while He taught this lesson? What then? Lifted him on His knee; put His arms around him. I don't think He could help doing that whenever He got a little child near Him (see ch.  x. 16). He was so fond of them, they could not help being fond of Him. You could not either if you saw Him and knew Him, as you will one day in Heaven. He was greatly popular with children. They ran to Him, clung to Him in His arms, shouted "Hosanna" to Him. What a joyous friend for children. Full of sympathy for their innocent pleasure and mirth. Children, cling to Him; don't disappoint Him.

Think of these eager, grasping apostles, each worrying and striving to be greater than the others. See them looking at this innocent little child taken from his play, and wondering in his little heart how he came to be taken such notice of. No thought in his mind about their wretched strivings and ambitions. Quietly nestling in the arms of Jesus; living in the present, not fretting about the future, he is just the example to teach them Christ's lesson: "Unless ye become like this child." How? Does it mean that child sinless? Or any child? Tradition—this child was afterwards the great martyr, St. Ignatius, thrown to wild beasts in Rome. Perhaps true. Probably fond enough of our Lord to die for Him. But surely not sinless. All mankind fallen. Even little children need a Saviour. But the Lord wanted to teach childlike spirit. Children, unless badly brought up, are innocent, contented, kindly—not self-conscious, not supercilious, or making class distinctions. Not fretting about the future. Peacefully, quietly trusting their parents, and living "one day at a time." The hard world hardens and spoils us. The Lord says, "Keep the child-like heart in you. Be as little children in the Great Father's home. Not worrying or fretting for greatness, but loving and trusting the Father, and gladly doing His will."

Watch Him still with child clasped in His arms. "Whoso receiveth," etc. (v.  37). How He loved children, and commended them to men's care. But oh! how angry if one led them wrong! What does He threaten? (v.  42). Meaning of "offend"? Think of Him looking at little boy and letting His thoughts run on into future, when people should tempt that child away from God. How awful Christ's anger! Shows how great His love for children. Show me how this anger could be deserved (1) by parent or teacher; (2) by one of you. Worst sin in God's sight is to tempt another to do wrong.

Meaning of verses 43-48. Tell us to cut off hand or foot with knife? What? If tooth very bad—no rest or sleep. What do? Pull it out. Painful? Yes; but worse evil to leave it in. Whatever habit, or companionship, or occupation causes you to stumble, away it must be cast, even if as dear as right hand or eye. Tell me some such? Desire for drink; wicked companion, who is pleasant; occupation dangerous to modesty or truthfulness, etc. However painful, cut it off. Better to suffer—better to die—than to sin. So the Lord says, and He should know. How awful sin must appear to Him!

Ch.  x. 13-27.—Here He is with the children again. They brought them—for what? (v.  13). What good was it? If not old enough to understand His teaching, could they receive any good from His blessing them? Surely yes; else He would not have acted as He did. Disciples rebuked them. Perhaps thought it would do no good to them. Some people think that still, when we bring children to Him in Holy Baptism. Did Jesus say, "Take these children away until they are old enough to understand my preaching"? No. God can do the child good before the age of understanding. So He told Jews to bring infants to Him in circumcision, and we believe He wants us to bring infants in Baptism, that He may bless them. Here again we have anger showing love. How? (v.  4). Never in His life before was He so "sore displeased." No such strong expression ever again of Him. It seems to have been the most offensive and criminal thing to keep children back from Him. Just as He felt before about leading them astray. And again His great heart went out to the little ones, and one by one they were clasped in His strong arms, and blessed with great spiritual blessing. What did He say to disciples? "Suffer," etc. "Of such is the Kingdom of God." Remember what we learned about Kingdom of God in Lesson II. What was it for? To march as young "knights of God" through this "naughty world," blessing and gladdening it, and helping all around us to live beautiful lives for God. Are you too young and foolish to be members of the Kingdom? Is it not a beautiful life to put before you, to live as members of His Kingdom of God on earth, and then march on at death through the golden gates to the higher Kingdom of God in Heaven?

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