“Let the children come” (Mark 10:13-27)

[An audio recording of this sermon will be uploaded here after the worship service.]

Recently, I was taken by surprise when my daughter, who is almost 5 years old, asked me, “Daddy, when can I be baptized?”

As you may know, different churches have different answers to this question. After this I started reading many articles about child baptism as well as infant baptism. Coincidentally, at this time, I was also preparing for today’s sermon. In our passage for today, Jesus talks about children and about entering the kingdom of God. So, let’s hear what Jesus says about children from Mark chapter 10, and at the end I’ll return to the story of my daughter. Now let’s read Mark 10:13-27.

[Read Mark 10:13-27]

Children and the Kingdom (10:13-16)

The ancient Israelites had a practice of laying hands on children to bless them; and usually the fathers would do this.

In today’s story parents were bringing children to Jesus, not only for healing but simply to bless them. Jesus’ disciples scolded the parents for bothering Jesus, because they thought Jesus had more important things to do. It seems the disciples had forgotten what Jesus did in Mark chapter 9. Jesus took a child and said to his disciples, in 9:36, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” In other words, children are just as adults to receive not only our attention but also God’s attention.

Jesus became indignant at his disciples (verse 14). It’s one of the few times we read about Jesus getting angry. He said, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

Here are 3 things we shouldn’t miss. First, in a time when children were usually the bottom of the social hierarchy, Jesus not only welcomed children but said that the kingdom of God belongs to them!

Second, Jesus encourages children to come to him because it is through him that they can enter God’s kingdom. In other Gospels, Jesus says “come to me” and this phrase is followed by a promise. For example, in Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, “Come to me and I will give you rest.” In John 5:39, Jesus says to the Pharisees, “You search the Scriptures [. . .], yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” And in John 7:37, he says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. [. . .] Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

It is through Jesus that we may gain entry into God’s kingdom, find rest, eternal life, and satisfy our thirst.

Third, a requirement for entering the kingdom is to receive it like a child. As a parent, I notice that my daughter depends on me for so many things. I feel like almost every 5 minutes she is shouting, “Daddy, mommy!” to ask for help. In one sense, it is this dependency and desire for help that Jesus says we need to have. The kingdom of God is a gift given to those who acknowledge their neediness (Reference: Mark 10:15; Ephesians 2:8; 2 Timothy 1:9).

But this simple act of dependency on God can be difficult, like it was for the rich young man.

The Rich Young Man (10:17-27)

In a way, the rich man represents the opposite of the children, although his intentions and faith were sincere.

With great respect for Jesus, he asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Most of us are eager to know how we can experience the best possible life. Or at least, to have a good ending to our lives. This is what the rich young man wanted too.

But despite his commitment to living his life well and being a good person, Jesus thought the man still lacked something. The man’s wealth hindered him from freely receiving the heavenly treasure that Jesus offered. When asked to choose between his wealth and the kingdom of God, the man was not ready to give up his wealth and depend on God to provide enough for him.

After the rich man left, Jesus said to his disciples in verse 23, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” Jesus isn’t saying that wealth is bad. In fact, it’s interesting that so many of his parables and sayings indirectly affirm the values of ownership, business, and investment. Rather, the problem is when we get so attached to and dependent on our possessions that we don’t want to find our satisfaction in God, much less surrender everything to Him. (Reference: Matthew 6:24; 1 Timothy 6:10; Hebrews 13:15).

In verse 25, Jesus adds, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples were shocked at these words, because many Jews at that time believed that wealth was linked with God’s blessings (Reference: Deuteronomy 28:1-14; Psalm 25:12-13). In their minds, if the people who seem to be most favored by God find it hard to enter the kingdom, what hope is there for anyone else? Then who can be saved?

Jesus replies in verse 27, “All things are possible with God.” Entry into the kingdom of God cannot be earned as a reward or claimed as a right. It depends only on the goodness and power of God, who offers it as a gift. And if the kingdom is God’s gift to us, the only right response is to receive it like a child.

The story of my daughter

Sometimes, before bed, I read to my daughter from a children’s Bible. So she knows about baptism from Bible stories, as well as from Sunday School and Christian TV shows for children. Still, I was surprised when she asked to be baptized. I said, “Do you believe in Jesus?” She responded with a loud shout, “YES!”

But I was skeptical, so I asked, “Do you know what the word ‘believe’ means?” She took awhile to think and then answered, “It’s like listening to Mommy and Daddy. And then doing what Mommy and Daddy says.” Again, I was taken aback that she understood belief in Jesus as willingness to obey Jesus.

Another night she asked, “Daddy, why don’t my friends come to church?” I said, “Because they don’t believe in Jesus.”

She asked, “How can they believe in Jesus?” I said, “Somebody has to tell them about Jesus.” She replied, “OK, I’ll tell them about Jesus!!”

Of course, there are many things about the Christian faith and about the world that she still doesn’t know. But does that mean I should stop her from being baptized or from telling her friends about Jesus?

Besides reading about child baptism, I consulted Pastor Ino and friends from different Christian denominations to ask their opinion. Generally, there were two types of opinions: the first is “Wait until she’s older,” and the second is “It’s fine to have a baptism now, but when she is older she should have a confirmation or confession of faith.”

I won’t go into detail about the reasoning behind these two opinions. After all, today’s passage from Mark is not about baptism. What I do want to share is how Jesus’ words about children influenced my attitude towards my daughter.

Jesus said, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” His words made me question: Is a child’s conviction any less strong than an adult’s? Is a child any less faithful and obedient to Jesus than an adult? If my daughter says she believes in Jesus, should I dismiss her faith as not real enough, not consistent enough? Should I say, “Let’s discuss baptism only when you’re older. You’re too young to understand it now.” Also, there is no single Bible verse that says that children of believers are to wait a certain age until they can get baptized.

Rather, I think my response should be to take her faith seriously and help her learn more about it. And in the end, baptism is just one step in a long journey of growth and obedience. When I was baptized as a teenager, there were still so many things I didn’t understand about God, the Bible, and Christianity.

My daughter is young, and I should commend that she wants to obey Jesus by getting baptized. Who am I to stop someone, let alone my own daughter, from obeying Jesus? Jesus is not physically present with us today, but he has left us means for us to go to him. Baptism is one of the ways that we can go to Jesus. Jesus’ words spoke to me: I was to not hinder my daughter from going to him.


Once again, Jesus said, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” There is an important lesson here, regardless of whether or not we agree with baptizing young children. The lesson is that children matter to God, and in fact, we have something valuable to learn from their childlikeness.

Yes, children may be immature; but they also have qualities that are precious in the eyes of God. As adults, we may have lost these qualities: a willingness to receive and to be dependent on God. I pray that, as a church, we can continue to help our young ones know Jesus. And may God speak to us through the childlike faith of these young ones.

Let’s pray. Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and to be born of a pure virgin: Grant that we, who have been born again and made your children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with you and the same Spirit be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.