Mark’s Gospel chapter 10 verses 13 – 31
“Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” (verse 15)
So what is it about children that makes Jesus say this? They are not particularly ‘good’; at least, not judged by adult standards and requirements. They are relatively unselfconscious – once again, until adults get at them. They have little power or status and they are dependent on adult help and support. They are open to learning new things. Above all they have yet to develop strong egos. The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘ego’ as a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance. I looked at Self and self esteem in a previous blog post [on chapter 8 verses 34 – 37. Posted March 13th 2014 ]
Egos, as I said in my last post, are blind. Only getting in touch with the grounding truth about us restores our sight. Then we can see …what? The kingdom of God! Yes but what is that? It is the Presence of God in everything especially in other human beings. Egos think almost exclusively in terms of past or future but the kingdom is visible only in each present moment. The King James Version of verse 14 is ‘suffer the little children to come unto me’. Suffer meant ‘allow’ or, in this current version, ‘let’ the little children come. The disciples could not ‘allow’ it because they had fixed ideas about the place of children. Maybe there’s suffering to be undergone before we are able to allow, to let something happen, when we think it is not appropriate. Can we say that the disciples’ egos: their self-esteem or self-importance, were getting in the way of allowing children to approach Jesus? I can only speak from personal experience. Most of the pain I suffer (21st century meaning) is caused when I refuse to suffer (17th century meaning) things to happen; that is when my ego, with its ideas about what is appropriate for me, gets in the way.
In Mark’s next story, about the rich man (verses 17- 22), it’s his wealth that is getting in the way. He cannot move on from his faithful keeping of the ten commandments (good as that is) into the radical letting go that Jesus offers him. We know nothing about this rich man except that “Jesus, looking at him, loved him.” (verse 21) It’s one of those intense brief encounters when a spark is ignited between two people and Jesus invites him to join his little band of followers. The man turns away. Jesus then warns his disciples about the difficulties posed by wealth when it comes to following his Way. The essence of this Way is, let go! No hoarding. No clinging. Fortunately for most of us in affluent countries, “for God all things are possible.” (verse 27) Wealth is not of the essence of letting go, but perhaps only if we don’t let our need for self-esteem or self-importance get in the way.