Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:13-14)
We don’t often read about Jesus getting angry. We know what He thinks about the Pharisees and how He addresses them, and what He thought about the money-changers in the Temple, but where else do we see His anger provoked?
We see His anger in Mark 10:14. Children come to Jesus, and the disciples turn them away. How did the son of God react? Anger. “Do NOT turn them away!” (My emphasis, but we can imagine him expressing himself like that), He said, and went on to famously teach: “assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom Of God as a little child will by no means into it.“ (v. 15). After declaring this kingdom principle, He received the children in His arms, blessed them, and laid hands on them.
Why did Jesus get angry? I don’t think it’s just because He loved the children and His disciples were hindering them: I think it’s more than that. His declaration was that we need to be like little children to enter the kingdom of heaven, and it was the very attitudes that keep us out of the kingdom that were turning the children away.
As a bit of an aside, the context of this passage is interesting: it is sandwiched between Jesus’s teaching on divorce and the story of the rich, young ruler. Sex and money. Probably the two biggest preoccupations of adult life. Most of the cares and pleasures of the world, the thorns that choke the seed of the kingdom, have their roots in one or the other of them. In between the two, Jesus demonstrates the good ground of entry into the the kingdom of heaven: we come as children, with neither of them on our minds; He receives us in His arms, we receive His blessing, and finally, He lays hands on us and we receive the Holy Spirit so that we can truly come of age…
But what made Him angry? I think it’s not so much because our own “thorns” are keeping us out, but because we mistake our thorns for fruit. His arms are open wide to receive us. He has come to save the world by giving us free entry to the Kingdom Of God. He knows all the things that stand in the way of the door to the kingdom. And He sees those who cannot enter in preventing those who could, because they have totally misunderstood the conditions for entry. It’s the same anger that He displays towards the teachers of the law, who don’t enter themselves and who stop others from coming in. (Matt 23: 13-14) I think He is angry at the self righteousness of sin that keeps us away from the righteousness of God, the justification of self that stands in the way of justification by grace. It’s when we think know better than others that we actually know the least of all: I think the Bible shows us that if anything makes Jesus cross, it’s this.
To be renewed in the spirit of our minds (Eph 4:23) is to renew the childlike attitudes we had before the thorns began to grow. God chooses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. It’s actually when we think we’re being the most grown-up that we are probably being the least mature. Like Benjamin button in the 2008 film, we need to be ageing backwards to grow up in the kingdom of God: we need to take to the cross what made Him so cross, and become like the baby in the manger.
Happy child-like Christmas, everyone!