Background Passage: Mark 10:13-16
It is to me one of the most endearing passages of scripture recorded about Jesus. God’s son journeys from Galilee toward Jerusalem in his final days on earth, bearing the burden of the cross and all it means both physically and spiritually. The cross and all its meaning rests as a dark shadow in his heart and mind. Nevertheless, as he goes, he teaches any who would listen about the kingdom of God and the faith required to experience its grace.
On this day, he sits in the courtyard of a home, speaking to a group of Pharisees who relentlessly question him, hoping he might somehow incriminate himself. The area is jam packed with people listening to the developing debate on divorce.
As the conversation intensified, a group of parents walked up to the house carrying babies and walking hand in hand with toddlers. More than anything in the world, these parents wanted Jesus to bless their children. These were parents who recognized the strength and power of his preaching and teaching. Parents who cared for the future of their little ones. Parents who wanted their children to know God and to be blessed by God.
Yet, they were blocked from entering, not by the Pharisees, but by Jesus’ own disciples. Rebuked in a forceful and misguided way for wasting the time of the teacher on such trivial matters. Children in the first century, you see, were deemed insignificant in spiritual matters. Conventional religious teaching centered on the need to earn your way into God’s grace by the things you did or did not do. The philosophy ran counter to what Jesus taught.
Jesus heard the commotion, recognized what was happening and became indignant and irritated with his disciples. He called to the parents, waving them inside with a cheerful voice and a welcoming smile.
Ignoring the crowd of onlookers and Pharisees, Jesus spent precious moments with each baby and child. Cradled the littlest of them lovingly to his chest, peeking through the swaddling clothes, letting them grasp his calloused fingers. He wrapped the toddlers in his arms, hugging them tightly. Tickled them. Made them giggle with silly faces. Then, with each child, he drew the parents into a small circle, prayed quietly and purposely for the cherished ones among them. Offering God’s protection and blessing upon their lives. Praying that they one day would come to understand in a personal way what it means to be a child of God.
As the parents left, he used this “interruption” to explain to the disciples and Pharisees that the key to God’s kingdom required childlike faith, not legalistic adherence to rules and law. It is a valuable lesson to all who would believe.
I find another truth in this familiar, but lightly regarded passage. This story popped into my mind about this time every year for the past 30 years. Despite my recent retirement from public school work, I thought again of this passage with the start of this new school year.
Without delving into separation of church and state issues or the frequent plea for a return of prayer into our schools, I believe no law has ever or will ever remove God from our public school systems. There are simply too many Christian educators calling upon God’s presence in their lives as they work with our children and young people. I know how much they care, how much they love, how much they do beyond teaching to meet the needs of children.
I watched for three decades as dedicated public school teachers, counselors, principals, and support staff, each committed to a personal faith in Christ, became the voice, the hands, the heart of Christ for the children and young people they encountered during the day. I know these amazing people prayed intently in the moment for those who were struggling in the classroom or hurting in their personal lives.
During the course of a day, they are heard as the voice of instruction to those who must be taught. A voice of encouragement to those who need strengthening. A voice of discipline to those who need correction. A voice of counsel to those who need guidance. A voice of praise to those who succeed.
They offer a hand to those who must be lifted up. A shoulder to those who need comfort. They offer their heart to those who need to be loved.
If you take the time to visit with them, they will tell you they look upon their work in public schools as God’s calling in their lives…their place of ministry and service in his kingdom. By living their faith each day they proclaim Christ’s love and blessing upon the children through the relationships they build with them.
In quiet and hectic times, Christian educators and Christian students pray. As a result, lives are blessed and changed. Lives are won to Christ through the daily witness of these amazing educators.
These Christian educators pray for Godly wisdom and discernment as they teach and interact with their students. They pray for our children and grandchildren as they learn and as they grow and mature into the people God wants them to be.
So, in turn, please pray each day for Christian men and women in our schools…whether they are public, private and home school teachers. Pray for strength, energy, compassion, insight and opportunity to bless the lives of the children and young people they encounter during the year.
Just as Jesus paused from his teaching to bless the children, pray for our Christian educators to find time to do the same with the students they teach.
“Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
Author’s note: If the message speaks to you, share it with a friend who teaches. They will be encouraged to know you are praying for them.