How to Receive the Kingdom
Text: Mark 10:13–16
Main Idea: Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child, shall not enter it. (Mark 10:15)
I. The Disciples’ Arrogance (Mark 10:13)
II. The Savior’s Correction (Mark 10:14)
III. The Gospel’s Requirement (Mark 10:15)
One of the most encouraging things about Jesus, in the Gospel of Mark, is that he receives everyone who pursues him. Time and time again throughout this Gospel, Jesus makes time for unclean outcasts, religious outsiders, and individuals who have no social significance.
Yet, one of the more convicting things about this gospel is that, more often than not, you and I tend to act more like the 12-diciples than we act like Jesus. We want to be great. But instead of pursuing true greatness like Jesus, we settle for the appearance of greatness or being greater than the people around us. And even worse, over time, we are tempted to think that acceptance before God is a matter of personal accomplishments not Amazing Grace—even though we might never admit it to someone else, we begin to think that we somehow deserve his forgiveness and love in a way that other people do not. But, this couldn’t be any farther from the truth of the gospel and the main idea of our text this morning.
Main Idea: Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it (Mark 10:15).
The Disciples’ Arrogance (v. 13)
The Savior’s Anger (v. 14)
The Gospel’s Demand (v. 15)
The Disciples’ Arrogance (Mark 10:13)
Notice that Mark isn’t very interested in telling us about the people who are bringing their children or grandchildren to Jesus. No elaborate back stories. No statement about their hopes in bringing their children to Jesus other than “he might touch them.” Rather, the parents and children are here to expose a continuing deficiency in the disciples. Mark wants us to see that the disciples haven’t been listening to what Jesus has been teaching them about true greatness because they are still pushing people away from Jesus. In fact, their actions here are no different than their exclusive censure of the man casting out demons “in Jesus’ name” back in Mark 9:38.
See, they are not merely protecting Jesus from the needless interruptions of little children while he is teaching. No. They seem to be using this opportunity to emphasize their own importance and authority (9:34) by restricting access to Jesus himself (9:38).
The Savior’s Correction (Mark 10:14)
One of the things I love about the Gospel of Mark is that he never softens the human emotions of Jesus nor does he attempt to hide the blatant failure of Jesus’ disciples. And Jesus is clearly angry at their failure! In fact, this is the only passage in the four Gospels where Jesus is said to be “indignant” or aroused to such anger that he instantly expresses his displeasure to his ever-failing disciples. Displeasure that reveals his compassion for the most helpless, vulnerable, powerless, and seemingly unimportant members of first-century society—children.
Remember, despite the fact that first-century parents loved their children deeply. First-century culture, as a whole, believed that little children were insignificant and unworthy of substantial attention because they were not able to contribute to society in any significant way. The disciples’ problem here is at least two-fold:
- They are still operating under their sinful and self-centered vision of true greatness.
- They are still wrong about Jesus. They seem to think that Jesus cannot be bothered by these little children because he is too busy doing his super important Messiah work.
The irony is that they see themselves as protecting Jesus, in that they are preventing these distracting “nobodies” from monopolizing his time. Yet by rejecting children they are in fact rejecting Jesus and failing to comprehend the nature and power of the gospel itself. They have not learned the lesson that Jesus taught them back in 9:36–37, that to welcome a child means to welcome Jesus, and to welcome Jesus is to welcome God, who sent him. Or to put it another way, Serving the least of all people in Jesus’ name is serving the greatest of all—God himself!
So let me take a minute to highlight three implications that flow from this text before we turn to Jesus’ instruction.
A Few Implications
If Jesus cares so much about children, children’s ministry must be a priority in the local church. Children’s ministry is:
- The means by which we introduce our children to Jesus and help them understand their desperate need for him.
- The process by which we partner with parents in the discipleship of their believing children: building them up in the faith by anchoring them in sound doctrine, modeling mature Christianity through personal interactions, and preparing them for the challenges they will face because they belong to Jesus.
If Jesus cares so much about children, no one is “too important” to serve in children’s ministry. What I mean by this is that, children’s ministry is not restricted to current mothers and other women. Our children need men in the classroom—especially our boys who need to know what it means to be a Christian man. Even more, they need to see men who are passionate about Jesus and love teaching his word—men who love Jesus more than hunting, football, skiing, and promotions at work. Men who don’t serve out of duty or immediate rewards but the ultimate promise that they are serving Jesus himself when they serve our children.
Men and women you might not feel like it’s a big deal when you serve our kids. But in many ways you reflect Jesus the most when you serve our children because serving a child means that you serving Jesus himself.
But, as we turn our attention back to the text itself, I want you to see that the primary focus of this passage is not literal, physical children. Rather, Jesus transitions from the physical children clamoring for personal access to anyone who is attempting to gain access to the kingdom of God.
Mark 10:14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.
Did you notice the word “such”? Jesus is saying that there is a necessary correlation/analogy between the literal children coming to him and the kind of people that belong to the Kingdom of God. But, what’s the connection? Is it their innocence, gentleness, or purity? Well, if we look closely at this story and the one in chapter 9, Jesus doesn’t receive children for the virtues the possess but for everything they lack: they come only as they are—small, powerless, unsophisticated, overlooked, unimportant, and generally ignored.
So the present danger in this text is that the 12-disciples are behaving as if they somehow deserve a place in the Kingdom of God! And on account of this, Jesus quickly follows his analogy with the Gospel’s shocking requirement. (Mark 10:15)
The Gospel’s Requirement (Mark 10:15–16)
Nothing but Grace
Kids and teens, listen up. Single adults, parents, and grandparents listen up. Your right standing with God and eternal life hang on the question, “What kind of person receives the kingdom of God?” Notice Jesus is saying that there is a kind of person who believes they are going to enter God’s Kingdom but they won’t. And there is a kind of person who receives the Kingdom like a child and enjoys everlasting delight in God for all of eternity. Do you know which one you are?
The key is simply this: A little child has absolutely nothing to bring, and whatever a child receives, they receive on the basis of their sheer neediness rather than their personal influence, merits, or accomplishment. Receiving the kingdom of God as a child is to receive it as someone who comes empty handed to God—no credits, no clout, and no claims. Because God doesn’t follow the worlds rules!
1 Corinthians 1:26–31 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Notice what Paul is saying here. God does not grant special favor those with superior wisdom, authoritative power, or influential family lineages. Rather, he is a God who intentionally chooses foolish, weak, lowly, and despised people to magnify his infinitely amazing grace. Because, in Christ he freely supplies our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
Let’s drill into a few of these categories:
Is your hope of forgiveness and restoration to God grounded in your wisdom/understanding about God (i.e., your Biblical knowledge, doctrinal expertise, or iron-clad apologetics)? If it is, you need to understand that knowing about God is not the same thing as truly knowing God.
- 1 Corinthians 1:20–21 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
God has not hidden himself in such a way that only a few smart people can find him through hidden codes and secret teaching. He freely reveals himself in the promise of the gospel and calls all people to receive the kingdom through the gospel’s simple message “That Jesus lived, died, and rose again for you sin and that God will forgive you if you turn and trust in Jesus.” Which means that humble, empty handed, faith is the only way anyone can truly know God.
Is your hope of forgiveness and restoration to God grounded in your righteous works as you endeavor to follow every single rule in the Bible? Or is it based in your perpetual attempt to clean up your sin-stained life, convinced that you are still too dirty for God’s approval?
If it is, you need to understand that you can never be good enough for God’s approval and will always fall short of his glory. But, that when you come to him empty handed and receive his free gift of forgiveness and restoration through faith in Jesus; you stand in the very righteousness of Jesus Christ himself!
Romans 3:21–24 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
What does this really mean? It means that ground is level at the cross, in that fastidious rule-keepers, moral degenerates, and hopelessly broken people find forgiveness the same way! They receive it as child through faith in Jesus Christ.
Finally, is your hope of forgiveness and restoration to God based on your parents faith in Jesus or their faithful service in the local church? If it is, you need to know that personal faith in Jesus is the only path to peace with God. You cannot get to heaven on your parent’s coattails. You need to repent of your self-sufficiency and receive God’s free offer of salvation by believing the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Romans 10:9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
This is what it means to receive the kingdom as a little child: you and I have nothing to bring, and whatever we do receive from God, we receive by grace—his unmerited favor to us in Jesus Christ. This is why the gospel is both “foolishness” and a “stumbling block” to so many people, they believe that they need to bring something to God or rightly deserve something from God.
This morning I want to close with a single question. “Have you actually received the Kingdom of God?” This is the focal point of Jesus’ entire ministry. This is the reason he came! All of his teaching, miracles, travel, and his imminent crucifixion are directed toward this one end. Do you remember how he began his ministry in chapter 1?
Mark 1:14–15 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Note, because the kingdom of God is at hand you need to do something or you will miss it! And that something is “repent and believe” the gospel, which is in many ways two sides to the same coin of faith.
Repentance means that we turn away from our sinful self-centeredness, fully acknowledging that we are wholly unworthy of God’s affection and have nothing to offer him but our sin. But, in this abject emptyhandedness we do not turn away from God. Rather, we turn toward him to supply every single thing that we lack!
Believing means that we embrace God’s promise that he freely forgives and restores anyone who trusts in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross for their sins. This is amazing grace. This is how you receive the Kingdom of God…
Have you actually received it?
 Walter W. Wessel and Mark L. Strauss, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark, Revised Edition., ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 861.
 Mark L. Strauss, Mark, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 434–35.
 James R Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 307.