“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me”

Who is a “child”, and how should we treat him or her? Jesus tells us in Mark 9:30-37.

Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee,
but he did not wish anyone to know about it.
He was teaching his disciples and telling them,
“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men
and they will kill him,
and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.”
But they did not understand the saying,
and they were afraid to question him.

They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house,
he began to ask them,
“What were you arguing about on the way?”
But they remained silent.
For they had been discussing among themselves on the way
who was the greatest.
Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them,
“If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
Taking a child, he placed it in their midst,
and putting his arms around it, he said to them,
Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me,
receives not me but the One who sent me.”

I was torn between highlighting today’s quote and the one below it. Both teach us important and eminent points in today’s world.

In the first stanzas above it, the disciples are discussing who among them is the greatest disciple. When Jesus asks them what they were discussing, they were silent, because they knew what they were discussing would displease Him. And He tells them, anyone who wants to be first will be the last and will serve everyone else. To further teach them, Jesus embraces a child and says, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me.”

What or who is a child? It’s not just someone between 2 and 12. Metaphorically, it’s someone innocent in the world. Psychologically, it’s someone with a simple view of the world. Criminally, though they may get into mischief, it is someone who has not knowingly done evil things in the world. Sociologically, it’s someone fresh to the world. In all ways, a child is someone to be protected and nurtured and welcomed, given sanctuary from the impositions of the world.

Jesus says, whoever protects, nurtures, and welcomes one of these, gives them sanctuary from the world, does so to Him. And in the reverse, anyone who doesn’t protect, nurture, and welcome and give sanctuary, denies it to Jesus.

In the quote that follows what I highlighted, Jesus says, “Whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me” – the Father. If you deny protection, nurturing, welcome, and sanctuary to the child, you deny it to the Father. And that doesn’t necessarily mean denying it physically to the Father, but in your heart.

There are many children in our world who desperately need our protection, our nurturing, our welcome, and our sanctuary. The abused, the unwanted, the poor, the displaced, the orphaned, and the refugee. And among the “children” are the innocent of society who though they may have faults are innocents in their situations, including adult immigrants and refugees. To deny any of these our help is to deny Jesus the Christ and, in Jesus’ own words, to deny the One who sent Him, the Father.

At the beginning of the month, we heard Jesus calm our fears by saying, “Don’t be afraid; just have faith.” That was to calm those who feared that someone had died, but He would say the same thing to us today in this instance. Don’t be afraid of helping others because we fear we cannot make a difference or because we fear they are not like us. Do not fear others because we judge them unworthy by their station in life. Do not fear others because we do not know them personally or because they are not of our group or tribe. None of that is Christ like. Do not be afraid; have faith in God’s compassion and mercy.

Do not deny Christ and do not deny the Father. They love you. And they want you to love others, especially the “child” among us. Jesus, the Father – God – commands us to love and serve all, for he who seeks to be first will be the last and the servant of all.

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