As a Child: Jesus’ Solidarity with the Least of the Least (Mk 10:13-16)

$1.50
Date: 
Wednesday, 1 October 2003

The Living Pulpit. 5 pp.

Mark’s gospel portrays Jesus interacting with children in two vignettes that appear close to each other (Mk 9:36-37 and 10:13-16) in a sequence of teaching episodes I call the “discipleship catechism” (1988:235ff). Both episodes begin with almost identical stage directions (Jesus "takes them in his arms," using enagkalisamenos, a verb unique in the New Testament, 9:36, 10:16), and in both cases Jesus uses children as object lessons of the meaning of "the first will be last” (9:35).

In 9:37 Mark constructed a kind of syllogistic argument based upon the notion of "receiving" (dechetai): "Whoever receives one such as this in my name, receives me; whoever receives me receives not me but the one who sent me." In order to understand the earnestness of this equation, the reader is supposed to recall the disciples, who were themselves "sent" on mission (6:11). There they were vulnerable, dependent upon being "received" in hospitality—in a sense, they were "as children." The warning issued there was: "Whatever place does not receive you or hear you, shake off the dust . . . as witness against them." Now the child threatens to become "a witness against" those disciples who refuse to accept the social transformation of which Jesus spoke in 9:35. And in 10:15, the syllogistic circle will close with a reiteration in the negative: "Whoever does not receive the kingdom like a child, will not enter into it at all!"

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by Ched Myers

All articles on this site were written by Ched Myers unless otherwise specified.