Mark 9: 30-42. Who is the greatest?

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him. And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” 

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward. Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”

Back in chapter 8, Jesus spoke to his disciples for the first time about his suffering and death. He said that the “Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.” The disciples did not understand how such a thing could be. They were shocked by Jesus’ words- we see that in Peter’s reaction, rebuking Jesus for saying such things.

Since then, we have seen the disciples’ lack of understanding highlighted for us several times…

On the mountain where Jesus is transfigured, Peter, James and John think that this is the start of the final kingdom of Messiah- that Jesus will rule from there with Moses and Elijah at his side. They haven’t understood the nature of God’s kingdom.

Meanwhile, at the foot of the mountain, the other disciples seem to have forgotten that they are working for God’s kingdom; when they meet difficulties, they don’t pray to God, but instead are drawn into dispute with the scribes. The impression we get is that after their failure, they are ignoring the man and his son, who came to them for help. The picture there in 9:14-17 is of the disciples talking with the scribes, and this man with his helpless son standing by with the crowd watching.

 In 9:30 then, Mark tells us that we’re travelling through Galilee, coming to Capernaum. From Capernaum, Jesus will turn South and head for Jerusalem. He will spend the  rest of his short life in and around that city. We’ve noted already the two-fold division of the book; the first half is taken up with ministry in Galilee, and the proclamation that the Messiah has arrived to bring the kingdom of God from heaven to earth; and the second half is concerned with the journey to and ministry in Jerusalem, and the suffering and death of the Messiah. Here, Jesus begins his journey to Jerusalem, and speaks for the second time about his own death to his disciples.

 1.      Jesus tells his disciples that he will be “delivered into the hands of men”. How does he know this? Why does he use those words?

 2.      When Jesus spoke to the disciples for the first time about his suffering and death, they did not understand how the Messiah could possibly die. Jesus repeats the teaching, and they still do not understand. Why can’t they get it?

 3.      Why are the disciples afraid to ask Jesus to explain exactly what he meant?

 4.      What does the discussion among the disciples on the road tell us about their ideas concerning God’s kingdom? How is their discussion linked to their inability to understand Jesus’ teaching about his own death?

 5.      Jesus responds to the debate they won’t tell him about, by placing a little child in the midst of his disciples. How does this answer their wrong ideas?

 6.      What does Jesus mean by saying that anyone who receives a child “in his name” receives him and not only him, but the one who sent him?

 7.      Why does John then talk about a man he saw casting out demons? Does it have any connection to what has gone before? And why was John wrong?

 8.      When Jesus says that whoever is not against us is for us, does he mean that anyone who doesn’t identify as his enemy, is actually one of his disciples? And why does he go on to talk about cups of water and millstones? And how do we apply it all anyway? 

1. Jesus tells his disciples that he will be “delivered into the hands of men”. How does he know this? Why does he use those words?

Jesus says to the disciples,“The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” He uses very similar words to those he used back in 8:31, and we shall meet the same pattern of words again in 10:33. These are summary statements; Mark is selecting representative sentences to show us what Jesus said to the disciples without giving us a 30-page transcript. So why does Mark choose three very similar sentences for 8:31, 9:31, and 10:33? Because Mark is gently underlining the fact that the disciples have heard this before.

When they first heard this teaching, the disciples were shaken. Now they have been reassured by the events of 9:1-8. But they still don’t understand how it is possible for the Messiah, whose kingdom will last forever, to be rejected by men and put to death. If he’s dead, then his kingdom can’t last forever, can it? This time, however, there is a difference. Instead of speaking about being rejected by the elders, Jesus speaks about being delivered into the hands of men. How does Jesus know that he will be delivered into the hands of men? On one level, he knows all things. But even on a human level, he has studied the scriptures. The words he uses are the words of the Old Testament. Some scholars see a link to Isaiah 53. In the Greek version of the OT, widely used in 1st century Israel, Isaiah 53:6 says that the servant was “handed over”. Isa 53:12 has the phrase twice- “handed over to death….was handed over”.

But Jesus isn’t thinking explicitly of being handed over to death. He says that he will be handed over to men. Daniel 7 is more likely to be in his mind, especially when we consider that this takes place so soon after the transfiguration, where the events are similar to- and build upon- Daniel’s vision. In Daniel 7:13-14, 25, the Son of Man is handed over to the evil kingdom, although only for a set period. Jesus knows that he is the Son of Man, and from reading the scriptures, he knows that he can expect to be handed over to his enemies for a time, and he knows that he will die in their hands.

2. When Jesus spoke to the disciples for the first time about his suffering and death, they did not understand how the Messiah could possibly die. Jesus repeats the teaching, and they still do not understand. Why can’t they get it?

They don’t understand because of their preconceived ideas about what sort of king the Messiah is. They are looking for Messiah to be an earthly ruler- God’s ruler, sure; but still a ruler on earth like other kings. That dominates their thinking, and they can’t shake it off. Preconceived ideas are powerful like that.

It wasn’t so very long ago- certainly within living memory- that we had a striking example of the triumph of preconceived ideas against all the evidence here in Britain. If you remember your modern history, and the build up to the Second World War, you might remember that everyone in Europe had a preconceived idea about war. Everybody thought that there would never be another war like the First World War, which was then only just over, a mere 20 years ago. Everybody believed that “The Great War” had been the war to end all wars, and that there would never again be such a destructive bloodbath. Europe had torn itself apart. Nobody thought that any of the European powers would want to risk repeating the horrors of 1914-1918. That was the firmly preconceived idea in the minds of the majority.

There were danger signs in Europe, there plainly enough for those who cared to see them, but people didn’t care to see them. Hitler had come to power in Germany, and was cultivating the myth of the “stab in the back” (the idea that Germany had never been defeated by the Allies militarily in WWI, but had been the victim of an international Jewish/socialist conspiracy). Hitler was rearming Germany- in breach of the treaty drawn up by the Allies with the defeated Germans at Versailles after WWI. Hitler remilitarised the Rhineland on his border with France- again in breach of the treaty, which said that that border was a demilitarised zone- no forts, no troops, no artillery to be placed there. Hitler made an alliance with the Fascists in power in Italy under Mussolini. Both Italy and Germany sent aid to help Franco’s Fascists win the Spanish Civil war at that time. Looking back, it seems obvious that Germany was gearing up for a war in Europe, including an invasion of France. But people just didn’t want to believe it. A generation had been wiped out in WWI. There had been upwards of 40 million casualties. Nobody had the stomach for another war. Nobody believed that even Hitler was insane enough to launch a war after the horrors of WWI. The USA became isolationist. Britain rearmed very slowly. The French had all sorts of internal trouble to distract them. Even when Hitler annexed Austria, and demanded land in Czechoslovakia, nobody wanted to fight him about it. Instead, we met to talk with him. Most of us must have seen the famous black and white image of Neville Chamberlain, just off the plane from Munich in 1938, waving his piece of paper and talking about “peace in our time”. We followed a policy of appeasement- we would let Hitler have what he wanted, and we thought that he would be reasonable, and not demand more and more. It was a stupid policy- unbelievably stupid. But we followed it because we were so certain that there couldn’t be another war like the Great War.

There was actually one man who did see clearly. Churchill warned people that Hitler was a menace, and that we had to stop him. Churchill could see that Hitler was going to force war sooner or later- and that the later we left it, the stronger he would be. But almost everybody else closed their eyes to the facts, and closed their ears to Churchill- until it was very nearly too late. They didn’t believe that we would have to fight again.

So it was with the disciples. All their lives, their thinking about the kingdom has been in earthly terms. Messiah will come, and set up a great kingdom on earth. He will rule from Jerusalem. His conquest will be an earthly conquest, using the methods of other conquerors like Joshua or David. His conquest will be a military and political one. Of course there will be a spiritual dimension to it, a return of Israel to their God, a renewed faithfulness to the covenant. But that dimension was there under Joshua’s leadership and David’s reign.

Maybe the disciples would have seen the return to covenant faithfulness as primary. Maybe they’d have said, “In Messiah’s kingdom, the Lord will be God, there will be no idolatry. And as a result, the land will live in peace and prosperity for ever.” But the kingdom they expected was still an earthly kingdom, and so they expected Jesus to be victorious in earthly terms. That was the kingdom they’d grown up believing in. That was the kingdom they thought the OT taught. They know the OT very well, and they are quite sure that Messiah will be a great king. And they’re right as far as that goes. Their problem is that they’ve only fitted half the pieces of the OT jigsaw into their puzzle. They can’t work out how the suffering psalms, or the servant songs of Isaiah, or Daniel’s prophecy, fit into their scheme. But they don’t doubt the scheme. So since they believe that Jesus is the Messiah, they can’t conceive of him being rejected by men, and put to death.

3. Why are the disciples afraid to ask Jesus to explain exactly what he meant?

They don’t understand how Jesus can talk of being put to death. But why don’t they just ask him to explain further? Mark tells us that they feared to ask. Was Jesus unapproachable? Would he have been unkind to them? Surely not.

Maybe they fear a rebuke. It is plausible that they are genuinely confused and are aware that they are being a bit slow. They can’t see how the Messiah could suffer and die, how the eternal king could be killed by men. They believe that Jesus’ rule will last for ever- so how can he die? And maybe they sense that they’re not getting something which Jesus wants them to get.

But I don’t think that their reluctance to ask is quite so innocent as that. I think they understand more than they’d like to, and they fear the explanation that they might get. Not only do they not understand, they are not sure they want to understand. They are troubled by Jesus’ teaching about his death. They fear that all their ideas will be overturned. They can’t understand because they don’t want to understand. People didn’t listen to Churchill, not because the evidence for his views wasn’t visible to them, but because they didn’t want him to be right. We British didn’t want to have to fight Hitler. We didn’t want to have to go back to the trenches. We didn’t want to lose another generation on the battlefield. We wanted to believe that the world wasn’t such an unpleasant place, and if that meant closing our eyes to the danger, then so be it. The disciples realise, if only on a subconscious level, that if Jesus is reckoning on a nasty deth, it has implications for them. If Jesus’ kingdom isn’t all victory all the way- if Jesus is going to suffer and die- then maybe they will have to be prepared to suffer and die in his footsteps. Jesus has already said this to them plainly- “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” The disciples don’t understand his teaching on the matter because it isn’t what they’d like to happen. They are afraid to ask because they don’t want to hear the answer.

4. What does the discussion among the disciples on the road tell us about their ideas about the nature of God’s kingdom? How is their discussion related to their inability to understand Jesus’ teaching about his own death?

We come now to this episode after their journey. Jesus has told them about his death as they are on the road, and then it seems that they have fallen behind him, talking about something privately, among themselves, while their teacher walked ahead (which was probably customary in Jewish society- the teacher walking in front of the disciples). Jesus could hear them talking about something, and becoming excited, but couldn’t hear everything. When they got to the house in Capernaum (remember that Peter lived there, and his house seems to have been used as some sort of a base), Jesus asked what they had spoken of on the road. They wouldn’t answer, but Jesus knew anyway. They didn’t want to answer, because they were ashamed. They’d been arguing about which of them was the greatest. How is this related to the predictions of Jesus’ death, and the reluctance of the disciples to ask any more? The disciples have been arguing over which of them is the most important- and this question is linked to their view of the kingdom. If Jesus is going to set up a kingdom on earth, then he will need advisers, generals, courtiers. King David had advisers like Ahithophel and Hushai the Archite. Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, were also part of his ruling circle. He needed a general- Joab. He had mighty men, famous in deeds of valour and strength. If Jesus is going to reign on David’s throne, then he will need men like those around him.  And the disciples are his inner circle. They will be his most trusted henchmen, surely. They have been with him from the beginning. They will be the great ones in his kingdom, won’t they?

And so they argue about which of them is to be the right hand man. Perhaps they dispute over which of them is strongest, who is the best fighter, who the most useful in battle. Who is the cleverest? Who is the best political strategist? Who does Jesus like best? Who is closest to him? Who should be in Home Secretary? Who should be Foreign Secretary? Who should be Chancellor of the Exchequer? Peter seems to be the leader- and they are probably travelling to Peter’s house in Capernaum. But James and John were up the mountain with Jesus too- they are special as well. Who will be the most exalted? Who will have the highest position?

Jewish society was obsessed with these questions. If a Jew had a meal for many guests, then he had got to get the seating plan right. It would have been a serious breach of social etiquette to seat the less important guests in the best places, and the more important guests in the less nice places. It was not left up to the guests to sit wherever they chose. If someone important came in and took a low place, then the host wouldn’t just let the man sit where he wanted. He’d go over and say to him “Friend, come up higher”. The disciples want to know who will have the highest place. They still thought of the kingdom in worldly terms, and they knew Jesus well enough to know that he wouldn’t approve of selfish jockeying for position.

5. Jesus responds to the debate they won’t tell him about, by placing a little child in the midst of his disciples. How does this answer their wrong ideas?

The disciples wouldn’t tell Jesus what they’d been talking about, but Jesus knew anyway. And Jesus saw beyond their superficial misunderstanding to a far more serious problem. Jesus brings a child into the house, and he sets the child to stand in the middle of them, and he tells them how his kingdom ticks.

The disciples haven’t only misunderstood the timing of Jesus’ kingdom, they’ve misunderstood the very character of the kingdom. Their problem isn’t limited to the logistics of the kingdom. They think it will be an immediate earthly thing, whereas Jesus is telling them that he will die and be raised first. That error isn’t only about timing; it’s also about the whole nature of the kingdom. Death and resurrection is the pattern of the kingdom. That’s what it’s all about. That’s the fabric from which God’s kingdom is woven. You’ve got to die. Only then can you have life in all its fullness. Victory comes through humility and weakness. It is all part and parcel of the whole nature of Jesus’ reign.

The disciples are arguing about their own importance, and Jesus tells them that his kingdom doesn’t work like that. His kingdom isn’t obsessed with self-importance. People in his kingdom are not seeking their own glory. Children are lowly and insignificant. There was no honour in caring for a child. It was not like hosting an important figure. If a famous rabbi came to your village, then you would want to receive him into your house. If he came round to your house for a meal, then some of his prestige would be reflected onto you. People would say, “Look at John, eating with the great rabbi. John must be quite a guy. Next time we have a party, we’ll be sure to invite John.” And besides, you would want the important man as a friend. He could help you to advance, he could speak well of you to his important friends. But a child? Why bother with a child? What can a child do for you? What respect will he bring you? If you entertain a child, you don’t get prestige or influence. All you get is an empty larder. The relevant characteristic about children here isn’t anything to do with a supposed innocence (and anyone who was ever a child themselves shouldn’t have any illusions about how wicked children can be). It is about status. In Jewish society, children were low-status. They weren’t reckoned worthy of honour.

Jesus is teaching the disciples how his kingdom operates. He says it doesn’t work on worldly principles. It works on self-sacrifice, not self-love. Jesus’ followers are to receive even little children in Jesus’ name. They are to show kindness, not because they expect reward, or because they want other people to think of them as great- they are to do it because Jesus says it is right and because it is what Jesus does. If you are willing to care for the insignificant, it shows the estimate you place on your own importance. That is what Jesus is talking about when he says that if anyone would be first, they must be last.

6. What does Jesus mean by saying that anyone who receives a child “in his name” receives him and not only him, but the one who sent him?

Jesus’ disciples are to do such things in his name, as his representatives. We already know what the phrase means. A policeman arrests people “in the name of the law”. He gets his authority from the law, and he gets his reason for action from the law. Jesus’ disciples do things in the name of Jesus. They are to care for the insignificant ones, because Jesus thinks that those people matter. If people do things because they want to obey Jesus, then they have received Jesus. Jesus isn’t teaching that people earn salvation by treating children well. It isn’t a cause-and-effect thing; welcome children, and earn a ticket to heaven. Rather, it is a correlation thing. Those people who do good things for Jesus’ sake, are the people who know fellowship with him. The people who receive children in Jesus’ name are people who are exercising faith in Jesus. They are the people to whom Jesus has come.

And to receive Jesus is to receive the one who sent him. Son and Father are one. The Son is the outshining of the Father’s glory. Jesus is more important than anyone else. To see Jesus is to see the Father. To know Jesus is to know the living God, creator of heaven and earth.

There is a note here of Jesus’ own humility. A kingdom gets its character from its king. The subjects reflect the nature of their monarch. Jesus’ kingdom looks like Jesus. It will be a kingdom of surpassing glory, but it isn’t proud or selfish. It can’t be a kingdom in which people want to climb the greasy pole as high as they can to positions of honour, because that’s not what the king is like. Jesus himself is God, but he doesn’t desire to promote himself. But our king did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself as nothing, taking the form of a servant. Jesus was willing to wash his disciples’ feet, and yet to receive him is to receive God the Father, creator of heaven and earth. Those who love him and serve him will be like him. His kingdom is, and will be, a place of humble men and women. His people will be willing to receive even little children for his sake.

7. Why does John then talk about a man he saw casting out demons? Does it have any connection to what has gone before? And why was John wrong?

While the child is still in front of them, John brings up something that happened earlier. Perhaps Jesus using the phrase “in my name” fired John’s memory- “Oh yes, we heard a man cast out demons ‘in your name’- and we stopped him, because he was not one of us”. But there is a more substantial connection with the “nature of Jesus’ kingdom” issue than the form of words this man used.

John is highlighting his own zeal and loyalty- perhaps he expects a pat on the back, a brownie point from Jesus. When John says that the man “was not following us”, he seems to mean that this man was not one of the recognised disciples. Mark has told us that Jesus directly commissioned the Twelve, giving them his authority to cast out demons (Mark 6:7). Luke tells us that Jesus sent out seventy others, on top of the Twelve, and that they returned to him with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name”. Maybe John means that this man was not one of the twelve or the seventy, not formally endorsed by Jesus. John therefore went over as one of Jesus’ handpicked lieutenants, and told the man to knock it off.

In the context of the disciples’ discussion, and of James and John’s later request to sit at Jesus’ right and left, perhaps John is trying to mark himself out as an especially faithful servant, one who is zealous for his master’s honour, and therefore deserves a high place in the kingdom.

But Jesus instead tells him not to forbid such actions. Why was John wrong? Because this was not just a well-intentioned mistake. John was mistaken not just about the exorcist’s credentials, but in the very object of his zeal. He was still being jealous for his own honour (as a member of the acknowledged group of disciples), not for Jesus’ honour. He hadn’t understood what Jesus had just said about the child. He wanted his own glory. This man is doing things in Jesus’ name- he is quite plainly acting with Jesus’ authority. And Jesus is obviously giving him the power to cast out demons. He is not like the exorcists of Acts 19, because he actually does work with Jesus’ power. Doing something in Jesus’ name is not just a matter of saying Jesus’ name like it was a magic word. The exorcists in Acts 19 did that, and it gave them no power over the demon- the demoniac beat them up so severely that they had to run out of the house naked.

Again, this is like the policeman who does things in the name of the law. When he arrests somebody in the name of the law, he has to be doing it in accordance with the law. He can only arrest criminals in the name of the law- the law does not authorise him to touch innocent men. If a policeman does arrest an innocent man in the name of the law, then when the case comes to court, will the arrest hold good? No, because when the judge looks at the law, it will be clear that the policeman was not acting in agreement with the law. The law will not back the policeman up. But if the policeman arrests a criminal, then the law is with the policeman all the way. So with this man. He casts out a demon in Jesus name, and Jesus obviously did approve, because the man was able to cast the demon out. We know that it really was Jesus’ power behind him, because we see the effects. The man is clearly doing his exorcism for Jesus’ sake, as work for Jesus’ kingdom.

But John forbids him, just because he is not “one of us”. John perhaps is jealous because the apostles have recently failed to cast out a demon. This man is going around doing what they failed to do, and it rubs salt into the wound. John is being narrowly concerned for his own honour, and the honour of the disciples, and not concerned for Jesus’ kingdom. Just because the guy is not part of the disciples’ group, doesn’t mean he isn’t on the same side. The situation is akin to the occasion in Numbers 11, when Eliad and Modad prophesied. Moses realised that the work of governing Israel was too heavy for him, so he prayed, and the Lord told him to gather seventy of the elders of Israel outside the tent of meeting, and he would take some of the spirit that was on Moses and put it on the seventy.  This happened- Moses gathered the elders around the tent of meeting, and the Lord came down in a cloud and spoke to Moses, and the seventy began to prophesy. But it wasn’t as neat as all that. Two of the list of seventy hadn’t made it to the gathering outside the tent of meeting. For whatever reason, they were still in the camp. But they began to prophesy as did all the others. Joshua wanted Moses to stop them- he thought that the thing was taking away from Moses authority. With the group around the tabernacle, it was clear what was going on. God came down, and spoke to Moses, and then the elders began to prophesy as God took the spirit on Moses and gave it to them. It was very clear that Moses was still the mediator between God and Israel. But with the two renegades prophesying in the camp, among the people, without having been gathered together with Moses before God, it wasn’t clear. Joshua disliked that. He worried that maybe the people would think that Moses wasn’t in control, wasn’t the big man any more. But Moses said that he wished all Israel would prophesy like that. In Mark 10, Jesus is the more-than Moses, and John is the Joshua figure.

8. When Jesus says that whoever is not against us is for us, does he mean that anyone who doesn’t identify as his enemy, is actually one of his disciples? And why does he go on to talk about cups of water and millstones? And how do we apply it all anyway?

Jesus isn’t here teaching a laissez-faire approach to discipleship, as though all those who say “Well, I’ve nothing against Jesus, personally” are thereby his disciples. It isn’t that the world is divided into “friends” of Jesus, “enemies” of Jesus, and “neutrals”, and the “neutrals are unwittingly “friends”. In fact, if we take this statement in Mark 9 along with the reverse statement of Jesus that “those who are not for us, are against us” (Matthew 12:30), then we see that the world only has two sorts of people- “friends” and “enemies” of Jesus.

The point here, however, is that this exorcist really is a follower of Jesus, even though he isn’t one of those whom John recognises as having authority to do miracles. Jesus gladly welcomes all who follow him. If John thought about it, he would see that a man casting out demons in Jesus’ name, must be self-consciously on Jesus’ side; and if the demons are obeying him, then Jesus must be with him. Jesus tells him “If the man is doing good in my name, he is on my side- and if he is on my side, then he is with us. You should help him, not hinder him”. Jesus’ kingdom is bigger than his disciples imagine. And they forget that they are on his side, not their side with him on it.

Jesus then makes statements about giving cups of water for his sake, and causing little ones to stumble. Is he still talking about his kingdom, or are these collected random sayings which Mark thought he might was well bundle together and stick in here?

It seems very unlikely that they are random insertions, given Mark’s care as an author. And Mark gives nothing to indicate that this was not all one discourse from Jesus. The child is still there in front of the disciples- a visual aid as it were. So how does what Jesus says fit the theme of the real values and parameters of the kingdom versus the disciples’ ideas?

Jesus goes on to say- still talking with reference to the exorcist- that even a small deed done for his sake matters. The exorcist will receive his reward, and even a man who gives a cup of water to a disciple for Jesus’ sake will have a reward for it. On the other hand, this is a warning to John. He reprimanded the exorcist, and the exorcist probably thought that he ought to heed John’s warning, what with John being one of Jesus’ twelve most intimate disciples. So Jesus warns of the sin of causing little ones, like the child or the exorcist, to stumble.

And again, it all underlines the different values of the kingdom of God. In an earthly army, the important ones are the great warriors, and the brilliant military strategists. They are the ones who receive rewards and honour when the war is won. You don’t want to alienate those ones, because they will win the war for you.

But in God’s kingdom, even the children are important. In the kingdoms of this world, they can’t contribute anything, and they can be excluded without worries. But every member of God’s kingdom is beloved by God, and so every member is important. None of us have the right to be considered great. All of us are sinners. Everyone in God’s kingdom is there because they are forgiven. None of us have earned our place; the little children are there on the same terms as Peter, James and John. God’s kingdom is about grace and faith and obedience, not about doing great things and being praised by men.

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