From there Jesus and his followers went through Galilee, but he didn’t want anyone to know it. This was because he was teaching his disciples, “The Human One will be delivered into human hands. They will kill him. Three days after he is killed he will rise up.” But they didn’t understand this kind of talk, and they were afraid to ask him.
They entered Capernaum. When they had come into a house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about during the journey?” They didn’t respond, since on the way they had been debating with each other about who was the greatest. He sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be least of all and the servant of all.” Jesus reached for a little child, placed him among the Twelve, and embraced him. Then he said, “Whoever welcomes one of these children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me isn’t actually welcoming me but rather the one who sent me.”
John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone throwing demons out in your name, and we tried to stop him because he wasn’t following us.”
Jesus replied, “Don’t stop him. No one who does powerful acts in my name can quickly turn around and curse me. Whoever isn’t against us is for us. I assure you that whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will certainly be rewarded.
My wife used to have a t-shirt with a picture of a “black” child arm-in-arm with a “white” child. The caption said, “No one is born a bigot.”
When our daughter was a toddler, she saw no difference between girls and boys or skin color. She saw children. She saw peers. She saw people. She saw fellow human beings. They all played together. They all helped each other. If there was one who was by herself, for whatever reason, she would go to her and ask how she were doing; if she needed anything. If she saw others who were doing the same thing as she, she wasn’t jealous or upset. They were helpers.
As we have seen over and over again, The Way of Jesus is a daily practice of self-sacrificial service; of a complete giving up of oneself in the service to the Other. This is critical to following Jesus. In fact, it’s the only way. To be first, Jesus said, one must be last. Notice that he didn’t say this wasn’t just the intention, although that’s important, too. No, he said one “must be least of all and the servant of all.” In other words, this isn’t only about intention but practice. And it isn’t only about practice. One can serve others but hold bitterness in ones heart toward the others being served. No, it takes both intention and practice. The two must go hand-in-hand.
To me, Jesus doesn’t leave his point when he places a child among them. It’s his whole point. Most children don’t have problem helping others. They’re keen to do so. It’s not until they get older and have some negative life experience (or “grown-ups” tell them not to act in certain ways) that they become jaded toward others. Jesus’ point is that children (and he uses them as object lessons a lot) have this innate ability to have great faith. They believe in the goodness of people. They think the best of them and want to help the Other. Have you ever seen children upset over the pain and suffering of an animal? When someone is not acting “nice?” They lead with their hearts. They want others to be happy and kind. They want to see all of us getting along. That’s Jesus’ point. Look to children and see how they interact with each other. That’s what life in G_d’s Realm looks like.
The next paragraph is one of my absolute favorites. I can’t believe it made it through all of the edits and modifications of the Bible. “Whoever isn’t against us is for us.” If we can just see this. Hear this. If someone from another tradition, be they Buddhists, or Jews, or don’t have connections to a wisdom tradition, and they were helping advance G_d’s Realm through acts of mercy, justice, and humbleness, then they are “for us.” We need to remove the blinders and the borders of our traditions (and get rid of our Institutional Religious
Loving G_d, Father-Mother of all, open our hearts and eyes to see that you are the Parent of all. Help us to know deeply that all humanity is part of the One family made up in you. For it is in you that we live, move, and exist. Help us to understand that we’re in you and you in us. This we ask through Jesus, your Child our Savior, with you and the Holy Spirit, one G_d, to the ages of the ages. Amen.
In the Love of Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC