By Hoyt H. Houchen
Question: In Mark 9.3 7, what is involved in receiving a little child in Jesus’ name?
Reply: Jesus was teaching a lesson on true greatness when He spoke, “If any man would be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all” (Mk. 9:35). The thrust of His statement is that true greatness in the kingdom is obtained by humility. True honor comes as a result of the willingness to sacrifice self. Paradoxically as it may seem, “the way up is down.” The idea is that the humble servant (one who gives voluntary service) in the kingdom is truly the greatest. This is the setting for what follows.
“And he took a little child, and set him in the midst of them: and taking him in his arms, he said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such little children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever receiveth me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me” (Mk. 9:36,37). The parallel of this discourse is Matthew 18.
First, our attention is called to the last phrase of verse 37, “whosoever receiveth me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.” This is an elliptical sentence, so the meaning is: “whosoever receiveth me, receiveth not me only, but also him that sent me.”
Remembering that Jesus is teaching humility, one who receives “such little children”; that is, of a childlike disposition (see Matt. 18:3) receives Jesus and the Father. The verse does not limit the receiving to little children, but these little children can symbolize any humble disciple of the Lord. If we receive a representative of Christ, we receive Christ and the Father. The disciples are not to aspire rank, pre-eminence or prominence. Rather they are to respond to the needs of one such as the little child in the arms of Jesus, or any similar person.
Involved in the word “receive” (Gr. dekomai) is “to extend hospitality. ” Benevolence, love and fellowship extended in the name of Christ will be rewarded. We are to treat “such little children” in the manner that Jesus has revealed Himself in His word. They are to be received with sincerity, warmth and enthusiasm. To do for such ones is to do for Christ; thus Christ comes to His own who suffer distress and need assistance. And, to welcome Christ by such acts, is to also welcome His sender – God the Father. Rather than focusing upon who is the greatest, the disciples of Jesus should focus their attention and care upon Christ’s little ones. This is the essence of true greatness. We as Christians should center our attention upon the little ones of Christ – the weak, those who have gone astray those who need our assistance in any way (Mk. 9:33-37; Rom. 15:1-3; Gal. 6:1,2; Phil. 2:3; Jas. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5; etc.).
Guardian of Truth XXX: 12, p. 365
June 19, 1986