It seems a little odd that the story about children in Mark 10:13-16 is sandwiched between teaching about divorce and wealth. Jesus welcomed the children and the occasion provided for an illustration. He did the same thing at the end of chapter 9 when the disciples were arguing who would be the greatest in Jesus’ kingdom. Here he uses the children not only to teach about dependence and humility as in chapter 9, but to teach about the Kingdom of God.
Children have no status, no influence, and no wealth. Children are dependent upon others for their well-being, their security, and their care. Jesus says this is how we are to receive the Kingdom. This is how we are to approach the Kingdom. Those that belong to the Kingdom of God recognize that they can’t earn entrance. We have to recognize, we are completely dependent upon our King for our well-being, our security, and provision. Jesus’ parable here opposes the saying, “God helps those who help themselves.” Children can’t help themselves. His parable opposes the modern attitude that says, “I will pull myself up by my own bootstraps.” Children can’t even tie their shoes. To possess the Kingdom, we have to recognize that our position is not one of pride, self-sufficiency, and authority. In other places something similar is seen as the root of all temptation – the world, the flesh and the devil. In this little parable about children Jesus instructs us to accept and believe the way they do. We are to trust the way they do. We are to hope the way they do. Children approach life with innocence, raw faith, expectation, and dependence. Jesus says we are to approach the Kingdom that way.
So why is this story in this spot in Mark’s Gospel?
This story is here as a point of contrast for what the Kingdom of God is like. Jesus has just finished talking about hard hearts resulting in sinful outcomes such as divorce. And now in the next passage he is going to talk to a young man about finances and eternal life. Citizens of God’s Kingdom have hearts that are clean, humble and self-giving, not hard and self-absorbed. Citizens of God’s Kingdom completely trust in their King for life, security, and for any provision. They don’t concern themselves with trying to leverage for position, or to find or maintain wealth and success. So this story is a good contrast to what we read about divorce in verse 1-12 and what is coming in verses 17-31.