Why Jesus was displeased
When Jesus saw it, he was much displeased (Mk. 10:14).
What was our Lord displeased about? He was displeased - indeed, much displeased - that the disciples had rebuked those who brought their children to Jesus to be blessed. The disciples and the Lord had too very different ideas of what was important. Whereas the disciples were angry with the parents, Jesus was angry with his disciples.
He was angry because the disciples still had an inflated view of themselves. They should have remembered the words of our Lord, that unless you turn and become as a little child, you cannot enter the kingdom of God (Mt. 18:3). In that passage, our Lord was not referring to the behavior of little children, as if he were telling us to imitate them. Rather, he is telling us to adopt their status. In terms of status, children were on the bottom of the ladder. In other words, our Lord is telling us to humble ourselves, to esteem others better than ourselves. Thus, our Lord himself rebukes the disciples with a reminder of what he has already said: “Suffer little children and forbid them not to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 19:14). In fact, Mark adds these words immediately following: “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein” (Mk. 10:15). Our Lord was displeased because he hates the pride that was behind the rejection of the disciples.
One of the reasons I think God hates pride is that pride will keep you from ministering to those God wants you to serve. You see that here. The disciples should have jumped at the opportunity to serve these children and their parents. But because of pride they reacted in exactly the opposite way they should have. You see, pride will give us ideas about ourselves and our time and the importance of our agendas that will undermine humble and joyful service to others. But our Lord was not like that, and he didn’t like it that his disciples were.
On another occasion, when Jesus passed by a couple of blind men, the crowd (and probably the disciples as well) tried to keep them from bothering the Lord (Mt. 20:30-31). But the narrative tells us that “Jesus stood still, and called them,” and asked them what he could do for them (Mt. 20:32). Of all people, he could have pleaded that he was too busy, but he stopped. I wonder how often we don’t stop for others because we are too busy?
Or think of the time there in the upper room. Think of all that weighed on him there. The betrayal of Judas. The coming crucifixion and all the pain and suffering that dying on a cross would bring with it. And he also knew that in a few short hours he would be glorified with the glory that he had with the Father before the world began. It must have been incredibly distracting, to say the least. And yet our Lord takes a towel, gets down on his knees, and washes his disciples’ feet. It was so shocking that Peter at first refused to let our Lord do it to him.
Our Lord came as a servant, and he expects those who follow him to adopt the same attitude: “Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (Jn. 13:13-15). He was justifiably upset with the disciples because they were still to some extent blinded by their own self-importance and pride. And yet, notice that our Lord does not discard the apostles because they were obtuse. Here again we see the servant heart of our Lord. How patient he is! He rebukes but does not reject his disciples. And how we need to imitate our Lord. So often we are quick to cast-off people who don’t “measure up.” We, who are called to imitate our Lord in making disciples, will never be able to do so as long as we are quick to reject those who don’t measure up to our standards or who aren’t exactly where we are in the life-long journey of sanctification. Rather than rejecting them right away, we ought to be willing to work with them and help those who are weak (cf. Rom. 15:1). Let us learn to bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). And above all, let us humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, serve others, as those who can only ascribe any good thing in themselves to the unconditional and abundant grace of God through Christ our Lord.