The Lord loved little children. Once He was in the country east of Jordan; it was a beautiful country of brooks and trees and pastures sloping down to the Jordan valley. And there were kind-hearted people there who loved to have the Lord come to their country and stop in their villages. There one day they brought little children to Him that He should put His hands on them and pray. The disciples tried to keep them from Him, perhaps thinking that children were not worthy of the Lord's notice. But He showed how much He loved them, for He said, "Suffer the little children to come unto Me," and He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them.
We think how the Lord loved those little children, and He loved all little children, and loves all children now. He shows His love in the protection and the care that He provides for them in many ways - through kind parents, through good angels who are near to little children. We know, too, of His loving care for little children who die and grow up in heaven.
It is a very short story about the little children coming to the Lord. I will read on and you will learn about another person, a rich young man, a ruler, who came running to the Lord in the way. The Lord loved him, too, and told him what he must do to be ready for the kingdom of heaven. He must keep the Commandments, the same commandments that we must learn and keep; and he must sell his rich things and give to the poor, and come and follow the Lord. (Matthew 19:13-22)
The first verse of this chapter tells of the Lord's leaving Galilee. He was leaving it for the last time; the country where most of His life on earth had been spent, and where so many of His mighty works had been done. The few months that remained were spent in Judea and in the country east of Jordan. What we read of in our story today took place in that country outside the strict borders of the land, and away from the priests and Pharisees of Jerusalem. Of one of the Lord's visits to this country beyond Jordan at this time we read, "Therefore they sought again to take Him, but He escaped out of their hand, and went away again beyond Jordan. . . . And many resorted to Him . . . and many believed on Him there." (John 10:39-42) Our lesson gives us two beautiful scenes in that country: one, of the Lord with the little children, and one with the rich young man.
We can think of the first scene as showing the Lord's care for us all when we are little children. Then especially the arms of His protecting power both on the earthly and the heavenly side are about us, and His blessing is upon us.
The second scene, the young man running to the Lord in the way, seems especially to teach of our relation to Him when as young men and women we go forth eagerly into the work of life, and turn to the Lord to know what we must do to make life of real, eternal value. The Lord's answer to the young man is His answer to us. It is in two parts.
First, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the Commandments"; and when asked, "Which?" the Lord repeated the Commandments that were spoken at Sinai and written on the tables of stone. He did not repeat all the ten, but the short commands forbidding evil. This is the place to begin obedience; and if these Commandments of the second table are kept, the Lord gives power to keep the Commandments of the first table. They almost keep themselves. In keeping the Commandments we must remember that they apply not only to outward actions, but to thoughts and feelings. The Lord taught that in the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5:20-32)
The young man claimed that he had kept the Commandments from his youth up, and it is said that the Lord, looking upon him, loved him. (Mark 10:21) But one thing more was needed to make his obedience perfect. "Go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor: . . . and come follow Me." He was very rich, which means spiritually the opposite of what is meant in the first Blessing by being poor in spirit. He was self-confident. He trusted his own strength and felt that he was good. He must get rid of this self-confidence, this sense of being good, and must learn that real strength and goodness come only through a humble sense of need, and through dependence on the Lord.
Was it not this lack in the young man's character which the Lord saw when he first addressed Him, and which He pointed out in His first reply? "Why callest thou Me good? there is none good but one, that is, God." Did the young man in calling the Lord "Good Master" really mean to acknowledge that the Lord alone is good, and that we have no strength or goodness except through constant dependence upon Him? The young man had still to learn that lesson, and every young man and woman has that lesson to learn. We are wise if we learn it willingly and get rid quickly of the foolish thought that we are strong and good of ourselves and do not need the Lord's help; or that we are wise and do not need that the Lord shall teach us. We can put with the Lord's answer to the young man the words of Psalm 119:9.
Read verses 23-26 of our chapter and tell me what you understand the fact to be about riches in this world and preparation for heaven. Before you answer read Mark 10:24. Was the Lord in these verses speaking even more of the riches of pride and self-confidence? The last verses of the chapter, like verse 25 above, show how little even the disciples understood the sort of riches and the poorness of spirit which the Lord was speaking of. They still were hoping for a great earthly kingdom and for positions of honor in it. See also Matthew 20:21.
1. Tell me about the Lord and little children what the Lord said and what He did. Where is the home of little children who die?
2. Who is good? What must we do to have eternal life? We must keep the Commandments, but in what spirit and with whose help?
3. Why do riches make it hard to enter heaven? Are there any other riches besides money which make it hard?
Read carefully the Lord's words in regard to the Divine origin and the sacredness of marriage. (Verses 3-9)
In thinking of the Lord's care for little children read about the association of holy angels with them, in H. 295; A. 2303; and about the care for little children who die, in H. 329-345.
Think further of the Lord's care for the little child of innocence and trust and teachableness in ourselves. Compare Matthew 18:1-6, 10; 11:25; Psalm 8:2; Isaiah 11:6, 8, 9 ; read A. 5608.
Think further of the reason for the Lord's naming only the commands of duty to the neighbor, and mainly the negative commands forbidding evil. The duty to our neighbor is really one with our duty to the Lord. Recall the words of John's Epistle (1 John 4:20, 21), and the familiar poem of Abou Ben Adhem. Remember, too, that the negative duty of repentance must come first. "Cease to do evil; learn to do well." (Isaiah 1:16, 17) Consider especially the last lines of T. 287. On the several steps of regeneration indicated by the Lord's words to the rich young man, see Life 66, and E. 934.
Some members of the class should study for us the subject of natural riches and their relation to preparation for heaven. Read especially H. 357-365. You will naturally consider at the same time the subject of riches in heaven and the spirit in which they are enjoyed. (H. 185; T. 740)
We must think more closely of the meaning of the camel and the needle's eye in the light of the full explanation in H. 365. The camel is the type of natural knowledge and strength, often with willfulness and self-confidence in it. When John the Baptist taught his lesson of repentance he wore a garment of camel's hair. The rich young man in his external keeping of the Commandments had something of the same character. But even of John the Baptist the Lord said, that the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. The needle and its eye stand for an interior, spiritual understanding which comes only with the humble heavenly spirit. The things of heavenly wisdom are hid from the wise and prudent and are revealed to babes. The natural knowledge and strength represented by the camel is not heavenly and cannot make itself so. The camel cannot go through the needle's eye. Yet it is implied that even this is possible to the Lord, for by His help one may advance from the natural state to one which is truly heavenly, and from a natural self-confident knowledge to a heavenly wisdom. (A. 3048)
What are the house and family which we must leave for the Lord's sake? Compare Matthew 10:33-37. The hundredfold which we shall receive instead are the heavenly goodness and truth which the Lord gives, in some degree in this world and more fully hereafter. (E.724)
What can be meant by the Lord's promise that the disciples should sit on thrones in His kingdom? Compare the promise in Revelation 3: 21. It is a promise, that by learning His truth and making it our law we shall come into the strength and order of His kingdom, and shall be conjoined with Him in heaven. Twelve apostles and their thrones stand for the varied forms of His truth, and the twelve tribes for the development of heavenly life which are protected and guided by the truth. (R. 221; E. 687)