1-3. What happens when parents bring their children to Jesus, and what does this incident reveal about Jesus?
JESUS knows that the end of his earthly life is fast approaching. He has just a few weeks left, and there is still so much to do! He is preaching with his apostles in Perea, a region east of the Jordan River. They are working their way south toward Jerusalem, where Jesus will attend his final, climactic Passover.
2 After Jesus has a weighty discussion with some religious leaders, there is a small disturbance. People are bringing their children to see him. Evidently, the children vary in age, for Mark refers to them by the same word that he earlier used to describe a child of 12, while Luke uses a word that can be rendered “infants.” (Luke 18:15; Mark 5:41, 42; 10:13) Of course, wherever there are children, there is often some exuberant noise and commotion. Jesus’ disciples reprimand the parents, perhaps assuming that the Master is too busy to bother with the children. What does Jesus do?
3 When he sees what is going on, Jesus is indignant. With whom? The children? The parents? No—with his disciples! He says: “Let the young children come to me; do not try to stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to suchlike ones. Truly I say to you, Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a young child will by no means enter into it.” Then Jesus takes the children “into his arms,” blessing them. (Mark 10:13-16) Mark’s language here suggests that Jesus affectionately embraces them, perhaps even cradling some infants “in the crook of his arm,” as one translator puts it. Clearly, Jesus is fond of children. However, we learn something else about him here—he is approachable.
4, 5. (a) How can we be sure that Jesus was approachable? (b) What questions will we examine in this chapter?
4 If Jesus had been a stern, cold, or proud man, likely those children would not have been drawn to him; nor would their parents have felt free to approach him. As you picture the scene, can you not just see the parents beaming as this kind man shows his affection for their children, acknowledges the children’s worth in God’s eyes, and blesses them? Indeed, though Jesus was burdened with the heaviest of responsibilities, he remained the most approachable of men.
5 Who else found Jesus approachable? What made him so easy to approach? And how can we learn to be like Jesus in this regard? Let us see.
Who Found Jesus Approachable?
6-8. Jesus was often in the company of whom, and how did his attitude toward them differ from that of the religious leaders?
6 As you read the Gospel accounts, you may be struck by the way that great numbers of people did not hesitate to approach Jesus. For example, in connection with him, we often read of “great crowds.” “Great crowds followed him from Galilee.” “Great crowds gathered to him.” “Great crowds approached him.” “Great crowds were traveling with him.” (Matthew 4:25; 13:2; 15:30; Luke 14:25) Yes, Jesus was often surrounded by multitudes of people.
7 Generally, these were the common folk, those whom the religious leaders contemptuously referred to as “people of the land.” The Pharisees and priests openly said: “This crowd that does not know the Law are accursed people.” (John 7:49) Later rabbinic writings confirm that attitude. Many religious leaders viewed such people as contemptible, refusing to eat with them, buy from them, or associate with them. Why, some insisted that there was no hope of a resurrection for such ones who did not know the oral law! Many lowly people must have shied away from such leaders rather than asking them for help or guidance. But Jesus was different.
8 Jesus mingled freely with the common people. He ate with them, healed them, taught them, and gave them hope. Of course, Jesus was realistic, acknowledging that most would reject the opportunity to serve Jehovah. (Matthew 7:13, 14) However, he viewed each individual with hope and saw in many the potential to do what was right. What a contrast to those hard-hearted priests and Pharisees! Surprisingly, though, even priests and Pharisees approached Jesus, and a number of them did change their ways and follow him. (Acts 6:7; 15:5) Some of the rich and powerful also found Jesus to be approachable.—Mark 10:17, 22.
9. Why did women find Jesus approachable?
9 Women did not hesitate to approach Jesus. They must often have felt the withering contempt of religious leaders. The rabbis generally frowned upon teaching women. In fact, women were not allowed to testify in legal cases; they were viewed as unreliable witnesses. The rabbis even said a prayer in which they thanked God that they were not women! Yet, women found no such contempt in Jesus. Many approached him, eager to learn. For instance, we find Lazarus’ sister Mary sitting at the Lord’s feet, absorbed in listening to Jesus’ words while her sister, Martha, bustled about and fretted over the preparation of food. Jesus commended Mary for setting proper priorities.—Luke 10:39-42.
10. How was Jesus different from the religious leaders in the way he dealt with the sick?
10 The sick too flocked to Jesus, although they were often treated as outcasts by the religious leaders. The Mosaic Law had provisions for quarantining lepers for health reasons, but there was no basis for unkindness. (Leviticus, chapter 13) Later rabbinic rules, however, stated that lepers were as offensive as excrement. Some religious leaders went so far as to throw stones at lepers to keep them at a distance! It is hard to imagine how those who had been treated that way could summon the courage to approach any teacher, but lepers did approach Jesus. One uttered this famous expression of faith: “Lord, if you just want to, you can make me clean.” (Luke 5:12) In the next chapter, we will discuss Jesus’ response. For now, suffice it to say that there could hardly be more vivid proof that Jesus was approachable.
11. What example shows that those burdened with guilt felt free to approach Jesus, and why is this important?
11 Those who felt burdened by guilt freely approached Jesus. Think, for example, of the time when Jesus was dining at the home of a Pharisee. A woman who was known to be a sinner came in and knelt at Jesus’ feet, weeping over her guilt. Her tears bathed his feet, and she used her hair to dry them. While Jesus’ host recoiled and judged Jesus harshly for allowing this woman to come near, Jesus kindly commended the woman for her sincere repentance and assured her of Jehovah’s forgiveness. (Luke 7:36-50) Today more than ever, people who are loaded down with guilt need to feel free to approach those who can help them make things right with God! What was it that made Jesus so approachable?
What Made Jesus Approachable?
12. Why is it not surprising that Jesus was approachable?
12 Remember that Jesus perfectly imitated his beloved heavenly Father. (John 14:9) The Bible reminds us that Jehovah “is not far off from each one of us.” (Acts 17:27) The “Hearer of prayer,” Jehovah, is ever accessible to his faithful servants and to any others who sincerely want to find him and serve him. (Psalm 65:2) Just imagine—the most powerful and important Personage in the universe is also the most approachable! Like his Father, Jesus loves people. In the chapters that follow, we will discuss the love that ran deep in Jesus’ heart. Jesus was approachable, though, largely because his love for people was easy to see. Let us examine some of Jesus’ traits that demonstrated such love.
13. How might parents imitate Jesus?
13 People readily sensed that Jesus was personally interested in them. That personal interest did not vanish when Jesus was under pressure. As we have already seen, when those parents brought their children to him, Jesus remained approachable even when he was busy, loaded down with weighty responsibilities. What an example he set for parents! Raising children is a challenge in today’s world. Yet, it is vital that children see their parents as approachable. If you are a parent, you know that there are times when you are too busy to give your child the attention he calls for. Still, can you assure him that you will make time for him as soon as possible? As you keep your word, your child will learn the rewards of patience. He will also learn that he is always welcome to approach you with any problem or care.
14-16. (a) What circumstances led Jesus to perform his first miracle, and why was it a marvelous deed? (b) What does Jesus’ miracle in Cana reveal about him, providing what lesson for parents?
14 Jesus conveyed to people that their concerns mattered to him. For instance, consider the first miracle Jesus performed. He was attending a wedding feast in Cana, a town in Galilee. An embarrassing problem arose—the wine ran out! Jesus’ mother, Mary, told her son what had happened. And what did Jesus do? He had the attendants fill up six large stone jars with water. When a sample was taken to the director of the feast, why, it was fine wine! Was that a trick, some sleight of hand? No, the water “had been turned into wine.” (John 2:1-11) Turning one thing into another has long been a dream of humans. For centuries, men called alchemists tried to turn lead into gold. They never succeeded—although lead and gold are, in fact, remarkably similar elements.* What about water and wine? Chemically, water is simple, a combination of two basic elements. Wine, on the other hand, contains nearly a thousand components, many of them complex compounds! Why would Jesus perform such a marvelous deed in answer to something as trivial as a shortage of wine at a wedding feast?
15 The problem was not trivial to the bride and groom. In the ancient Middle East, hospitality to invited guests was of profound importance. Running out of wine at the wedding feast would have caused the bride and groom considerable shame and embarrassment, casting a pall over their wedding day and their memories of it in the years that followed. The problem mattered to them, and it mattered to Jesus. So he did something about it. Can you see why people would approach him with their concerns?
16 Again, parents may find a useful lesson here. What if your child approaches you, weighed down with some problem? You may be tempted to dismiss his concern as something trivial. You may even be tempted to laugh about it. Compared to your own burdens, the child’s problem may indeed seem insignificant. Remember, though, that it is not trivial to the child! If it matters to one you love so dearly, should it not matter to you as well? Conveying to your child that you care about his concerns will make you an approachable parent.
17. Jesus set what example of mildness, and why is this quality an evidence of strength?
17 As we discussed in Chapter 3, Jesus was mild and humble. (Matthew 11:29) Mildness is a beautiful quality, powerful proof of the humility in a person’s heart. It is part of the fruitage of God’s holy spirit and is associated with godly wisdom. (Galatians 5:22, 23; James 3:13) Even under the worst provocation, Jesus maintained control of himself. His mildness was anything but weakness. One scholar said of this quality: “Behind the gentleness there is the strength of steel.” Indeed, it often takes strength for us to restrain our temper and treat others with mildness. But with Jehovah blessing our efforts, we can imitate Jesus in showing mildness, and that will make us more approachable.
18. What example reveals Jesus’ reasonableness, and why do you think this quality would make a person approachable?
18 Jesus was reasonable. When Jesus was in Tyre, a woman came to him because her daughter was “badly demonized.” In three different ways, Jesus indicated that he was not inclined to do what she wanted. First, he responded with silence; second, he gave her a reason why he should not do as she asked; third, he gave an illustration that made the point even clearer. Yet, was his manner cold, unyielding? Did he imply that she was on dangerous ground in daring to counter the words of so great a man? No, this woman clearly felt safe. She not only asked for help but persisted even in the face of his apparent unwillingness to help her. Jesus saw the remarkable faith that moved her to persist, and he healed her daughter. (Matthew 15:22-28) Surely Jesus’ reasonableness, his willingness to listen and to yield when appropriate, made people eager to approach him!
Are You Approachable?
19. How can we tell if we are truly approachable?
19 People like to think of themselves as being approachable. Some in positions of authority, for instance, are fond of saying that they have an open-door policy, that their subordinates are always free to approach them. The Bible, however, contains this powerful caution: “A multitude of men will proclaim each one his own loving-kindness, but a faithful man who can find?” (Proverbs 20:6) It is easy to say that we are approachable, but are we truly faithful in imitating this aspect of Jesus’ love? The answer may lie, not in how we see ourselves, but in how others see us. Paul said: “Let your reasonableness become known to all men.” (Philippians 4:5) Each of us does well to ask: ‘How am I perceived by others? What is my reputation?’
20. (a) Why is it important for Christian elders to be approachable? (b) Why should we be reasonable in what we expect of elders in the congregation?
20 Christian elders in particular strive to be approachable. They earnestly desire to live up to the description recorded at Isaiah 32:1, 2: “Each one must prove to be like a hiding place from the wind and a place of concealment from the rainstorm, like streams of water in a waterless country, like the shadow of a heavy crag in an exhausted land.” An elder can provide such protection, refreshment, and relief only if he remains approachable. Granted, doing so is not always easy, for elders bear a heavy load of responsibility in these difficult times. Still, elders strive never to appear too busy to care for the needs of Jehovah’s sheep. (1 Peter 5:2) Other members of the congregation try to be reasonable in what they expect of such faithful men, showing a humble and cooperative spirit.—Hebrews 13:17.
21. How can parents remain accessible to their children, and what will we consider in the next chapter?
21 Parents seek to be ever available to their children. So much is at stake! They want their children to know that it is safe to confide in Father or Mother. Thus, Christian parents are careful to be mild and reasonable, not overreacting when a child confesses to a mistake or displays some faulty thinking. As parents patiently train their children, they strive to keep the lines of communication open. Really, all of us want to remain approachable, as Jesus was. In the next chapter, we will discuss Jesus’ heartfelt compassion—one of the principal qualities that made him approachable.
Students of chemistry know that lead and gold are quite close on the periodic table of elements. An atom of lead simply has three more protons in its nucleus than gold has. Modern-day physicists have even converted small amounts of lead into gold, but the process requires so much energy that it is not cost-effective.