Very often we have a picture in mind of Jesus as gentle and soft-speaking. And on occasions such as the day he was with children all seemed tranquil and happy.
It’s the picture of Jesus meek and mild, like a children’s Bible scene in Mark 10 of parents who brought their children to Jesus for him to bless. He takes the little children in his arms and blesses them. He places his hand on them. An old version of the Bible says that Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me for to such belongs the kingdom of Heaven” (Mark 10:14). But as I read a newer version of this account, some of the shine comes off it.
You remember the disciples were angry at the adults for wasting Jesus’ time. The Good News Translation says, “When Jesus noticed this, he was angry and said to the disciples, Let the children come to me, and do not stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these”. Jesus stood up to the disciples who probably had said to the crowd, Don’t worry the Master with your babies. He has lepers and a paralytic to heal. He’s too busy for you and your kids.
Jesus didn’t accept their response, and was angry and indignant with them and probably raised his voice. He stood up to them and set the record straight: “Whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it”. That was no soft meek response.
Jesus Challenged a Rich Young Man
Jesus was assertive when he needed to be, and I think that’s an important lesson. Some people think that because Jesus loved everyone infinitely that he wanted to please everyone. But that’s not true. He did love everyone, but sometimes this love demanded he say or do things that made people uncomfortable. He stood always for righteousness. The same day the children were with him, a young man who was very rich came to speak with him. You can also read that in Mark 10:17-31 (GNT).
He came and actually knelt down before Jesus and said, “Good teacher, what must I do to receive eternal life?” (v17). Instead of patting him on the back, Jesus confronts him with a question. He asked, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone” (v18). As the conversation goes on, Mark says Jesus loved this man because of his goodness and dedication, because he had kept all the commandments. But Jesus still doesn’t pat him on the back. He confronts him with a demand that goes straight to his heart. “Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me” (v21).
Jesus certainly was assertive with this young man. Not because he didn’t care about his feelings, but he was assertive because he loved him. Because Jesus loved him, he couldn’t lie to him to keep from hurting his feelings. So, quite clearly and boldly, Jesus told him what he needed to do.
Assertiveness, Not Aggressiveness
Sometimes we speak of assertiveness, and it’s an interesting topic. Christian assertiveness is a skill of expressing your feelings in a way that doesn’t attack the other person. It’s a communication skill that needs to be worked on. But it is not aggressiveness. The two words sound the same but they are different. Jesus knew how to be assertive and is the best example. He didn’t seek to hurt the disciples or the rich young man. He didn’t pat them on the back and tell them what good people they were. He forcefully told them what they needed to hear in a spirit of love and compassion.
He knew when to stand up for himself. We read in the New Testament of a time when, as the crowds came to see him wanting help and healing, he would go off alone and pray. He needed to do that. Because Jesus was human as well as divine, he just stopped sometimes and took time alone.
Yes, Jesus was meek and mild and he was gentle. But that’s not the full story. He also could be assertive when he needed to be.