13And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. 14But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. 15Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. 16And he took them up in his
arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16 KJV)
I have a short message for you. You know, the other night after Good Friday service, I had the distinct pleasure of watching an old film from 1973, The Gospel Road. The legendary country singer Johnny Cash and his wife June put this piece together with very few special effects and a cast of unknown actors. The story of Jesus was narrated by Johnny Cash himself and there was very little dialogue, except a line or two from a few very important characters, like John the Baptist and Mary Magdalene (who was portrayed by none other than June Carter Cash herself).
The movie was old and very dated. The wardrobe people had not spent a lot of time making sure the costumes were perfect and some of the imagery was out of line with how we read the gospels today. The actor portraying Jesus was a blond-haired and blue-eyed Scandinavian, for goodness sake! Many of the actors were white Caucasians and the depictions of the miracles were quite unimpressive visually. The score was purely old country gospel sung by the man in black, and the Scripture read by Mr. Cash was from the old-style King James version with all the ‘thou’ and ‘shouldst’ and ‘shalt’ permeating the syntax. In short, a movie audience these days might have come out of the theatre shaking their heads and laughing, if any were left by the end of the movie.
Now it comes to it. This little film was quite possibly the single most beautiful film rendition of the gospel story I have ever witnessed. I can’t remember when I have shed so many tears for so long a time in my life. The scene that touched me the deepest was near the middle, where Jesus played along the seashore with a group of happy children, clapping his hands and smiling kindly, and even shedding a few tears as he surveyed the clean and trusting hearts of God’s most beautiful creatures. Johnny narrated the above Scripture and then sang while in the background as Jesus and the kids splashed and ran in the water with such joy. I found this scene on YouTube, so you can see for yourself.
As I write this, it is Easter Sunday and I can’t help but stay choked up, playing that scene over and over in my mind. The hope of Easter, which has hit me harder this year than ever, is for me that Jesus suffered and died on a cross two thousand years ago and then came out of the tomb on the third day, destroying the power of sin and death so that we would be free to become as children once again, and again, and again if necessary, with clean and trusting hearts, that Jesus would joyfully receive unto himself with a tear in his eye and a loving, fatherly smile, saying, “Welcome home.” So go forth as little children and receive the kingdom of God, because Jesus has set you free. See you next time.