March 2021. Some Sunday school classes had been canceled altogether during the year-long COVID “emergency.” Wanting to open back up, many considered Easter Sunday to be a good time. But being still fearful, some churches aimed to limit the number of kids per classroom. One such class planned to allow registration for 10 preschool children. A loving, concerned teacher from one such church began to cry as she told me this, exclaiming, “What happens to the 11th child who needs to learn about Jesus?!”
The 11th child.
The image wouldn’t go away. (Please, just flow with me for a second here.) What if that Sunday (or any Sunday) is the day a family has decided to give church a try for the first time? Or it’s a family that has stepped away from the Lord and now realizes their need?
I suddenly recalled the account of the men who tore up the roof of the building where Jesus was, determined to get their buddy to Jesus (Mark 2:1-12). Looking further:
- People brought all their sick to Jesus, to get close enough to touch him. And he healed them (Matthew 14:35, 36; also see 8:16; 12:15). Of course, Jesus knew they needed spiritual healing even more than the physical.
- The Pharisees, Jesus’ enemies, were ready to criticize if he healed on the Sabbath (Luke 6:17). The Sabbath isn’t quite the same as our Sunday, sure. It’s just that this Scripture indicates Satan’s various tactics to squelch Jesus’ work.
- The Pharisees criticized Jesus for welcoming the very people who needed him (Luke 15:2).
- Jesus’ own disciples mistakenly tried to shoo children away from Jesus. He was “indignant” at this and said, “Let the little children come to me” (Mark 10:14; also told in Matthew 19:14 and Luke 18:15, 16).
Hmm. The only people who tried to keep others away from Jesus’ influence seemed to be his outright enemies and a few of his confused followers. Jesus invited sick people to him, not keeping them at a distance. Those were opportunities to help them spiritually, beyond any physical help.
The irony during this year has been that churches have taken drastic steps to provide physical protection, per the imposed COVID narrative: handing out masks and hand sanitizer, placing distance markers, checking temperatures, displaying posters with medical advice, becoming vaccine centers. All this, even though there are differences of opinion among very highly qualified doctors, not to mention outright misinformation in government reports/directives. Somehow it struck me as a bit off-balance. When have we been this noisy about the more vital spiritual protection?
Call me a troublemaker, but I found myself hoping that the friends of any “11th child” would tear open the church roof. My heart is with that concerned teacher who wanted the 11th child to learn about Jesus before … well, before the 11th hour.