This Sunday is Mother’s Day. I am thankful for the examples many moms provide and the sacrifices they make.
The gospel of Matthew tells us that mothers brought their children to Jesus. I can imagine a lot of laughter and joy as this was happening. Yet inexplicably, the disciples thought this was a bad thing and started turning the children away.
Jesus was indignant. He rebuked them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14 NIV). Kids are a pretty good judge of character. You know very quickly where you stand with them. The children loved Jesus, and they wanted to be near him.
Clearly, the disciples had missed the memo. It was only a few days earlier when Jesus had interrupted their argument about who would be the greatest in the Kingdom. He had a little child stand up and then said to them, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3 NIV).
According to Luke’s version of this story, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Luke 18:17 NIV). That is a fascinating statement. Conventional wisdom would say that to know God, a child should become like an adult. But according to Jesus, an adult must become as a child. The child is the model, not the adult. That doesn’t mean we are to be childish. But it does mean that we need to be childlike.
Children are honest. If they are happy, they laugh. If they are sad or tired or hungry, they will cry. If they fall, they run to Mom. (And if Mom is nowhere to be found, they will reluctantly accept Dad.) We should come to God with childlike honesty as well.
Children also come to us in a state of helplessness. They are aware they can’t do a lot of things for themselves. They can’t care for themselves. They can’t feed themselves. And in the same way, we should come to God acknowledging our complete helplessness and dependence on him to forgive our sins.
As the mothers were bringing their children to Jesus, one person in particular was paying attention. This was a man who had been raised in a very religious home from his youth. He also was very successful because he was a ruler. However, he was still young. Here was a devout, successful, powerful, wealthy man, but something was missing in his perfectly ordered life.
The Bible tells us that he went to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16 NIV).
Jesus said, “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (verse 17 NKJV).
He wanted to know which ones, so Jesus began reciting the commandments to him. Why? Because if this man could be honest and do some reflection, he would recognize that he wasn’t as good as he thought he was. The commandments would point out that he fell short of the standards of God.
Jesus quoted the law, because the law is like a moral mirror; it shows us ourselves. A mirror tells the truth.
But amazingly, he said to Jesus, “All these I have kept. … What do I still lack?” (verse 20 NIV). In other words, “Lord, I’ve nailed that. What else do you have?”
For him to say this was completely untrue, because with the exception of Jesus himself, no one has kept all the commandments of God. Yet Mark’s gospel tells us that Jesus looked at him and loved him.
It would have made more sense if Jesus had said, “Don’t lie to me. I’m God. I see your heart, buddy.” But that isn’t what happened. Jesus loved him.
Then Jesus gave one of his most misunderstood and misapplied statements: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (verse 21 NIV).
Sometimes people will say that if you’re a real Christian, then this is what you ought to do. But that simply isn’t an accurate reading of this passage. This is not a call to anyone who wants eternal life to give up every material thing, because Jesus never repeated this demand to any other person. This statement was given to this man in particular because of where his heart was.
By telling him to sell all that he had and give the money to the poor, Jesus was laying his finger on the primary sin in this man’s life: the love of earthly things.
The Bible tells us that “when the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth” (verse 22 NIV). Most people were changed for the better by Jesus. But not this young man. He went away sorrowful. He may be the only person we read of in the gospels who came to Jesus and went away in worse condition. This man was being asked to dethrone his wealth and enthrone the Savior. But he wasn’t willing to do it.
Make no mistake about it: Our life on earth isn’t all there is. In the film “The Gladiator,” Maximus Decimus Meridius said to his troops, “What we do in life echoes in eternity.”
That is true. What we do in life does echo in eternity. The Bible teaches that life goes on. God will not waste or squander any life or gifts. And death for the Christian is not the end of life but a continuation of it in another place.
We can’t get to Heaven by living a good life or by being moral and keeping the commandments. Jesus died on the cross for our sins. And if we will turn from them and receive his forgiveness, then we can know with certainty that we will go to Heaven.