16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
There is a consistent theme in the Gospels when it comes to following Jesus. Those that follow leave everything behind in order to be a disciple. The leaving doesn’t seem to phase the disciples because Jesus’ invitation and the joy of following Him is more significant to them than what they’re leaving behind! In Mark 1 Jesus calls two sets of brothers to follow Him (vs 16-20). All four of these men were fishermen and they all left their nets, and their families, behind to become Jesus’ disciple. The nets represent a lot, don’t they? The nets were their livelihood and security; their way of life. They left it all for Jesus. They were embracing a new way of life and their security would come from another place.
This didn’t always happen. In Luke 18 there was a man who feared God, knew the Commandments and had followed them since childhood. He was legit and Mark includes that ‘Jesus loved him’ (10:21). Jesus extends the most amazing invitation to this rich young man. “Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Imagine being offered the chance to be Jesus’ disciple! To be with Him every day! The rich young man didn’t hear those words. The invitation wasn’t awesome to him because he could not/did not get past the ‘sell everything you have’ part. He went away sad because he had a lot of possessions.
The call to discipleship includes leaving everything else. Jesus becomes all consuming. He is ALL to us. In Luke 9:57-62 and again in Luke 14:25-33 Jesus speaks to the crowds about the ‘cost’ of following Him. (Read those passages!) He sums it up by saying, “In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”
There’s a problem in the church when we try to follow Jesus without giving up anything. We want to keep what we have: our preferences, priorities, lifestyles – and attempt to follow Jesus. We want to add Jesus into our lives without leaving anything behind. We’re ‘dragging our nets’ as we’re following Christ, which just slows us down! We can’t keep up with Him. We must drop those ‘nets.’ The reason we give up our preferences, priorities and lifestyles is because Jesus changes all of those. It’s a new day with a new set of priorities and a new way of living! Often times it’s an addictive sin-filled lifestyle that we try to manage while following Jesus. Sin is to be crucified in us, not managed. Give it up. Leave it behind. Follow Jesus.
I think this is why children are commended by Jesus. The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these little ones because they don’t hesitate in running to Jesus.
Lord, thank You for the promise that for those who leave everything to follow You, much more will be given in this life and in the life to come. You are generous and provide every good thing for our enjoyment! Give me wisdom and insight to what is real and valuable. Allow me child-like faith today. I joyfully leave everything to follow You in this new life!