Today’s text comes from the 19th Chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew.
13Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; 14but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” 15And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.
16Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” 21Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
Why does Jesus love the little children? We sang that song as a child in Sunday School and VBS….. We’ve heard it, “Jesus loves the little children, all the little children of the world. Red, yellow, black and white, Jesus loves the little children.”
I have a little cousin who has never met a stranger. From the time they were first learning to walk, they were around and wanted to be in the adults’ conversations and was always the first to talk when meeting someone new. They never had to “feel accepted”. This is a beautiful way of living life. In Southern Evangelicalism, it seems that we always hear of what we have to do to “get saved”. We do this so much that we create a society that feels they have to work for the approval of the God who created them.
I think this is why Jesus calls us to be “like little children”. It’s not that we have to “get accepted” but that we already are. The good news is not that we can be saved if we complete the right rituals or say the right things or live a “holy life” but that WE ARE SAVED by the work that Christ has already done. AMEN?
I find it funny that in the same chapter, following one another, we have a Jesus of acceptance and then a Jesus of rejection (or at least what appears to be Jesus rejecting a young man). The man comes to Jesus and asks, “What good deed must I do to inherit eternal life?” And then Jesus basically spits in his face. Not many people focus on the offense of Jesus’ next words. Jesus says, “Good? Why do you ask me about good? You can never be good. Only one is good and that is the Father. If you want to inherit life, keep the commandments.” This guy had the perfect religious answer, “I’ve kept every commandment in the book. What do I lack?” And Jesus says, “Sell al you have and give it to the poor.” The young man goes away dejected, missing the point. The point of this text is not social justice or the evilness of being wealthy. The importance of this text is YOU CAN DO NOTHING to make God love you more. How hard would it be if we had to sell all we had and give all the money to the poor? I don’t think Jesus ever expected this young man to do that. He hoped the young man would realize you can not earn salvation. It is a free gift. Now, there’s something to be thankful for!
What kind of free gifts are you still trying to earn?