Receiving the kingdom of God is not always an easy task. Even those who always get what they want may actually find themselves missing out on the benefits of God’s ultimate blessings because of how they approached it. A couple of episodes in Mark’s gospel illustrate the point. 

Children were being brought to Jesus that He might touch them, “but the disciples rebuked them.” Jesus, however, was indignant at this and told the disciples, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it” (Mark 10:14-15). The disciples were rebuking what Jesus was blessing. I wonder if we ever do anything like that. 

In what way do children exemplify the attitude sought by Jesus? We know that children can be selfish, but we also know that a two year old’s selfishness is not to be equated with twenty year old’s selfishness who has been around long enough to know better. We often think of children of having not a care in the world. We think of them as having an innocent, trusting nature as they desire a sense of belonging and fellowship with those whom they trust. 

The Lord wants us to trust Him. Like children, we don’t always understand why things are the way they are. We don’t always see the big picture. We don’t always know what’s best. And especially as it touches our salvation, we must learn to trust the One whose grace reaches out for us. As children, we must go Jesus that He might bless us. 

Contrast the way the children went to Jesus with the rich young man who came to Jesus asking about eternal life (Mark 10:17-27). This man also wanted to receive the kingdom, but unlike the children who were willing to receive the kingdom on the Lord’s terms, this man wanted to gain the benefits of the kingdom on his own terms. 

First, the man saw Jesus merely as a “good teacher.” His address of Jesus as “good teacher” is essentially calling Him a good rabbi, probably one of many. Yet if all we see Jesus as is a good teacher, will we really be willing to do what He says if we find that His will differs from ours? A “good book” might have good advice, but we also feel free to disregard if we don’t like what it says. But Jesus is not merely a good teacher; He is God, who alone is truly good in the absolute sense.

Second, the man was asking the right question from the right person. This much was commendable. If we want to know about eternal life, we must go to the One who alone has the right to grant it. But notice that asking the right question and getting the right answer does not in itself mean that people will have motivation to do what is necessary. This man had everything he needed at his fingertips. But his reception of this news about receiving the kingdom was not like that of the children before him. The children simply and innocently trusted and were blessed. This man brings with him the baggage of great wealth, which he was not willing to give up. The cost of serving the Lord was too expensive. Little did he realize that the cost of not serving the Lord would be even greater. 

Third, we need to notice that the answer Jesus gave was not based upon some desire to be mean to the man, but it was out of love. “Jesus felt a love for him and said…” (vs. 21). When Jesus says those hard things, He does it because He loves us. God isn’t looking to restrict our fun and make things difficult. But we make things difficult on ourselves through our over-attachment to this world. The Lord loves us enough to tell us what we need to hear, even if it isn’t what we want to hear. 

“How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God.” The children don’t really care about wealth. They don’t care that much about how expensive something is (which is why they play in the box instead of playing with the present that was in the box). They just know that someone loves them and blesses them, and they are happy to trust such a person. The wealthy man had been tainted by his own greed, and now, when called to give it up, wouldn’t. 

The disciples told Jesus that they had given everything up to follow Him, and indeed they did. What we gain in Christ is far more valuable (10:28-31). The question is, how will we receive the kingdom? Receiving it on His terms is the only way. 

Doy Moyer