Jesus teaches some amazing things about the kingdom in Matthew 19. First Jesus says in verse 14, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” He said this to His disciples who were rebuking those who brought children to Jesus. It seems they had missed something. Maybe they thought Jesus was too important, too prominent, too profound, to spend His time with little children. There were great works to be done, people to be healed, religious leaders to be confronted, a massive kingdom to be swept in. Praying for children didn’t seem to fit into the plan these disciples had in mind. But, Jesus says, “the very kingdom you are so concerned about, belongs to kids like these who you are shooing away.”
Then a rich young man comes to Jesus and asks what it takes to have eternal life. It is clear from Jesus’ words in verse 24 that this is the same as entering the kingdom of God. He treats this ruler much different than he treated the children. With the ruler He almost drives Him away telling Him to give everything He has to the poor. The rich man went away sad because “he had great wealth”(v22). Jesus then turns to His disciples and says, “it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Just a bit earlier He had said of children that the kingdom belongs to them. Poor, ignorant, humble, lowly, forgotten, unnoticed children – own the kingdom. But a rich, prominent, talented, relatively righteous man? It is hard for Him to get in. The disciples may have been a little confused. Actually, to be honest, I am a little confused.
I think the last exchange in chapter 19 may help tie some of the loose ends up. In verse 26 Jesus affirms that with the God all things are possible… even proud, rich men getting into the kingdom. Peter, speaks up and says, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” Jesus answers that Peter and the others will sit on the 12 thrones judging the tribes of Israel. Probably just what Peter wanted to hear.
But then Jesus goes on and says some very important things. “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for My sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” The words “for My sake,” jump out, and I think they may have jumped out to Peter. Do I make sacrifices and do the things I do for the sake of Jesus Christ? Do I go to church, and share the gospel, and love the lowly, and give to the poor in order to bring honor and glory to Christ? Or do I do so to advance my cause, and to build my own personal kingdom within a kingdom? You see, I think many of the disciples were still thinking in this way… they were very concerned with fame and prominence in a worldly kingdom, as is evident in many of their conversations leading up to the cross. After Jesus’ death and ascension – His example of service and humility – their attitude would change. But there were still lessons to be learned by them, and by me. The final word in this chapter is, “Many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first”(v30). It is like Jesus is saying, remember the children! The least, the humble - these are the ones that occupy the great positions in kingdom, not those like the rich young ruler. The way up, is down. God exalts the humble. I am to seek the prominence and fame of Christ, not myself. This is a lesson the disciples still had to learn. And thankfully, eventually they did. I pray I will learn it just as well - to forget myself and to give myself for the glory of our King, Jesus the Christ... this is my prayer tonight.