Summary: We are all God's children, yet at times, like children, we are easily distracted from our journey with Christ. As we seek to journey with Christ towards Jerusalem, who or what gets in the way of our relationship with Christ?
Earlier this week, we marked the beginning of Lent with an Ash Wednesday service. As a part of that service, we were reminded of Christ’s call to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Christ. This difficult call to discipleship comes just after Jesus predicts his own rejection and suffering, and it comes as Jesus and his disciples are making their way to Jerusalem and his inevitable death.
Lent is the season of preparation leading up to Easter. It is a time when followers of Christ seek to acknowledge their own frailty and grow in their relationship with God. This is a time when we make intentional decisions to set aside the distractions of this life so that we can focus on our life with Christ. So today, and in the coming weeks of Lent, we will travel with Jesus to Jerusalem. We will pause with Jesus as he preaches and teaches, heals and performs miracles. We will make efforts to focus our energies on the journey Christ calls us to walk with him; to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses. And yet always remembering the promise of Easter is that this is a journey to hope.
So today we set off, and our first stop is in the region of Judea. We pause here for a moment to listen to Jesus teach as he lifts some children into his arms. And of course, we can hardly talk about a trip and children without that inevitable question popping into our minds, “Are we there yet?” As annoying as that question can be on road trips, it’s a good question to ask here. Unlike the disciples who travelled with Jesus, we have the benefit of perspective. We know how the journey to Jerusalem ultimately ends. We have heard the accounts of the empty grave. We know that Jesus rose to new life. But sometimes I think that knowledge is as much of a detriment as it is a benefit. We get focused on the resurrection, and we forget about the hard road that leads there. We start thinking about eternal life with God, and we lose sight of the way we are called to live now. It’s so easy to feel like we have arrived, to think that we are “there,” but as a wise person once said, “you’re never ‘there,’ you’re always ‘here.’” And “here” is where we all walk with Jesus, where we deny ourselves day-in and day-out, we take up our cross, and we follow Christ.
So today we are going to take some time to think about what keeps us from journeying with Christ, from growing in our relationship with God. We are all God’s children, and as adults and children alike seeking to journey with Christ, we all have to consider who and what gets in the way of our relationship with Christ.
When the little children began making their way towards Jesus, who was it that tried to keep them away? It was the disciples. We have to remember that Jesus was on his way to the cross, and he knew it. That cruel shadow could never have been too far from his mind. And yet, still, Jesus had time for the children. Even with such a tension as his mind, he had time to take the children in his arms, and he had the heart to smile into their faces and maybe to play with them for a while. But the disciples wanted to keep the children away. It’s not that they were mean party-poopers or anything like that. The disciples wanted to protect Jesus. They did not know exactly what was going on, but they knew quite clearly that tragedy lay ahead, and they could see the “burden” that Jesus carried. They did not want Jesus to be bothered, and they could not imagine that Jesus actually wanted all these children around him at such a time as this. But even still, Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.”
And Jesus’ lesson about children and the kingdom of God is a good way to answer a question for ourselves. Who or what is hindering us from journeying with Christ? Jesus is always ready to welcome us into his presence, but sometimes people get in our way, just like the disciples who tried to stop the children running into Jesus’ arms. If we have trouble journeying with Christ, consider not only the people in our lives, but also the way we live our own lives that might be getting in the way of our relationship with Christ.
Think about the traits of children that would make Jesus lift them up as the ideal example of kingdom-people. There is the child’s humility. With few exceptions, most children are embarrassed when they become the center of attention. Children don’t know how to think in terms of pride and prestige; they have not learned to discover the importance of themselves. Children are also obedient. (Ha.) Now, certainly, a child is often disobedient, but a child’s natural instinct is to obey. A child is also trusting. Instinctively, children recognize their own ignorance and helplessness, and they trust the one who knows better than them. A child’s trust is seen in the child’s confidence in other people. It is a unique trait of children that they do not expect any person to be a bad person. The child will make friends with a perfect stranger.