Summary: Jesus’ Teaching on how we inherit eternal life with childlike faith in Jesus, not by the things we do.
We continue today on our 40 day journey through the season of Lent as we walk with Jesus to the cross and to resurrection. During our Lenten journey we have been focusing on Jesus’ teachings on the way to the cross from Luke’s gospel. This is the section from Luke 9:50 until his arrest and death in Luke 22. As we have discovered many of these teachings of Jesus are difficult for us. Jesus taught on repentance, that we need to turn away from our sin to a new way of life in him. Jesus taught that following him was necessary but difficult, we must be willing to place him as our top priority, above all else including family, work, and possessions. We have looked at the father-like love God has for his children. God loves both his children who remain in the family as much as he loves the lost sons and daughters who have left him to follow their own path. His hearts desire is for all children to come home, receive forgiveness, and receive their inheritance as his children. Jesus came to seek and save all that are lost. Last week we saw how God cares about the poor and the result of loving money more then God as the rich man discovered the terror of hell.
1. Eternal life is about trusting not doing
The first thing we read about in this weeks teaching is some parents trying to bring their children to be touched by Jesus, perhaps they wanted Jesus to bless their child. But his disciples told them not to bother, they thought Jesus was too busy for children. We have to understand that in Jesus’ day children were not valued as highly as they are today. But Jesus saw what his disciples were doing and he called to the children and said, “let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t have their kind of faith will not enter the kingdom of God (18:16-17).” What kind of faith does a child have? [Get answers from congregation] They trust with total dependence. When dad throws them up in the air, they believe dad will catch them. If God said so, it is true. If Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so, then Jesus loves me. Simple faith, yet profound faith in Jesus. If Jesus died so I can live forever with him than it is true. They have not been corrupted by the doubts, fears, and evil of the world.
Based on Jesus’ words, let me ask you this, what does a little child have to do to enter the kingdom of God, eternal life? Do they inherit eternal life because they give away lots of money to the poor? Do they inherit eternal life because they come to church every week? Do they inherit eternal life because their parents are Christians? Not according to Jesus. According to him a little child inherits God’s kingdom because they have a simple faith in God and wanted to come to Jesus. In other words the little children didn’t have to do anything, they simply trusted, they had faith. Jesus said, if we have that childlike faith in him, we too will inherit eternal life.
NIV Luke 18:17 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."
In the crowd that day was a rich ruler who must have been disturbed by what Jesus said about having faith like a child, perhaps because he had always been taught that the kingdom of God is received based on what you do. Follow the Torah, God’s commandments, and so on. So he asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life.” All that faith stuff is great for children, but really Jesus, what’s the bottom line, what does God want me to do to inherit eternal life?
This has been the greatest confusion of people around the world for ages. People intuitively know they are created to live forever, and they know God is in charge of that decision, and so they want a nice formula for eternal life. Do x, y, and z and God will unlock the pearly gates to let you into his kingdom. Doing the right things on earth is like having the secret password. But this is what separates virtually every religion on earth from Christianity. Religions are about doing, but Jesus came to die on our behalf so that it was already done for us, we just need to trust in him and what he has done for us with childlike faith.
Recently I have been reading a book on the Muslim faith (Unveiling Islam by Caner & Caner), and according to this book it is their belief that eternal life is received by doing five things: believe in Allah (that is God) and Mohammed his prophet, pray five times a day, give to the poor, celebrate Ramadan (month long fast celebrating the receiving of the Koran), and make a once in a lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca (birthplace of Mohammed). Do all of these things and Allah might save you if it is his will. In other words there is no certainty that even if you do all of these things you will receive eternal life, or Paradise as they call it. The only alternative to this option is if you die while fighting in Jihad, holy war, against Allah’s enemies. For example the radical Muslims, like the terrorist who bombed our country on 9/11, believed they were dying in holy war against Allah’s enemies, which for them is us, Americans. The Koran promised that those who die in Jihad will automatically receive eternal life no matter how bad of a life they have lived on earth.