One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. 14 When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” 16 Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them (Mark 10:13-16 NIV).
Jesus says, follow me on a number of occasions (Luke 9:23, 59; John 1:43), and we understand part of following to mean imitate (Matt 10:25; 1 John 2:6; 3:16). When in it comes to following/imitating, children are truly amazing examples of what to do and how to do it. They take what they see and appreciate about the one they are following and they do it. They notice some of the most uniquely identifiable traits that their example portrays and they imitate them. Children follow or imitate their heroes, the objects of their admiration, and they do it with a view toward becoming just like them. They do not sit for hours depressed that they are not perfect reflections of their examples; they just do what they can. They do not beat themselves up, because others do not understand, appreciate, or agree with their imitation; they simply watch and think about the one they want to be like and they imitate them. Children will imitate the one they admire even when they do not fully understand all the motives behind the actions of the one they love or get credit for it.
Grown-ups, on the other hand, are not quite so easily satisfied. Grown-ups like to be able to understand why a mentor is doing what they do, just in case they need to improve it. Grown-ups like to be able to measure their level or degree of imitation, so they can know if they are doing a better job than someone else is. Grown-ups like to quit doing things that do not get them credit and recognition.
Going back to Mark 10, in verses 17–23, we find the perfect example of a grown-up (rich young ruler) who wanted recognition for his accomplishments as better than that of others. He boasted of his performance (v. 20), but when it came to following/imitating the One who came to save him – he “went away sad” (Mark 10:22). He had missed the blessing of the Law by using it to measure his performance instead of letting it “lead him to Christ” (Gal 3:24). He admired Jesus in some regard, but he failed to love Him, so he failed to follow Him. If we find ourselves sad/frustrated like the Rich Young Man, perhaps we will be encouraged by the fact that “Jesus looked at him and loved him” (Mark 10:21), and by the fact that Jesus tells us plainly how to “enter the kingdom of God” – like a little child.
God, our Father, help us to focus on Jesus (2 Cor 4:18; Heb 12:2), to act like Him (1 John 2:6), to love like Him (1 John 3:16), and to be satisfied with simply imitating Him every chance we get (Gal 2:20-21) instead of trying to judge our performance against that of others or ourselves (2 Cor 10:12) – Amen!
Peace in following Him,