For his followers, the challenge that Jesus put before them was immense. It meant turning their backs on any people or possessions that were an obstacle to them progressing toward the Kingdom of God. Why would anyone do this? Because they would be part of a new community so loving and loyal that it would endlessly compensate for anything they had lost.
It would not just be on earth that they would benefit in this way. Jesus offered his followers ‘eternal life’. They would have a relationship with the God who is outside time, so that relationship would not end when they died. The followers of Jesus had begun a new life that would last forever.
Eternal life was God’s gift to humanity. It was not something that needed to be earned or striven for by obeying religious rules. God’s love was so unconditional that he would accept anyone who came to him, no matter how helpless or humble. This was God’s grace.
According to Jesus, a life of scrupulous obedience to religious regulations and practices might even prove to be an obstacle. The best example of how to live a life that brought delight to God was a little child, because a child was unable to do anything for himself or herself, but needed to rely totally on someone else. ‘I tell you the truth,’ he said, ‘anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ The younger and more vulnerable the baby, the better for allowing God to create something fine and new. In fact, God wanted to give men and women a complete rebirth: ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.’