Saturday, July 11, 2009

Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler

Matthew 19 (also Luke 18 and Mark 10)

Jesus Counsels the Rich Young Ruler

16 Now behold, one came and said to Him, "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?"

[Luke 18 tells us this one was "ruler" either religious or civilian, but since he was not identified as a publican, and he seems devout in his faith, it is presumed he is a religious ruler, except for his age which it not typical of religious rulers. Mark 10 says that he came and fell on his knees before Jesus. So here is a young man who has everything going for him. By his appearance you can see he is a man of substance, by his approach you can see he is humble, and by his question you can see he is thoughtful and decisive in perusing eternal life. If you were going to start a Church, this is exactly the kind of person you would hope would come to your Church. This was a very good man. He asks Jesus the big question, "what do I need to do, to have eternal life?"]

17 So He said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments."

[Jesus sees a few flaws in the young man's approach. First the young man thinks that people can be good, and second he thinks that a man can do good worthy of heaven. Jesus answer seems confusing. When he met the Samaritan woman Jesus told her to ask for living water. When he met Nicodemus Jesus said you must be born again. But to the man seeking to earn his way to heaven by doing good deeds, Jesus issues a challenge "keep the commandments".]

18 He said to Him, "Which ones?"
Jesus said, " 'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not bear false witness,'
'Honor your father and
mother,' and, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"

[Jesus said "Keep the commandments", the young ruler answers "which ones". Jesus, there are a lot of commandments, can you be more specific. By his answer I wonder if the young ruler is a young lawyer. If he is making a contract for eternal life, he wants to know exactly what he is getting into. In the 10 commandments the first 4 pertain to man's commitment to God 1) have no other gods 2) neither make nor worship idols 3) reverence the name of the Lord and 4) keep the Sabbath. And the latter 6 pertain the man's commitment to each other 5) honor your parents 6) commit no murder 7) commit no adultery 8) do not steal 9) do not bear false witness 10) do not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor. So Jesus skips over the first 4, and paraphrases the prohibition on coveting your neighbor's possessions, into "love your neighbor as yourself", which is also in Leviticus 19:18. In Matthew 22 when asked what is the great commandment, Jesus starts with Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind; then he adds Love your neighbor as yourself. Romans 13:19 summarizes the last 5 commandments into "Love your neighbor as yourself". Galatians 5:14 says all of the law is fulfilled in this one commandment.

In Luke 10 Jesus had a similar exchange with a Lawyer, and it read like this:

25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"
26 He said to him, "What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?"
27 So he answered and said, " 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,'and 'your neighbor as yourself.'"

28 And He said to him, "You have answered rightly; do this and you will live."
29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"


Jesus answers the Lawyers questions by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan. This young ruler had a different answer.]

20 The young man said to Him, "All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?"

[What a confusing answer. Even though this man claimed to be perfect in keeping the commandments, yet he professed he was still lacking the secret ingredient to everlasting life. And he begged Jesus to tell him what was missing.]

21 Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."

[Jesus finally decides to unmask this charade of perfection the young ruler professed. Jesus says I tell you what, if you really do love your neighbor as yourself go sell all that you own, and give it to your poor neighbors. As yourself does mean as yourself, right? If your affection, care and concern for your neighbor is that great then just sell everything and take care of those poor people. And by the way, since you are concerned for your eternal life, I will exchange your treasure on earth, for treasure in heaven. Then you will be free to follow me.]

22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

[The young ruler had great possessions, but it also seems that his possessions had him. Jesus found the one thing he lacked. The young ruler had an idol called wealth, and he trusted that false god, to provide for his every need. The man who had everything, youth, power, status, and wealth, in reality had nothing because he was in bondage to his money.


Matthew 6: 24 "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.


Matthew 16: 24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.


Money can be a valuable servant but it makes a terrible master. Everyone who comes to God comes the same way, empty handed, trusting only in the Grace of God.]

With God All Things Are Possible

23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

[The Jews of that day held to a form of prosperity theology that taught material blessings were evidence of righteousness, because God was clearly blessing those who pleased him. And the corollary to this was the belief was that those who were sick, poor, of who suffered some tragedy in their lives were under judgment because of sin. Jesus roundly rejects this belief here and In John 9: 1 Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
3 Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.

We need to abolish this idea of discerning God's pleasure, God's will, and God's purpose through life's circumstances. God has a much longer time horizon than us, so that we frequently cannot see what he will eventually bring about. God will settle all accounts at the final judgment, he does not need to settle them now.

Matthew 5:45 says that God makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Circumstances are a poor indicator of our standing with God. Paul was shipwrecked and imprisoned, Steven was stoned, nearly all the apostles were killed for their faith, does any of us really think we are more holy than them?]

25 When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?"
26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

[I know I use Ephesians 2 a lot but it's just so good.

1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).

We were all enemies of God, and God loved his enemies at the expense of his son. So how can we judge who can be saved? Only God can look inside a man, to see who comes in faith as a child, with empty hands and an open heart, receiving the gift of grace.]

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