Matthew 19

Matthew 19:

In today’s lesson, I want to concentrate on a young man’s encounter with Jesus that took place over 2,000 years ago. All through the gospels we read of conversations that took place between Jesus and real people from all walks of life. In today’s lesson we listen in to a conversation that takes place between Jesus and a young man- who is described as a rich young man or ruler.

The young man seeks out the Lord Jesus and the conversation that occurs originates from the question this young man asks the Lord Jesus:  “ Good master ( teacher) what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”  (did you notice- it is ‘ what can I do?’ we tend to be ‘ do-it-yourselfers’)

This question and similar questions are asked by almost universally by every generation.  What is the meaning and purpose of life?  Why am I here?  What is wrong with the world? What is right with the world?  And most importantly- is this life all there is? What happens when we die? Where do we find the answers to these questions and thus discover the meaning and purpose of life?

The young man treats the Lord with respect as he recognizes the Lord with the title- ‘good master’, which the NIV interprets good teacher.  He has come to one who is a recognized good teacher- for he is seeking an answer to a question that concerns him.   By calling Jesus- Master, he is admitting he is willing to be submissive and to be taught. (Willing to do what He commands? Or willing do what He commands that is agreeable to you- and not too sacrificial or scary?)

His questions tells us this young man believes in eternity and realizes that one must prepare for the eternal life in this present life. This is noteworthy, because of his wealth, he could enjoy a good life in the present, but he obviously felt something was missing. Many of the wealthy and elite who dress in the best clothes, live in the finest homes, dine on the best food and go and do whatever they desire-are not concerned about eternity- for they are so satisfied with this current world. They had rather have riches than Jesus.

Sometimes we observe those with great riches will use their money to do good things with their wealth. They establish charities and scholarships- they invest in feeding the hungry and improving the health of those who are in dire straits.  Perhaps in some ways- they view this as good works they are doing which will obtain them a place in heaven or the hereafter based on what good things they had done.  We do not know for sure what this  young man thought the good thing he must do to possess eternal life was- but he must have thought whatever it was- his wealth could help him obtain it.

Obviously this was a matter of concern for this young man and he sought out an encounter with Jesus to find out if he was on the right track. Nicodemus had an encounter with Jesus that changed his perspective of what he must do to obtain eternal life. Jesus had many encounters in his brief life on earth, encounters with :  the Pharisees, his disciples, Romans leaders, women, men, boys, girls, rich, poor, sick, demon-possessed and non-Jewish and probably if we look closely we would find his encounter with a person like ourselves.

Again we go back to the Sermon on the Mount and we find Jesus states clearly;  Ask and you shall receive; seek and you shall find; knock and it will be opened to you.  Here his young man comes asking and seeking and he will receive and find the answer. It then becomes a question of what will we do- when we encounter the truth?

First let us look at the reply and answer Jesus gives.  The KJV says: “ Why do you call me good? There is none good but one- that is God:  …” I believe there was probably a pause after this statement. Do you see what Jesus does?  He is ever the teacher and now directs this young man’s thinking to accept the reason he calls him good, is because he is God, the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Here is a young man seeking truth, and Truth in the person of Jesus Christ stands before him.

Jesus then gives the rich young man the answer:  “ If you would enter (eternal) life- obey the commandments.” Let us  go back to the Sermon on the Mount and listen as  Jesus sets the record straight regarding the commandments of God in Matthew 5. He prefaces his teaching by saying their righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees.  He then reveals how the law is to be interpreted and in doing so   he reveals it is impossible for man to live in sinless perfection. In fact- Jesus ends that section of teaching, by saying you must be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.

The young man eagerly asks the Teacher- ‘ which ones ?’  And Jesus replied: “ Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not give false testimony; honor your father and mother  and love your neighbor as yourself.”

First notice this about our Lord’s reply- these commandments deal with our relationships with other people. He has said nothing about the first commandments which deal with our relationship with God.  These include the first two: which state- ‘ you shall have no other gods before Me; and ‘ you shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven or on the earth beneath or the waters below.

The young man replies: “ All these I have kept, what do  I still lack?”  Now first of all- I do not believe this young man has never told a lie; nor looked at woman adultery in his heart or had anger in his heart toward another.  And finally, if he loved his neighbor as himself, then Jesus answer to go and sell all his possessions and give them to the poor would reveal his love for his self was greater than his love for his neighbor.

In thinking on these verses- you do realize Jesus is not asking this rich young ruler to do anything He, the Lord Jesus has not done for us. He was rich beyond anything we can imagine, the ruler of heaven who gave up all he had, and became poor for our sake.

Jesus answers the young man: “ If you want to be perfect-( whole) go and sell all your possessions and give them to the poor, then you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me.” When the young man heard this , he went away sad, because he had great wealth.’ It was almost as if this young man did not hear anything else Jesus said after Jesus told him- go sell all your possession and give them to the poor.  Jesus did not ask the young man to give up something and not get anything in return. He told the young man- he would have treasure in heaven.  Jesus would tell the disciples and us – any who would sacrifice for his name’s sake- shall receive hundredfold and inherit eternal life. ( Matthew 19:29)   If we really believed this statement- why would any church lack resources?

Again connect back to the Sermon on the Mount:  ‘ Where your treasure is there will your heart be also. “   And Jesus concludes:  “ No one can serve two masters. Either they will hate the one and love the other, or will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. ( Matthew 6: 24, NIV)

Do you see this man has broken the first two commandments- he  has another god before God and has made an idol of his wealth.  You may be thinking- I am not wealthy- but this encounter reveals we all have ‘ idols’ in our lives. And by ‘ idols’ we are referring to those things that keep us from making God – first in our lives. The carnal Christian wants to serve God and some other idol in their life.  At times they will be devoted to their idol and despise what the Word of God tells us is wrong with doing this.  We want to compromise and say why can’t we have God co-exist with this idol of mine, this pet sin of mine. You cannot serve two masters- this is clear.

The young man goes away sad. He believes probably the Lord is being unfair to him. Asking too much of him and looks at the rag-tag bunch of people following Jesus and thinks they did not have to give up as much as Jesus is asking me to give up.  They did not have to sacrifice as greatly as you are asking me to sacrifice.  To be truthful, we can even understand how he feels.

Have you had such an encounter with the Lord?  Have you come to ask Him what should you be doing with your life? Your resources? Your gifts- He has given you?  Has He asks you to give sacrificially?  What is your response?  When you ask Him what you should you do?  Are you coming ready to do what He tells you to do? Are you ready to have your priorities changed?

What does your soul really thirst for?  These are difficult questions. Do you look for fulfillment in your life by success as measured by the world’s standards? Or by His Standards? Or like most of us- are you trying to do both? Have Jesus and riches too.

Why do the really, really rich and famous people, the movie stars, the powerful and elite who have so many homes, cars, boats, jewelry and yet seem to be constantly seeking more while they go through a series of marriages, affairs, divorces, and rehab.  Could it be they discovered the thing they thought would satisfy their thirst, their deep longings within- did not satisfy for very long?

During the  Great Depression in the 1930’s , the economy collapsed almost completely. In addition there was a drought which turned the fertile farmlands in Mid-America to a dust bowl. Statistically during this 10 year drought, as much as eight tons of soil were lost every year.  In an area of 5 states which compromised the heart of Mid-America- a total of more than 850 million tons of land were lost. There was an atmosphere of hopelessness and fear. The skies would turn dark with the dust blown by the hot dry winds.   The problem became- when do we sow our seed. The seed costs money- and if they sowed the seed and a strong wind came along- they would lose everything.  On the other hand if they did not sow the seed, they would not have any hopes of having a crop and this would spell disaster.  Damned if you do- damned if you don’t. “ And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” ( Galatians 6)

To a certain degree- we live in a dust bowl. The winds of change, misfortune, failed economy, could makes us as fearful as those farmers during this period of time. The ‘ what-if scenarios’ play out in our minds and sometimes become reality.

Do you see what has happened to God’s kingdom?  We are not sowing seed in God’s kingdom, for we have other things we view as needful. We become selfish, even stingy,  because we fear the uncertainty of the future.

Fear has always been and always will be the enemy of faith. It can cloud our thinking, make us forget the promises of God. Uncertainty is an area that both faith and fear occupy. Without the element of the unknown, we would have no reason for faith. And when there is uncertainty- fear always grabs hold of our imagination and whispers in our ears- what if???

First of all we forget – we are stewards of what God has given us- not owners.  That truth is not very well received by our old nature, is it?  It is my house, my car, my clothes, my , my, my…

And the Lord Jesus – once again in the Sermon on the  Mount tells us not to worry about these things for our Father knows what we have need of before we ask Him.  And then Jesus tells us very clearly:  Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all the things ( you need) will be given to you as well.”  ( Matthew 6:33)

Jesus says go ahead and sow the seed- give it away. I have plenty more I can provide. Give and it will be given to you- pressed down, shaken together and overflowing into your lap.

I can understand the concern of the rich young ruler, even though I am not rich in comparison.  But Jesus told the rich young ruler something else- that he might not have heard. He said sell all your possessions and give them to the poor- and you will have TREASURE IN HEAVEN then come  FOLLOW ME.

When you  put following Jesus first in your life- he promises you – you will not lack anything. You can trust Him to provide you from his abundance to do the work of the kingdom. And in doing the kingdom work- God’s mission- you will find the joy you are looking for and the abundant life.  When you realize God is the owner, not you. When you realize you are His steward, to whom He has entrusted His wealth – you can rest in the fact you do not have to worry about the circumstances that swirl around us like a dust storm. You can sow the seed with assurance your Heavenly Father is the Lord of the Harvest- what He needs are workers.

Yes, there is a fear that exists in the area of uncertainty. But you must dismantle those fears with the Word of God and its promises. “ For God has not given us a spirit of fear..”  Who gave us a spirit of fear if God did not? It is the enemy – who goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. The circumstances may be troubling- a proverbial dust storm that darkens our lives. But read on and you will discover what God has given you. “… but (God has given you a Spirit ) of power, and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1)   Lean to your own understanding, listen to the fear-mongers and you will be fearful. “But I dare not trust the sweetest frame-but wholly lean on Jesus name. On Christ the Solid Rock I stand- all other ground is sinking sand.”  That wonderful hymn describes what Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount.

God had given this young man the ability or station in life where he had an abundance. He now asks him to give it all back to Him, by sowing it among the poor. In exchange,  God would give him treasure in heaven.  Would this young man recognize God as the owner of all things and the giver of all good gifts?  We do not know what happened to this young man. Perhaps he came back- perhaps he did not .

The disciples were puzzled when Jesus said:  “ I tell you the truth , it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell 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 disciples said- ‘ who then can be saved?”  Jesus looked at them and said: “ With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

As God continues to mature your faith- He will place you in dust bowl conditions where we  can become paralyzed with fear, indecision and uncertainty. We listen to the commentators on the news, we try and analyze the situation and if we are not careful we lean to our own understanding.  Give, Jesus says and it will given to you.    Eternal life is determined by our actions in this present life.

What must we do to obtain eternal life?  Jesus says we must  trust him with all our heart and lean not to our own understanding and he will direct our paths.

Jesus says – Follow Me. I am the way, the truth and the life.

“ Now this is eternal life: that they might know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

Remember it is HIS, HIS , HIS-  not mine, mine, mine.

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14