The heading on this particular section in my Bible (Matthew 19:16-30) would tend to make you believe you are looking at what is problem for rich young men … but after reading and rereading it the last couple of days, what Jesus is revealing is THE dilemma for ALL men.
And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” Matthew 19:16 (ESV)
Pretty much what this self-made man (or man of inheritance) is saying is, “What good deed must I do to earn my salvation?”
Why would the rich young man or rich young ruler be the protagonist in this encounter with Jesus? Why not a Pharisee, a Sadducee, a priest or a scribe? Well, Jesus has already (and will continue to do so throughout the Gospels) repeatedly questioned their self-declared righteousness.
But then … much as oftentimes today … wealth is seen as a sure sign of success and God’s blessing. All the disciples would have thought virtually anything was possible for this rich young man.
Think Gates … think Zuckerberg … the sky’s the limit … and anything is within their grasp.
So often I have read this passage and concluded that the message was about sacrifice and how difficult it is to deny ourselves and take up our cross … and in some measure that is indeed one aspect of the teaching.
Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Matthew 19:21-22 (ESV)
But in this reading, the lesson suddenly and quite clearly seems to be more about salvation and entering into the kingdom of God.
If a rich successful young man can’t do that good thing to gain salvation and eternal life, what chance do the rest of us have? What chance do any of us have?
NONE … let me repeat … NONE!
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” Matthew 19:25 (ESV)
But isn’t that the point? Salvation is the work of God … not man.
But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthw 19:26 (ESV)
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:4-10 (ESV)
Impossible for man … but ALL things are possible for God.
Thank you for your great love, mercy, grace and Your gift of salvation IN Christ Jesus!