In some reading last night, I once again discovered the account of Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man and I saw some things with a different insight … consider this passage …
And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And 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.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 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 19:16-22 (ESV)
This is such a fascinating and interesting encounter and conversation … one that way too often is explained away … vs. really being taught. And it seems to me that there is as much depth and insight in what Jesus left unsaid as what He actually said. Quite frankly, the rich young man was not ready for the truth … and it seems like Jesus knew that. After all … after Jesus told him there is only one who is good, he still thought he had a chance …
This young man … like many of us since … was looking for a way he could save himself. But the truth … a man cannot save himself unto eternal life … only Jesus Saves. In John 14:6 Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’
But alas Jesus give the man an opportunity to do a true assessment of his righteousness based on personal obedience … an assessment which if honestly conducted would have revealed the futility in his question. But the man’s response ‘Which ones?’ discloses that he did not believe ALL commandments must be kept. And yet James 2:10 reveals, ‘For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it’ … and that accountability is in the form of death … not eternal life.
And Jesus continues to go along with the questioning of this young man … listing only six commandments … all commandments from a horizontal perspective. He even touched on the second greatest commandment. But there was one glaring omission of the horizontal Ten Commandments … you shall not covet. A commandment many a rich young man has struggled with … and one he was struggling with even in this whole conversation about obtaining eternal life. (BTW … covet is defined as to want something you do not have … very much).
Also interestingly enough, Jesus did not address the Ten Commandments from the vertical perspective … including the greatest commandment (You shall have no other gods before me, You shall not make for yourself any graven image, You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, Observe the Sabbath Day and keep it holy, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind). From all we see here, it is doubtful the rich young man could have done much better assessing his obedience to these commandments … I know I would have difficulty doing an honest assessment of my obedience to these vertical commands.
Yet the rich young ruler then declares of the listed horizontal commandments ‘All these I have kept. What do I still lack?’ Then Jesus very subtly raises the bar from good and prepares the rich young man to enter into his moment of truth … if you would be perfect …
Jesus then instructs the young man how to take his earthly treasure that will fade away and convert them into heavenly treasures … an act that would ultimately reveal where his heart was truly abiding. Unfortunately, the man went away sorrowful revealing the true state of his heart … something he had been unable to see otherwise.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV)
As you may have noted the teaching above occurred during the Sermon on the Mount and prior to Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man as does the passage that follows … with a penetrating message that regarding the rich young man is really self-explanatory.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? Matthew 16:24-26 (ESV)
Reflecting and considering what ALL these passages of Scripture have to teach me …
Teach me Holy Spirit … teach me!!!