Background Photo: 31 Bits
Matthew tells of an encounter between Jesus and a young man that is a huge gut check on who we believe Jesus is and what we are willing to do as a result.
“Teacher,” the man calls to Jesus. Immediately we get an idea of who he thinks Jesus is.
The young man doesn’t recognize Jesus as Lord, but rather another good teacher who may be able to point him to that nagging thing that is missing in his life, despite all of his hard work, success, and wealth.
When we don’t rightly recognize who Jesus is, everything else is meaningless. Many throughout history and even today are quick to acknowledge Jesus as a good man and teacher who walked the earth. C.S. Lewis points out this can’t be. He either lied about who He was, was crazy for thinking He was someone He wasn’t, or He was truly the Son of God.
The young rich man continues with his question, “what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”
This man is looking for that one last thing he can check off his list to be satisfied and EARN eternal life. Jesus knows that none of us can do it without Him; that we can’t earn salvation.
Jesus plays along, basically responding if he wants to do it on his own, he needs to keep the commandments. Something Jesus knows full well no one but Him could do.
“All of these I have kept,” the man says, shedding light on another flaw in his quest for salvation…the inability to see his own sin. Does he really believe he has kept all the commandments his entire life? Impossible.
“What do I still lack?” the man continues. Although he thinks he has kept all the Jewish laws and commandments, in his soul he knows something is lacking. It hasn’t brought him the satisfaction he thought it would.
Jesus cuts to the heart of the man’s problem -- the thing in his life that is keeping him from being fully devoted to God and putting Him first in all things. For this man, it is his wealth and possessions.
“Sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me,” Jesus responds.
Later in discussing the conversation with the disciples, Jesus tells them it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven…harder than a camel getting through the eye of a needle hard. The disciples are amazed and perplexed. They have grown up wrongly believing that riches are a sign of God’s blessing and favor. How then could anyone get into heaven, they whisper among themselves.
Jesus agrees it is impossible. Impossible for man to do it alone. But with God, all things are possible.
Jesus knows many things can take first place over God, but money is a big one, tricking us into thinking we can control things; tricking us into thinking we are fulfilled; tricking us with just enough temporary satisfaction to keep us from seeking God.
While it was money and possessions for this man, it may be something else for you and me. It is anything we value over God; anything we are unwilling to give up to have more of Him. What God calls one person to give up, He allows another to keep. He alone knows what our heart is so tightly attached to over Him.
So, how does this young rich man respond? He sorrowfully walks away from Jesus. He walks away from the one thing he needed.
He knew something was missing; something was keeping him from life and peace. But when confronted with how to fill that hole, still he clings to that which he thinks he needs even more.
What is that thing for me? What am I clinging to that keeps me from entering into the closest relationship with Jesus? My family, health, possessions, reputation, security, control…?
On my own, letting go is impossible. On my own, saving myself is impossible. I must rightly recognize Jesus for who He is. Not just a great teacher, a humble servant, a gifted healer, a talented storyteller. He is the Son of God; the Messiah; my Savior; my Lord. Only with Him in His rightful position, with an accurate understanding of grace and salvation through Him alone, can I dig deep and recognize my sins and my need for Him to save me. Only then can I loosen my grip on the things I put above Him and follow Him. Because when I know who He is, what He did for me, and what He promises to do for me, then I can trust Him enough to let go and follow.
God, this is hard stuff. Soften my heart to know You, believe You, trust You, love You…so I can wholeheartedly follow You. Thank you for your love and patience.
All 1 1 Corinthians 1 Peter 1 Thessalonians 1 Timothy 2 & 3 John 2 Corinthians 2 Peter 2 Thessalonians 2 Timothy Acts Colossians Ephesians Galatians Hebrews Info James John Jude Luke Mark Matthew Philemon Philippians Revelation Romans TItus