16th May 2023
Read (Matthew 19v16-30)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
Imagine a young man seeking your daughter's hand in marriage. He is an individual who is rich, who has never murdered, never committed adultery, never stole, never lied, loves his parents and loves his neighbour. If such an individual walked up your driveway I suspect you'd happily welcome him into your family.
Such a young man is found in the pages of Scripture. One day he approached Jesus and asked “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (v16) The simple answer to this huge question is that good deeds do not save and to have eternal life one must repent and believe he Gospel. Yet the Lord Jesus sought to show this young man his poor spiritual condition.
Jesus said "If you would enter life, keep the commandments...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.” (v17-19) An individual with a childlike faith would have been broken at this response. Who among us has ever met such a standard? But the young man was not perturbed for he believed that he had kept all of these commandments (v20a). Nevertheless, he still sensed that something was missing, asking Jesus "what do I still lack?" (v20b).
I have no doubt that this young man was a fine, upstanding member of the community and a credit to his family but he lacked a heart that had been transformed by the grace of the Gospel. How do we know? Because Jesus told him to go and sell all of his possessions and give the money to the poor (v21) which caused the young man to go away filled with sorrow. The young man was good on the outside but his heart was still dead in sin. His money was his idol, his wealth was his god.
Having money and possessions is not inherently sinful but as we know all too well our hearts are easily captured by the passing glories of this world. Jesus said “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person 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 person to enter the kingdom of God.” (v23-24). To be clear Christ doesn't teach that rich people can't be saved. He answered His disciples who asked “Who then can be saved?” (v25) by stating “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (v26).
God is able to save the rich just as He is able to save the poor. But the rich man's problem is that he all too often believes that he has no need of anyone or anything outside of himself and his own massive wealth. I dread to think how many have died with full bank accounts but rotten souls.
The Christian understands that their true treasure is Christ and their reward is kept for them in glory. Peter asked “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” (v27). Jesus assured Peter that his reward would be great indeed. Firstly, the disciples would play a role in the judgment of the twelve tribes of Israel at the last day (v28). Can you imagine this extraordinary privilege? Somehow, someway, the apostles will be active on the day of judgement.
But to everyone who has followed Christ, the Lord assures us that whatever we have "lost" in this world for the sake of Jesus will be paid back a hundredfold in the life to come (v29). Brothers and sisters we are often like little magpies who constantly fly to the next bright shiny thing without remembering that there is nothing in this world that compares to surpassing worth of knowing Christ. He blesses us in this life and He will surely bless us in the next. Therefore he sets us free from believing that in life we must be first all the time. We must have the best. We must be important. We must be paid more. In the age to come the "first will be last, and the last first." (v30).
We'll never know if the rich man went home and considered his true spiritual condition but today we can consider our own. May the Lord forgive our hearts which have been captured by love of our abundant possessions. May He sanctify us and cause us to increasingly fall out of love with this world. May He give us a hunger for home and a thirst for the age to come. Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus.
Q47 What is forbidden in the first commandment? The first commandment forbiddeth the denying, or not worshipping and glorifying, the true God as God, and our God; and the giving of that worship and glory to any other, which is due to him alone.