Today’s Bible Reading:
Today’s Bible Verse(s):
Matthew 19:23-24 (NLT): “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I’ll say it again—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!’”
Reflections on Today’s Bible Verse(s):
Imagine that someone came to you today and said: “I want to go to Heaven! How should I do to get there?” If you are a Christian, that would be exciting! People rarely ask such a question. If they did, we would assume that they are ready to give their life to Jesus.
In our Bible reading today, we observe that someone actually asked Jesus a similar question.
Matthew 19:16 (NLT): “Someone came to Jesus with this question: ‘Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?’”
Well, if Jesus responded like so many Christians today, we would expect Him to say something like this: “I’m going to recite a prayer. Simply say the words after me and really mean them in your heart. If you do, you will be saved.”
Such a thing happens all too often in contemporary Christianity. Yet, it never happened in Scripture – not once. Nowhere was someone told to simply say a prayer to be saved. Instead, they were told to repent and believe. A changed life would then demonstrate that they were genuinely saved.
So, what did Jesus say to this man who was asking how to get to Heaven? He didn’t take him to the good news of the Gospel. Instead, He took him to the Old Testament law – specifically the 10 Commandments.
Jesus treated the 10 Commandments as a mirror. He wanted the man to see the laws that he had broken and experience conviction over his sinfulness. But, instead, the man shockingly maintained the notion that he was morally good.
Matthew 19:20 (NLT): “‘I’ve obeyed all these commandments,’ the young man replied. ‘What else must I do?’”
Good grief! The guy was saturated with self-righteousness. He had asked Jesus how to get to Heaven, but he apparently thought he was more than good enough to get there on his own merits.
The irony is that before we can be saved and made righteous, we must recognize our utter sinfulness. Before we can reach out to a Savior, we must realize that we desperately need saving. Before we are prepared to reach out for a cure, we must recognize that we are horribly sick. Before we can go up in forgiveness and joy, we must go down in conviction and repentance.
So, because Jesus loved this man, He hit him where it hurt. The guy’s wealth was his god – he was breaking the very first commandment. So Jesus exposed his heart with the following instruction.
Matthew 19:21 (NLT): “Jesus told him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’”
If Jesus had balled up his fist and hit the guy right in the nose, He couldn’t have startled him any more than this. The rich young ruler was delighting in his opportunity to demonstrate his self-righteousness before Jesus and everyone who was watching. But Jesus had just asked him to do something he was incapable of doing. His money was too valuable to him. As much as he wanted to go to Heaven, he would not give up his money to get there.
Jesus could have said, “Your money is your god” and this man would have denied it. But, in telling this man to release his grip on his wealth by giving it away, this young man’s response clearly demonstrated the point for all to see.
So, what happened?
Matthew 19:22 (NLT): “But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.”
He went away without Heaven. He left without the Gospel. He went away without forgiveness and without being saved. He went away defeated and sad.
But, this could have been a very, very good thing! He had been confronted with the law. His heart was exposed. He had seen that he loved the temporal much more than the eternal.
It is quite possible that as his sinful heart was exposed, he may have come back to Jesus at a later time to be saved. But he wouldn’t come back as a proud, righteous man but as a guilty sinner in need of a Savior. At that point, he would have been ready to receive the life-giving Gospel message.
Just a thought:
This man was unnamed. We don’t know who he was. But wouldn’t it be a remarkable story if we get to Heaven and realize that this unnamed rich young ruler was Joseph of Arimathea? Wouldn’t it be incredible if he was the rich man (Matthew 27:57-60) who took Jesus’ body and buried it in his own cave only to have it vacated 3 days later? We’ll just have to wait and see.