vs. 16 “Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”
vs. 17 “ So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
vs. 18 “ He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ “
vs. 19 “Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
vs. 20 “The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?”
vs. 21 “ Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
vs. 22 “ But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”
In Matthew 19 we read a familiar story. The story is of the rich young ruler. He was like a lot of religious people today, proud and arrogant. Religious people are the hardest to witness to because of their pride. Jesus had his best results with people off the streets, publicans, and sinners. Publicans were tax collectors and sinners were prostitutes. His worst results came from religious people.
Here is a man that was religious. He had kept the law all of his life and was coming to Jesus not really looking for the way of salvation, but wanting Jesus to pat him on the back and tell him he was doing alright. This is what most religious people are looking for. They hear that you have “religion” and they come to you to compare notes and make sure you are alright. But the moment you start givingthem the Word, they back off. When you tell them all the money they have given, and because they have been baptized and have their name on a roll sheet, that does not assure they are going to heaven, they don’t like it.
Here we have a man who came to Jesus wanting to be patted on the back. We begin in verse 16, “Behold, one came and said unto him, good Master what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”
Many people wonder why Jesus began to quote the commandments. It is because He was going to take the very foundation this man had built his life on and show him it was sand and not a rock. Matthew 19:17-19, “And He said unto him, Why do you call me good? There is none good but one, that is, God: but if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments. He said to him, Which ones? Jesus said, (He begins with commandment number 6) You shall not murder, (commandment number 7) You shall not commit adultery (commandment number 8) You shall not steal, (commandment number 9) You shall not bear false witness, (He then goes back to commandment number 5) Honor your father and mother.” Then He does something very strange, He leaves the ten commandments, goes to Leviticus 19:18 and quotes. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus did this for a particular reason. This was the one commandment this man could not keep and Jesus is going to prove it to him. In Matthew 19:20 it says, “The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” Now wasn’t he proud? “Well, I’ve done all of that.” He expected Jesus to walk over to him and say “My goodness how wonderful! The doors of heaven are going to swing open for you, just keep on doing what you are doing.” He would have walked away with exactly what he came for.
In Matthew 19:21-22 we read, “Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Jesus just proved to that man he could not love his neighbor as himself.
If this man would have truly loved his neighbor as himself, would he not have sold everything he had and given it to his neighbor? Yes! Jesus just proved to him that he couldn’t keep that commandment. Jesus took this man’s foundation and pulled it out from under him. This man should have said, “Oh, I see what you are talking about. Now what can I really do to have eternal life?” But the young man turned and went away sorrowful. He didn’t really get down to the basics of what Jesus was pointing out. Jesus said, “and come and follow me”.
We have often taken this passage and said, “See, if you want to get to heaven you have to sell everything you have, give it away and follow Jesus.” That is not what Jesus was saying. How do we follow Jesus? Look at Matthew 19:28, “So Jesus said to them (His disciples), “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration…” In salvation is how you follow Jesus.
Let’s read what happened. Verse 23 “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” I know what you’re thinking, “See there, rich people can’t get to heaven.” Jesus didn’t say that it is impossible for a rich man to get to heaven. He said it is hard. In fact, he goes on to tell how hard it is in verse 24, “And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” We’ve read that before and tried to imagine a 2,000 lb. camel going through the eye of a sewing needle, and we say, “Yes sir it is hard for a rich man to get into heaven.”
In fact, Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” But to really understand this expression, we need to go back to the time in which it was written. In that day, the cities were surrounded by a large wall. The wall was so wide you could race five chariots side by side along the top.
In front of the city where the walls came together, there was a large double gate that would open up in two directions. The gate was so wide you could march 20 people in side by side. All day long the gates were left open for travelers to come in and out. Sitting on top of the wall near the gate was a man called the watchman. He would look out over the desert by day and make sure that no armies were coming to attack.
Most armies were smart enough to know that you don’t attack during the daytime. You attack at night when you can’t be seen. So at night, they would closethe gate and open a small gate within the gate called “the eye of a needle.” That gate was so small that only one man could come through at a time. If any armies attacked, only one soldier could come through the door and it easy to take care of one man at a time.
However, there is always the trouble of a traveler coming across the dessert. If you don’t get to the city before sundown, you have to go through the little door. It might not be that hard for you to get through the door but what if you are bringing a camel loaded down with goods? You have to try to get that camel through the little door.
That began a long process. You had to get the camel down on its knees, unload everything off its back, and push it through the gate. I could see one man in front pulling and one in back pushing and someone else trying to push in on the sides and get him through that little door. Once they got him through the door they had to push all the goods through the door behind him and reload the camel on the other side.
Jesus was simply saying to the rich young ruler, if he would lay down his treasures on this side and go through the door of regeneration, Jesus would make sure he got his treasures back on the other side. Jesus went on to point out in this same story in Matthew 19:29 and 30 that no man hath forsaken houses or homes or lands for my sake and the Gospel that he will not receive it back in this lifetime one hundredfold.
Jesus is the only one that can give you back a hundredfold on the other side of the door. But, you see, the door of salvation is so small that you have to go throughby yourself. You can’t hang onto your riches and get through. It is only big enough for you. But if you will drop your treasures, Jesus will lead you through the door and giveit back to you one hundredfold on the other side. Glory to God!
I have read this story many times and went right over the next verse as if it weren’t there.
vs. 25 “When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”
I was raised under the concept that Jesus and the disciples were very poor. I thought Jesus never owned anything, and the disciples were all broke. But one day, as I was reading over that verse, it suddenly struck me, the disciples were “greatly astonished.” If Jesus had just said, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God”, why would his disciples be exceedingly amazed if they were poor? It seems to me they would be happy and say, “Yes, we are going to heaven, but the rich are going to hell.” Then the thought came to me, only, rich people would be amazed!
The disciples had money. Think about it. Are you so rich you have to have a treasurer follow you around, and keep a money bag? Jesus did. Judas embezzled money out of the bag and no one missed it.
I also read where Jesus and the disciples gave money to the poor. Poor people don’t give money to the poor. Jesus also said in Matthew 26:11, “For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always.” Meaning “but I’m not poor.”
If you were to die tonight would they gamble over your clothing? Jesus wore a robe that was valuable. Whenever they used to crucify men they would rip their clothing off of them because they had no value. They usually crucified common thieves who couldn’t afford much. But when they put Jesus on the cross they carefully took his robe off and gambled to see who would get it. Poor people don’t wear clothing like that. Also, when they put Jesus on trial they accused him of many things. But they never accused him of not paying his bills.
During the last supper, when Jesus was eating at the table with the disciples he said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me”, and everybody said, “Lord, is it I?” Jesus said, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me.” Judas was caught! Suddenly he got up from the table and ran out of the door. “For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, “Buy those things we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor.” (John 13:29)
Apparently, it was a common thing for the disciples to pay for their meal before they finished, and also to give money to the poor. That is good stewardship. That also takes money.