Sermon Notes for 5th Sunday after Trinity 26 June 2016 Anno Domini
St. Matthew 19:16
And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, 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. When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.
Whether we realize it or not, we are all like that rich young ruler in some particulars. We have often taken the seemingly easier wrong than the more committed RIGHT. We have enjoyed our prosperity at times more than we have enjoyed our fellowship with God. But all of the time, in so doing, we have felt that we were somehow good enough in our own right. This ignores the Lordship of Christ in purchasing us at great cost on the cross at Calvary.
The rich young ruler was probably a fair enough lad for company, manners, and lifestyle; however, these points had made him feel as if he only lacked ONE GOOD THING to be justified in the eyes of the Lord. It may be the case that he believed that he lacked NOTHING, but wanted a confirmation of the fact in the presence of the multitudes about Jesus.
He came to Jesus seeking to know what he might DO to inherit eternal life. In the account of the same event Mark gives us of this same ruler, we are told that he “came running” to Christ. Though there is much to be said about how we approach Christ, there is far more meaning in how we are changed by the encounter.
There is something of merit in HOW this young man came to Christ:
He came EAGERLY – running.
He came Publicly – in the presence of the throng about Christ.
He came reverently – kneeling before the “Good Master” (teacher).
He was respectful in his address to Jesus – Good Master.
It would behoove us all to come to Christ in that manner with the exception of the third instant above.
He referred to Jesus as Good Master and not as Lord. He did not distinguish the high reverence due Him. But in the final analysis, it is far more important how we depart from the Presence of Christ than how we may have approached Him.
We are told in John 3 that Nicodemus came under cover of darkness, and left with the light of heaven burning warmly in his heart. Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, came bearing the grief of a dying young daughter, and found his daughter restored to life. Many came to Christ for healing, and received that healing of the body, but left with the same dark hearts with which they came.
Some men come to Christ in the midst of the hell of battle, standing in the mire of a foxhole, and pleading among mournful mutter of the battlefield for salvation. Others may have come to Christ is the midst of affluence attended by an empty misery that revealed a vacant hole in their soul that only Christ can fill. Moreover, this rich ruler was young, according to the text. Jesus has just completed laying his hands of love on the little children to bless them, and then comes this young man who is, beyond doubt, quite morally good and respectable. However, though a young man, has had less exposure to temptation than an old one, no one is without guilt – no one has perfectly kept the Law of God. He was a pleasant young fellow, so much so that Jesus loved in as He looked upon him.
Some come to Christ out of poverty, and others out of opulence; but it is not the manner in which we come that is decisive, but the manner in which we leave. This young man probably desires the best of heaven now that he has acquired the best of the world. It has always seemed logical to his material mind that anything that is valuable must be acquired through some great labor or price. Of course, he is right – but who would be qualified to pay the price for the free grace made available in Christ. Did Jesus not pay with his last measure of blood for us?
This young man came in a better way than most do. He believed he had a future eternity to spend somewhere, and he preferred to spend with the angels rather than the demons. But he felt that something must be DONE on his part to EARN that future eternity. In this, he was correct though misguided; for it was not something that he must do to earn that future eternity, but rather something that Christ would surely do in his stead. The young man believed it must be some simple sacrifice that he would be willing and comfortable in doing. Believing himself quite good already, he believed he would be able to perform the task; hoever, he knew not his own heart as well as Christ would be able to read the thoughts of it.
The divine mind of Jesus sees beyond the outward appearance into the heart. He will test this young man’s faith and desire. Let us examine the text as written:
And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? This young man came to the right Person and for the right reason. Once we have come face to face with Christ, how should we present our petitions? Should we call Jesus a good teacher (Good Master), or should we recognize Him as our Lord? This improper address to Jesus was the first error of the young ruler. What was the second?
“. . . . what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? I can understand the young man’s naiveté in believing that he might DO something to earn his own salvation. This had always been the approach to gain wealth in his family. When I was a child, I, too, wondered what I must give for Christ to save me. Our society is a performance driven society. There will always be a fair price for a loaf of bread produced by the Baker Hanson. But the cost of the Bread of Heaven cannot be reckoned in earthly measure. It cost the Father His only Begotten Son, and the Son His own life’s Blood. How could we ever begin to place a value on THAT? The question itself presumes that good works can gain Heaven. This also is true, but the good work must be done by the Son of God and not by you or me. There is nothing that you or I can do to earn salvation for that price has already been paid. The young man did not recognize Jesus as the Son of God which is apparent by the manner of addressing Him; however, Jesus will reveal that error promptly. Now see the Lord’s response:
Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God? This verse has been misinterpreted time and again by men who have missed the point just as the young ruler had done. Is Jesus saying that He is not good? Heaven forbid, NO! If there is only One who is good, and that is God, then certainly Jesus is good because Jesus IS GOD! So Jesus is fathoming the depths of the young man’s understanding just as He has fathomed the depths of your understanding prior to your own salvation.
Jesus then tests the young man’s understanding, not of Himself, but of the means of salvation: “……but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” Jesus is presenting salvation in its most simplistic form. Simply keep ALL of the Commandments perfectly, and you need not worry of doing more. Of course, Jesus knows that no man can be worthy of perfect obedience to the Commandments of God. We too often try to bargain with God for His blessing: “Lord, if you will only grant this one request, I promise to faithfully attend church” or some other act of works. Jesus asks this young man this question not only for his own good, but that of those listening by. The young man believes that he has been good and moral. And by the standards of the world, he probably has been so; but the standards of heaven are not the same as those of the world. The righteousness required to gain the gates of Heaven must be PERFECT righteousness! No man can be so.
The man’s response exposes his sheer ignorance of the obedience required by God. He saith unto him, Which? Can we pick and choose which Commandments of God are worthy of obedience? The response of Jesus is intended to include ALL of the Commandments, but Jesus only makes direct reference to those that involve our duties and obligations to others. Jesus, for a purpose, has withheld stating the Commandments that express our duties and obligations to God. Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. You may recall that once, when challenged by a scribe regarding the most important commandment, Jesus responded: The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:29-31) Jesus, at that time gave both parts of our obligation under the law 0 first to God, and then to our fellow man. He summarized the law according to Deuteronomy 6:4,5 and Leviticus 19:18. So why did Christ, here, only quote half the lawful duty of man? As I mentioned earlier, Jesus is leading the young man to recognize his lostness for, if we fail to recognize that we are lost and condemned by our own lack or righteousness, we can never come to terms with our need for repentance. Let us see how the matter will come to light.
The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Though it is unlikely that this man has perfectly kept these quoted commandments, it is true that, even if he had, there is a greater one that he has omitted in obedience. Jesus felt compassion on the tortured mind of the man. He gave him one more opportunity to open his mind and heart to Christ: If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. Remember: only perfection is acceptable in God’s Heaven. Jesus, knowing the heart of the man, suggested the very Commandment which the man had so egregiously broken from his youth – the very FIRST COMMANDMENT! I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. 7 Thou shalt have none other gods before me. (Deut 5:6-7) Jesus is attempting to show the man that he has not even kept the FIRST Commandment, much less the others. He has allowed something to come between him and his God – that something (idol) is RICHES.
Did the man understand now, or, like many sinners, did he choose not to understand? But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. The young man could not argue with the truth that Jesus exposed, but he was inclined to his idol over the salvation that Jesus offered. The Christian is like the earth bathed in the radiance of the Sun (God). It has life and light everywhere the warm rays of the Sun appear. But, if any object (Lunar eclipse) is allowed to come between the earth and the Sun, the earth will be in darkness. That is the same darkness of any man who allows wealth, sex, or mind altering drugs to come between him and our Lord. He will remain in darkness if he holds to the idol and rejects his Maker. In the end, the young man was no different from Judas Iscariot who went out on the night of his betrayal into eternal darkness. He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night. (John 13:30) So do all who forsake Christ: O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters. (Jer 17:13) Perhaps the same names that Christ may have written upon the earth before the accusers of the Woman taken in Adultery.
Are you amazed that the young man was not accounted righteous before God? If so, you are in good company for the disciples, too, were amazed: When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? We judge books by the cover and people by the outward appearance, but God looks INSIDE the book, and INSIDE the heart to judge.
But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. I have known some really rough and untamed men in the profession of arms over my long career with the military. They were men who used vulgar and unseemly language and who were accustomed to the vicissitudes and dangers of many battles, but, contrary to my own judgment of these men, some were changed in a heartbeat from a ruffian to a humble saint of God. That which may appear impossible with man is certainly possible with God for He is a God of impossible results!
Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?
As was usual, Peter spoke more out of emotion and ignorance than true understanding. When had Peter forsaken all? Did Peter not yet cherish his life? Did he not deny Christ three times the night of His betrayal? Peter, too, is thinking that he was deserving some special consideration for that which he felt he had done above and beyond the call of duty. In short, he believed in the false works of supererogation. It is not enough to follow Christ a certain distance and no more. The rich young ruler had done as much. But Christ expects His disciples to follow Him ALL the way. And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.
In the wise counsel of God, there are many who appear first in the eyes of man but are last in the eyes of God. The overriding point is this: We shall lose NOTHING in following God. We shall receive a hundred fold of that which we surrender for Him. But do not jockey for first place in the Kingdom of Heaven, else you will have the mirage disappear at the last moment.