Last Wednesday night my wife Pat and I went and watched a movie at church, “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone”. I do not want to spoil the movie, but near the end, there is this discussion of the Jesus’ encounter with the ‘Rich Young Ruler’ and ever since that has been on my mind. It caused me to question why the young man chose to walk away; was it his wealth, fear, pride, or something else.
I read both the account in Matthew and in Mark. In the first verses, I noticed something that I had overlooked before.
Matthew 19:16 (ESV) 16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”
Mark 10:17 (ESV) 17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
This young man believed in eternal life… the resurrection of the dead, but he was not sure of the recipe or necessary piece of the law so he asked Jesus because he had come to believe that he knew the answer.
Now Jesus replied to the young man first asking him why he called him good and then giving him instruction on the actions he must take. The responses are very much the same but I like the one in Mark 10 the best.
18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
I read this and I thought about that movie and I thought about some conversations I have had with Pat and others in the past week and I rethought what that young man was holding onto.
The Young Man Walked Away Disheartened
I thought about the possessions that Jesus told him to sell and give to the poor and assumed that he was a rich young man; maybe even a ruler. Matthew 19:22 says he had great possessions.
22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
This young man walked away showing what he trusted in. He feared to surrender control of his life to anyone else other than himself. He clung to the “things” that he felt assured his security. His trust rested in himself. He loved God, but he was not ready to surrender control to him.
I thought about that a lot the past few days. I thought a lot about the young man’s”possessions” and how important they were to him. I thought a lot about the disciple’s response when Jesus spoke of the plight of a rich man. I like the way Matthew recorded it.
23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 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.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”
It is so easy to look at the world like the disciples did. We look and see the physical or financial blessings. We look at the education and the skills that one might have. It is easy to say, boy they are so blessed…
Conversely it is easy to look at a poor family that is struggling or in poor health or driving a beater of a car or not wearing the nicest cloths and think, boy they have a rough life with no thought of blessing from God. That made me think of the parable of “The Widows Offering” in Mark 12:41-44
“The Widows Offering” in Mark 12:41-44
This passage reminded me of the truth of God’s provision.
Mark 12:41-44 (ESV) The Widow’s Offering
41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
I thought about this woman and the trust that she had in God and where the young man had placed his trust and my heart ached for the young man and for myself. For him because he had been given so much but still did not know where it came from nor trusted that God would always care for him. For myself, because of every time that I worried about anything.
This woman gave everything she had to God. Yes, a penny reflected all she had, but she gave her everything trusting that God would provide. And I allow myself to worry about stuff. I just want to shout out WHY??? But then I read on and both Mark and Matthew talk about how I can overcome this attitude.
Jesus tells of the difficulty of entering heaven for a wealthy man.
23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 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.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
He explains that the only way is with God. We cannot work our way into heaven. I look at this and I think of the rich young man and the widow and I see that what I must do is put all my trust, my everything, in Jesus. He has provided for me and there is nothing I can do to “get into heaven”. That is a gift from God. I am reminded of Ephesians 2
Paul explains the gift of salvation and the love of God. We cannot earn it. It is a gift freely given.
Ephesians 2:4-10 (ESV) 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
How wonderful it is to know that the creator of the universe loved me enough to save me when I was in the midst of my sin, not because of anything I did, but because of His love, grace and mercy, and that gift is available to us all. This reminds me of a passage in Hebrews my preacher Terry Cooper used a lot when he taught a study on that book.
Terry spoke of our need to cling to our faith and confidence in God. He tied the close of Hebrews 10 to the beginning of Hebrews 11.
Hebrews 10:35 – 11:3 (ESV) 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For,
“Yet a little while,
and the coming one will come and will not delay;
38 but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.”
39But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
I think of this passage and the young man and widow women. One had faith in his abilities, and the other in God’s. One shrunk back and the other, despite her difficult plight in the eyes of the world, did not. I pray that I might not shrink back; that I might hold on to my confidence and faith.
Father, thank you for your Holy Word and the lessons you reveal as I need them. I pray father that I might hold fast to your teachings and not shrink back in times of trials Lord. Give me the strength to leave my all to you. Help me, that I might present my body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to you, as an act of spiritual worship, and not conform to this world but be transformed by a renewal of my mind through Your Holy Word.
In Jesus name, I pray, Amen!