Lets look at a brief outline of the story. Jesus has just come from the famous incident where he holds children in His arms, and tells His followers that they must become childlike if they want to follow Him. Then a rich young man comes and knees before Jesus and asks ‘good master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?’ In 1 peter 3:15 we’re told to always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in you. I think it’s very interesting that this young man came and knelt before Jesus and asked Him this question. He must have seen in Jesus a different hope, a better hope. He must have seen that He was a teacher from God at least. He may not have understood fully who Jesus was, but he had caught a glimpse. When was the last time someone asked you what the reason for your hope was? Do we live differently from the non Christians around us? Do we live like we hope in something different from them?
Jesus’ answer to this young man is both instructive and condemning. He says in verses 18 and 19 ‘why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is God. Thou knowest the commandments, do not commit adultery, do not kill, no steal, do not bear false witness, defraud not, honour thy father and thy mother.’ Jesus answer seems like two different answers, but as we see this incident play out, we’ll understand why He talks as He does. Firstly; there is none good but one, that is God. This is a statement totally opposed to what most people think today. People are regarded as ‘good,’ we’re not so sure about God anymore. People are the judge, God is in the dock. Not according to Jesus. Jesus says there is no one good apart from God. Why do bad things happen to good people? Well, according to Jesus, there are no good people. We’ll come back to this.
The second part of Jesus’ answer is just as interesting. He lists the commandments in answer to the man’s question. Do not commit adultery, do not kill, no not steal. But there’s something missing from this list isn’t there? He’s missed out the commandments that concern man and God. In my experience whenever you ask someone why they deserve to go to Heaven they’ll always say ‘well I’ve never killed anyone or stolen anything, I’m not that bad.’ and that’s exactly what the young man says here in verse 20: ‘and he answered and said unto Him, Master, all these I have observed from my youth.’ He says: ‘Jesus, I’ve done all that, I’ve been doing them all my life, I have kept these commands and kept them well.’ He is, in many ways a typical unsaved member of a church. He does everything, he attends every event, he’s respectful, everyone thinks he’s a good guy…and he’s going to Hell. That’s what Jesus says. Look at verses 21 and 22 with me: ‘then Jesus beholding him, loved him and said unto him, ‘one thing thou lackest, go thy way, sell whatever thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven: and come, take up thy cross and follow me. And he was sad and that saying, and went away grieved, for he had great possessions.’
The young man thinks he’s good, good enough for Heaven. We know that Jesus says that there is none good, but God only. This man is not good enough for Heaven. You are not good enough for Heaven. So what is he supposed to do? Jesus says ‘sell everything and follow me.’ So is that how we get to Heaven? Being poor? Living in a hut with no electricity? Do I need to sell my laptop to go to Heaven? The man went away sad because as much as he wanted to inherit eternal life he didn’t want it more than his riches. He was more interested in thirty, fourty, fifty years of comfort here than he was in an eternity of joy in Heaven . Jesus said he lacked one thing…what was that one thing? Saving faith! He lacked a love for Jesus. He lacked an understanding that what Jesus called him to lose was nothing in comparison to what he would gain.
Here’s where tonight’s passage gets really relevant for you and me. Jesus says later in verse 25 ‘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.’ Will it be hard for you to go to Heaven? Do you find it hard to be a Christian? Do you find it hard to do what you know is right when you’re at school, or when you’re surrounded by your friends? Are there things, like this mans riches, that you need to give up so that you can enter the Kingdom of Heaven? Do you need to take some things to Jesus and give them up because they are making you like a camel going through the eye of a needle? It was hard for the rich man not to be rich and to be a Christian instead. What would his rich friends say if he gave all his possessions away ‘because God told him to?’ They’d laugh at him, he’d be an outcast. Is that true for you? What’s holding you back from giving everything you’ve got for Jesus? What’s stopping you? Do you think you’re ‘good’ like this man because you’ve never killed anyone? If you think it’s tough in middle school it’s going to get a whole lot harder in high school. If you think it’s tough to stand up for Jesus at high school then trust me, it’s going to get a whole lot harder at university. It just is. If you think that you can just not break commandments and be ok as a Christian, Jesus says theirs is one thing you lack. You lack Jesus.
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