13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven." 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away. 16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, "Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?" 17And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments." 18He said to him, "Which ones?" And Jesus said, "You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, 19Honor your father and mother, and, you shall love your neighbor as yourself." 20The young man said to him, "All these I have kept. What do I still lack?" 21Jesus said to him, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Let us begin with the account of the same incident in Luke.
15 Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to him, saying, "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." 18 And a ruler asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 19 And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.'" 21 And he said, "All these I have kept from my youth." 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." 23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.
13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. 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?" 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." 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
All three versions of this encounter establish agreement as to the context of the episode. Jesus was blessing children that had been brought to Him. Luke says some were infants. So we can assume that these are small children, infants to toddlers perhaps a little older. The disciples rebuked those who had brought the children to the Lord. Compare this to the story of the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:22-28. Like us it seems the disciples were slow to learn.
Jesus’ response re: the children was to the point; don’t hinder them from approaching Him, since this is how one enters the Kingdom of Heaven. We approach the Lord as His children would; in absolute confidence and faith, knowing that He is our Father; which is how any child would approach his/her loving father. A true and loving father requires no good deed in order for his children to come to him, as even when the child errs and disobeys, he or she can still approach their father to receive his love, which is also demonstrated in correction.(Hebrews 12:5-11) The love of the Lord is not earned.
This does not mean the Kingdom belongs to the childish. Jesus is talking about faith, innocence, and God’s election. This is much the same as Paul’s statement that the Lord chose the foolish things of the world in order to confound the wisdom of men. Unfortunately the church tends to think that in both instances we are given permission to act childishly, immaturely and foolishly. All such behavior dishonors God.
Now comes the wealthy young man, who seizes this opportunity to question Jesus.
“What good work must I do to inherit eternal life, i.e. a place in the Kingdom?”
Jesus’ response is interesting. He does not begin with a list of good works, but asks a question in return.
“And Jesus said to him, why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”
Why call Him good indeed? If only God alone is good, (and that is a true statement), then one who calls Jesus good, must also be acknowledging that He is God. I believe that the Lord was asking Him, are you acknowledging that I am God; that the Father is in me, and I in the Father? (John 14:6-11)
Then Jesus basically tells him, you know the Law, keep it. It is curious that the young man asks Jesus in Matthew’s account, “which ones?”
You would think that the answer would be; How about all of them? However, the Lord gives Him a list of commandments from the ten listed in Exodus 20 as well as Lev 19:18, love your neighbor as yourself. The response from this man is he has kept those from his youth. I have no doubt that this man may have tried to keep these commandments faithfully as he said, but I also have no doubt that he had broken other commandments. Aside from that, we know from Paul’s letter to the Romans (chapters 2-8) that the Law was given to make us aware of the wrong we were already doing, The Law has never saved anyone simply because we are unable to keep it.
This brings the dialogue to it’s climax.
The Lord looks upon this young, wealthy, “righteous” man with compassion, as he delivers the ultimate blow;
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."
Upon hearing this the young man turned and left; totally disheartened, sad, sorrowful. There is no question that this person was completely sincere in his quest for eternal life, he was not ready to hear that he could not save himself out of his own righteousness. For if salvation comes by grace through faith, not of works, and even the faith to hear and believe is a gift from God, as the scripture says is so; then even selling all that he had and giving the proceeds to the poor would not save this man. He couldn't even bring himself to do this, let alone begin to follow Christ. Good works performed in the following of Jesus, come after one is “saved” (Eph 2:8-10)
We will continue on in Matthew to the conclusion of this study.
23And 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." 25When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?" 26But Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Here the Lord is not saying that a rich man will be able to enter in, but it will be tough work ahead, since we know that no none is saved by works, no matter how noble the efforts. He is saying it is difficult for a rich man to hear the message, believe and act upon it, as worldly wealth is an obstacle to entering the “heavenly economy” of God’s Kingdom, i,e, giving up the worldly treasure, for the sake of the true treasure in heaven.
19 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
I will not address the cultural context and meaning of the camel and the “eye of the needle” here, as the Lord’s point is simply that it is impossible for a rich man to enter God’s Kingdom based on his wealth, position, or self-righteousness.
The bewildered cry of those following Him drips with despair: "Who then can be saved?" If someone who is wealth,schooling, and even a form of righteousness cannot be saved, then what chance does the ordinary folk, the poor have? Praise God for the answer;
26But Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Compare this to:
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Only God can save men, through the incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension of His Son.
27Then Peter said in reply, "See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?"
What Peter is saying here is that he and the other disciples have done what the Lord asked the young man to do. They gave up their very lives, all that they had, even their families, to follow Him. So what is their reward in the Kingdom? They may not have had as much to forsake as the rich man, but they gave it all. The question is, why did they forsake everything to follow Christ? How were they able to do this? The answer is simple; because HE called them and they responded to His call, His voice. (Matthew 4:19; Mark1:17;Luke 5:27)
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
It matters not whether we are rich, poor, or middle class. We are to forsake all to follow Christ. Just as Abraham left the land of his father and the life he knew, because he heard the voice of the Lord, so do all who are called, and believe by faith, i.e. the elect.(Genesis 12: 1-6; Genesis 15:5-6)
Romans 4: 1 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness."
John 10: 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
Romans 10: 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Therefore all who are called to faith, are able through the power of the Spirit, to obey the commandments of God, and follow Christ.
29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
The conclusion of the matter is this:
28Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. 30But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
The reward for the apostles will be the authority to sit in judgment over God’s people. This is not speaking of judgment as condemnation. This is ruling and reigning in the Kingdom of God. It is the administering of the Lord’s justice, equity and peace, that is ,the “shalom” of God
For ALL who have forsaken everything to follow Him, i.e.those who are called, there will be a reward and an inheritance also. These are all who walked with the Lord and the apostles on earth, and all who come to faith based on the word of the apostles. (John 17:19-21)
The exalted will be humbled, and the humble will be exalted. Well did James warn the church:
1 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, "You sit here in a good place," while you say to the poor man, "You stand over there," or, "Sit down at my feet," 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? 8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Is this not what the Lord told the wealthy man to do? Though he claimed to have done this, the truth was shown in that he could not sell all that he had and give it to the poor.
1John3: 8 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
The modern western church is enamored with wealth, talents, position, and celebrity. This is not the Kingdom of God. The “sum” of the parts is this; The story of the rich young man is not the defining of a “social gospel” as some would suggest. It is the revealing of God's salvation. Salvation lies solely in the unconditional election and call of a sovereign God. There is nothing else. What is impossible with men, is only possible with God.
Romans 9:16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
Soli Deo Gloria!