- Sermon Notes
The Rich Young Ruler
Matthew chapter 19 continues; some children were brought to Jesus so He might lay hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. Here again, we see Jesus’s heart for children when Jesus corrected the disciples and said, "Let the children alone, do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
From the other Gospels we know that Jesus also said, "Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all." Jesus was not saying that we must become childish, but rather childlike in having a heart of humility before God.
And that leads us to an astonishing conversation that Jesus had with a young man who came to Jesus and knelt down before him asking, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to obtain eternal life?"
The reason I suggest this is an astonishing conversation is because when this conversation is ended, the disciples are astonished and even asked, "Then who can be saved?" Another amazing answer follows when Jesus says, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
It's interesting that verse 16 begins with, "And behold…" It's as if God were saying to us, "You need to see this, you need to consider this; it's extremely important for you to understand." There's a reason this young man is brought before us, it's because there is so much we can receive for ourselves when we consider this young man's life and his response to Jesus's challenge. In fact, if we will open our hearts to receive it, Jesus will change our perspective for this life and for eternity.
I. The World’s Treasure Maps are All Wrong
- By the standards of many people, this man seems to have had it all. This is a young man who was also wealthy and powerful. For all we know he was good-looking as well, or at least there were no doubt plenty of young women who would want to convince him of that.
- These are all the things the world desires. He was young, and we know of course that our culture worships youth.
- But wealth and power are also the desire of most.
- But he knew he lacked something, he had all these things, but he did not have eternal life.
- And if he didn't have eternal life, he couldn't be satisfied in this world either.
- There is a wonderful quote by Calvin Miller in his book, The Finale, "The world is poor because her fortune is buried in heaven, but all her treasure maps are of the earth…"
A. It’s not enough to have it all
- This young man had all these things, but he's empty, he’s restless, he lacks peace. He knows that it's not enough to get him life.
- I'm convinced we’re told to behold this young man because so many people will be able to relate to his dilemma.
- I’m further convinced that many people in our modern age who live in this country can most certainly relate to this young man.
Illus - We are in the top 5 percent of the world's wealth.
- By the way, it's not that God has anything against wealth itself. There were many famous people in the scriptures that God loved and honored that were wealthy.
- Abraham was most certainly wealthy, as were his sons Isaac and Jacob. Joseph in Egypt became one of the wealthiest men in his time. David certainly became a wealthy man, and the world has yet to find an equal to Solomon in regards to wealth. Joseph of Arimathea, who buried Jesus in his own tomb was certainly wealthy. So wealth itself was not the issue.
Illus - "I'm not wealthy," someone might say, "I don't have servants like so many of them did." Really? Do you have a dishwasher? Running water? Do you have a heater in your house? Do you drive a car? How many horses are under the hood? In the old days, people who couldn't afford servants used to have lots of kids; now, if you have kids, it's because you want to love on them.
Illus – What we do know is that you can seemingly have it all, but it's not enough. All we have to do is look at all the successful, wealthy people in the news recently who have melted down their lives.
- They can't enjoy what they do have when their soul is empty and their eternal future hangs over their head.
Luke 12:15, Then He said to them, "Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions."
Illus – When they started building the Panama Canal, many of the native workers quit as soon as they received their first paycheck because it was more money than most of them had received in their lifetimes. The answer; provide Sears and Roebuck catalogs so they'll realize what they don't have.
B. Doing good things is also not enough
- From the other Gospels we know that he called Jesus, "Good Teacher." He then asked, "What good shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?"
- First, Jesus confronts his use of the word "good." He recognized Jesus was good, but didn't recognize that He was sent from God.
John 3:2, Nicodemus came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him."
- Jesus then said to the young man, "You know the commandments, if you wish to enter into life, keep them." Jesus's answer is clear, "If you want to enter life by your doing; then keep the commandments."
- To our surprise the young man responded, "Which ones?" There's a part of me that wishes Jesus would have said, "What you mean, ‘which ones?’ Keep all of them!"
James 2:10, For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.
- But Jesus graciously leads him down a path to discover the truth about his own heart.
- Interestingly, Jesus lists five of the ten commandments that have to do with relationship to others and added, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," from Leviticus 19.
- The young man answered that he had kept all these things since he was young, "What am I still lacking?"
- When many people hear this answer, they suspect he's not being honest.
Illus – They want Jesus to bring out some holographic video of the young man "borrowing" his brother's clothes, or hiding the garbage behind the garage door instead of taking it out; convinced he's not being truthful.
- We need to understand that when Jesus heard this answer, he felt love for him.
Mark 10:21, Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said…
Illus – The young man was sincere and Jesus knew it. Some people ask questions that are not sincere at all, that are designed only to debate or confuse.
Illus - For example, many have wrong motives when they ask the question, "Can God make a rock so big that even he cannot lift it?" The answer, by the way, is no, He cannot, because there's no such thing as making something "More infinite." God cannot make a rock more infinite than Himself.
Galatians 6:7, Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.
II. One Thing is Needed; Love God First
- If you believe that Jesus is the Good Teacher, then you must also believe that what He teaches is good. It's good for us because it's based on how much God loves us.
- Jesus was putting His finger right on where the man had something in his life greater than God.
- There was something standing in the way of this young man having true and complete life, and life eternal.
A. Get rid of it; leave the world behind
- For this rich, young ruler, all his stuff had become an idol in his life and Jesus told him to get rid of it so that he could follow Him.
- It's as though God were saying, "Are you willing to put your present treasures on the scale against the eternal treasures God promises?"
- Remember that Jesus loved him as he said these things to Him, and He loves us as well.
App - What are the things in your life that the Lord is saying, "You need to get rid this, it's keeping you from following Me"?
- For this young man it was his stuff, his possessions, for someone else it might be their cupboard full of alcohol, for someone else, their wallet full of credit cards, for someone else, they need accountability while on the Internet, for someone else, their unforgiving bitterness.
- Remember, Jesus loved him and He loves us.
- He knows there is no life in those things.
App - If sex truly satisfied the soul, prostitutes would be the happiest people on earth. If alcohol truly satisfied the soul, alcoholics would be the happiest people on earth. Etc.
B. The world behind me, the cross before me
- There is an old song we used to sing in the church that captured this thought beautifully, "I have decided to follow Jesus…”
Illus – When Matthew was called to follow Jesus, he got up, left behind his tax collector’s table and followed Jesus.
Matthew 6:24, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."
- We say we want revival, but what does that mean? I'm convinced that revival happens when the church falls in love with God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.
C. Blessed are the poor in spirit
- When the young man heard Jesus's answer, he went away grieved; for he owned much property. But you can also imagine how much Jesus was also grieved.
- Jesus then said something remarkable, "Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. It's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle."
- Again, Jesus doesn't have anything against wealth itself, but He is asking, "Does it possess you? Does it have your heart more than God?"
- Jesus is saying that it's only when we recognize our spiritual poverty, our great need, the impossibility of saving ourselves, that we can be saved.
Mark 4:19, "but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the Word, and it becomes unfruitful."
Revelation 3:17-19, "Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see."
Mark 2:17, And hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
- Peter then said, "We have left everything to follow You, what then will there be for us?"
- Jesus then began to teach them about the treasures of heaven. This has been commonly misunderstood, but when seen rightly, it is a beautiful picture of the life of the Spirit that God wants for us.
Matthew 19:13-30 NASB