A man asks Jesus, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" Despite following all the commandments, the man leaves this encounter sad. Why?Greensburg Church of the Nazarene
*not a word for word transcript, but the sermon manuscript*
BUT I …
PART ONE: …FOLLOWED ALL THE RULES
17 As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” 20 Jesus said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21 Jesus looked at him, loved him, and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. (NRSV)
This is the Word of God, for the people of God, thanks be to God.
This man comes to Jesus seeking eternal life. Jesus is God, claiming as much in this passage, and we know God loves everyone. God does not want anyone to perish, but all to have eternal life. It seems this story has all the elements for a beautiful collision; however, it does not end that way. What goes wrong? Why was this man’s obedience not good enough?
IN THE TEXT: Quest for eternal life
***[v17-19] FOLLOW THE TEN COMMANDMENTS ***
The rich man does not try to slip before Jesus unnoticed, he runs in, worried that he might miss his opportunity to meet with Jesus. Not only does he run to get to Jesus, but the rich man kneels at the Lord’s feet. He was sincere in his quest and believed Jesus possessed the eternal life he was seeking.
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The question of a sincere seeker. Jesus answers the rich man by saying, “Follow the Ten Commandments.” He lists off all those that focus on “loving others.” Those commandments, along with the others, are God’s expectations for humanity. Ultimately, the basics of being a human being.
***[v20-22] FOLLOWED THE MONEY***
Upon hearing the Lord’s words, the rich man says, “I’ve done all that, my entire life.” He had not murdered anyone, stolen from them, or broken any of the other commands. Based on the limited information provided, we have no reason to doubt this rich man’s claim.
The passage tells us Jesus looked at him. This is one of those moments that Jesus looks at someone and knows exactly who they are, everything about them. He looked and saw this rich man. Jesus saw his sincere desire for eternal life, all the effort he put forth to obtain it, and saw the hopelessness of his struggle to grasp this through his own might. Jesus saw the rich man and loved him.
By loving him, Jesus is going to tell the rich man the truth he needs to hear to gain eternal life. This is what love does, it shares the truth. Paul echoes this in 1 Corinthians, in the famous love chapter, writing, “love rejoices in truth.” The truth Jesus shares is, “You lack one thing, go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and then come follow me.” All that stood between the rich and the gift of eternal life was his wealth, and Jesus loved him enough to tell him.
Unfortunately, this was asking too much. The rich man had spent his entirely life obedient to God’s commandments, the goal was to obtain eternal life. All that stood between him, and this gift was his wealth, but the rich man was unwilling to let it go. He goes away sad, and notice Jesus does not chase after him. Jesus does not offer to lower the standard, or apologize for it. While the rich man wanted the gift of eternal life, his heart was the true obstacle to receiving it.
FROM THE TEXT: Cost for eternal life
Why was the man’s obedience not good enough? And what does the answer have to do with us? The rich man’s heart was the problem, and his mind was tethered to a pattern of this world. His heart and mind were not only him keeping from the fullness of life here, but the promise of eternal life. That gift of salvation through faith in Jesus.
The rich man had the mistaken idea that eternal life was something he could earn. Life taught him that hard work, good manners, and honoring the family legacy brought money, fame, and influence. None of those things are evil, but God’s kingdom is not based on earning anything. Therefore, Jesus looks at the man lovingly, the Savior sees the ineffectiveness his struggle. Eternal life is not earned, it is gift for those who follow Jesus.
Jesus also sees that the man has performed flawlessly. The rich man had kept all the commandments from the days of his youth. But all the behavior was an outward show. Inwardly, the rich man’s attitudes and motives are still following his own desires. He sincerely wanted eternal life, but stemming from a desire of self-preservation. When the truth was revealed to the rich man, all he had to do was let go of his wealth and follow Jesus. However, his heart that loved wealth led him to walk away sad, rejecting the very gift he so earnestly sought.
BEYOND THE TEXT: Let go for eternal life
John Wesley wrote, “The love of God, without with all religion is a dead carcass. In order to obtain this, throw away what is to you the grand hindrance.” To love God, as His commandments tell us to do, we cannot have any other gods but Him. We are to pursue Jesus at the cost all else. This includes our families, health, jobs, and the pursuit of our own happiness. You and I cannot follow Jesus while clinging to them.
We must stop trying to earn what Jesus has already offered us freely. The gift of eternal life is so grand, it cannot be grasped with only one hand. No amount of effort will earn us a special check mark or gold pass to allow for clinging to earthly desires. The only way is to let go of what hinders us with both hands.
CALL TO RESPONSE:
What is your great idol? Small idols? Will you give them up and come follow Jesus? Let go.
Season 1 Episode 31. "Puff the Magic Christian." The text for the message is Colossians 2:8-23. The question we are trying to answer is "How do I be a good Christian?"