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Rich Young Ruler
Matthew 19:16-30 “Now behold, one
came and said to Him, "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may
have eternal life?" So He said to him, "Why do you call Me good?
No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter
into life, keep the commandments." He said to Him, "Which
ones?" Jesus said, "‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit
adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false
witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love
your neighbor as yourself.’" The young man said to Him, "All
these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?" Jesus
said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give
to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."
But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he
had great possessions. Then Jesus said to His disciples, "Assuredly,
I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
"And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the
eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of
God." When His disciples heard it, they were greatly
astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?" But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God
all things are possible." Then Peter answered and said to Him,
"See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we
have?" So Jesus said to them, "Assuredly I say to you, that in
the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who
have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of
Israel. "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or
father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall
receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. "But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
It might surprise you to learn that I
have something in common with this young man.
No, I’m not rich.
Well, maybe I shouldn’t tell you this, and I would
appreciate it if you didn’t spread it around, but actually . . . . I’m working
on my second million.
That’s right, my second million . . . I gave up on the first one a long time ago.
No, I’m not rich.
However, even though our young people might find it
hard to believe, there was a time, way back in the ages past, when I was a young man.
But it’s not the age of this young man, and
certainly not his riches, that we have in common.
No, it’s the question he asked . . . “what good thing shall I do that I may have
In fact, his
question takes me back to the time when I was about 18 years old, living
in my parents’ home, and was a member of my parents’ church, the United Church
I sang in the choir, held an office in
the young people’s group, and I thought I was a Christian.
However, even though I had heard the
Bible stories in Sunday school, and even though the pastor referred to a few
verses of Scripture as the text for his message, I had no idea that Jesus’ death
on the cross and His resurrection were of any benefit to me.
No, I was as ignorant of the good news
of Christ’s salvation as any lost soul in the jungles of Africa.
And then, one day, an idea popped into
I said to myself, “Here I am a Christian
(for, indeed, I thought I was) and I’ve never read the Bible for myself.”
I also wondered if there was something
in there―some rule or requirement I could fulfil―that would
guarantee my entrance into heaven.
Somewhat like the young man’s question,
As I think back to that time, I
sometimes wonder where that question came from.
Maybe the prayers of my grandmother―the
only grandparent I ever knew―were being answered.
I really don’t know, and, to be honest,
I really didn’t know my grandmother that well.
Up until the time I was eight years old,
our family lived on a farm west of Embro.
The little red schoolhouse I went to
was on the corner of the field next to our house, and right across the road was
the cottage my grandmother lived in.
I hardly ever went there, and she only visited
us about once a year.
We didn’t look forward to her visits.
My grandmother belonged to the Brethren,
and we were nervous what she might say.
One time she gave me this little New
On the inside cover she has some Gospel
One is a picture of a doorway and it
said I am the way the truth and the life, and so on.
In the other one is a clock that says, Now
is the accepted time of salvation, and on the back is a lighthouse
saying that Jesus is the light of the world.
When I get to heaven, I would like to
talk to her about that, and finally get to know my grandmother a little better.
Getting back to the time when I was 18
We had left the farm when I was about eight
and were living in Woodstock.
As I mentioned, I began wondering if
there was something in the Bible I didn’t know.
Well, there was a Bible on the coffee
table in our living room, but it was there more or less as a symbol or
To be honest, I didn’t feel comfortable
picking it up.
However, there was a small Gideon New
Testament and Psalms in my dresser drawer.
It had been given to me years ago when
I was in Grade 5.
So, I picked it up and began to read.
When I finished Matthew and started
Mark, I said to myself, “Why, this is the same thing all over again.”
Of course, I had no idea that it took
four separate books to properly portray the Lord Jesus.
I continued reading, but I really can’t
say I made any important discoveries.
However, my mother, who apparently knew
more about the Gospel than I did, and noticed I was reading the Bible a lot, took
me to a Youth for Christ meeting in our high school.
I couldn’t understand why she would
take me there, as I always thought the kind of people who went there were a
However, over the process of time, and as
I now owned my own car, not only did I attend the Youth for Christ meetings in
Woodstock, but I went to a few in London.
And it was there that I understood the
good news of Christ’s salvation, and accepted Him as my Saviour.
Getting back to the rich young ruler,
the first thing we notice is that, inspite of his riches, and no doubt
considerable prestige, he didn’t seem to be a proud man.
fact, Mark 10:17 tells us he “came running,” and “knelt
Obviously, he looked
upon Him as a great teacher, but I don’t think he recognized Him as his Messiah,
and certainly not the Son of God.
Returning to our text in Matthew 19:16,
we find him asking a question that no doubt was much on his mind . . . “Good
Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”
Certainly, that would be the type of question that
anyone schooled in Old Testament Law would ask.
But what about the answer?
In view of what we know about man’s sinful
condition, why would Jesus say . . . “But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” And when he asked . . . . “Which ones?" Jesus said, "‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not
commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’
‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor
Galatians 3:21 makes it clear that . . . “if there had been a law given
which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law.”
there ever been such a law?
Well, in view
of man’s sinful condition, we can safely say there has not.
that’s not even the purpose of God’s law.
No, its purpose
is to point out man’s sinful condition and his need of a substitute.
And as we
know, that substitute is pictured in the tabernacle and its sacrifices.
Or, to put it in the words of Galatians 3:24 . . . “the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ,
that we might be justified by faith.”
So, when this young man came to Jesus with his question, the
Master faithfully directed him to the tutor (or schoolmaster) that His Heavenly
Father had supplied. . . “if you want to enter into
life, keep the commandments.”
That was step one.
But as you will notice, Jesus only directed him to
the six commandments that relate to his fellow man.
don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, and so on.
So, even if we disregard his obvious responsibility
to God, had he kept the laws concerning his fellow man?
Well, he thought he had
. . . “All
these things I have kept from my youth.”
And, no doubt, as far as man was concerned, his reputation was
But, what about God?
If you want to get into God’s heaven, you’ll need to pass God’s
inspection, won’t you?
How would he measure up under those conditions?
Well, in Matthew chapter five, Jesus gives us an insight into the
way God looks at things.
One day when a multitude was gathering, Jesus went up into a
mountain and sat down with His disciples and began to teach the people.
He spoke of the poor in spirit who would be blessed
in His coming kingdom, and the righteous who would never experience hunger anymore.
And then He switched from the material to the spiritual, and to
God’s way of looking at things.
In Matthew 5:21-22 we find Him saying. . . “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not
murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ "But I say
to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in
danger of the judgment.”
And then, in V 27-28 we read . . . “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not
commit adultery.’ "But I say to you
that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery
with her in his heart.”
So then, as He continued teaching, the crowd gradually came to the
realization that God didn’t look at their sins in the same way they did.
It was a startling revelation, and one they had never considered.
And I wouldn’t be surprised if the rich young ruler hadn’t thought
about it either.
Had he searched his heart, the very heart that God was looking at,
he would have never said . . . “All
these things I have kept from my youth.”
In fact, if he had considered Jesus’ initial response a little
more carefully, he would have realized his question had been already answered.
You see, even before he asked
the question. . . “what
good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life," Jesus pointed out, and I might say, quite
forcefully, that . . . “No
one is good but One, that is, God.”
That rather rules out the possibility of qualifying for heaven on the basis of your
good works, doesn’t it?
And, inspite of his outward success, I think Jesus’
comment gradually sunk in, for we find him asking the question . . . “What
do I still lack?”
At this point, I would like to point out something
that is not recorded in Matthew’s Gospel.
Mark 10:21 says “. . . Jesus, looking at him, loved him.”
Yes, Jesus really loved this young man, and He wanted to take him under His wing.
In fact, if my memory serves me correctly, I believe
this young man was one of only two men―other than the 12 disciples, of
course―who received a personal invitation to follow Jesus.
Obviously, he couldn’t be one of the 12 apostles.
They are a select group who will someday rule over
the 12 tribes of Israel, but he did receive a personal invitation.
Of course, there
was the scribe, perhaps with stars in his eyes, who said . . . “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go,” but that was a little different.
In that case, it was his enthusiasm, not Jesus’ invitation, that
But would enthusiasm be enough?
As a scribe, he was used to a comfortable lifestyle.
Now he would be relying on Someone who could not provide such
And Jesus was very clear on that point.
In fact, He said . . . "Foxes
have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has
nowhere to lay His head."
Yes, it would be a big decision.
And it was a decision that the disciples had already made.
Some of them had been fishermen, one was a tax collector, and one
was a doctor.
Such a choice would have meant quitting their job and the income
Somehow, we might have gotten the idea that all of Jesus’ disciples
were young bachelors, footloose and fancy free, but there’s no basis for that assumption.
For instance, in Matthew 8:14 -15 we read . . . “Now
when Jesus had come into Peter’s house, He saw his wife’s mother lying sick
with a fever. So He touched her hand,
and the fever left her. And she arose and served them.”
Yes, Peter had a mother-in-law, and unless he was a widower, he
also had a wife, and perhaps children.
And no doubt this would have been the case with many of the
How could they provide for their families if they followed Jesus?
The fact is, there were those who contributed to the material needs
of Jesus and His disciples, and no doubt the needs of their families.
And, at least when Judas wasn’t dipping into the bag, such an
income would be sufficient, but it wouldn’t be excessive.
When Jesus and His disciples were not near friends, such as
Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha, they wouldn’t be staying at an inn.
Many nights they would have slept under the stars, rolled up in
their robes, in all kinds of weather.
Yes, there would be hardships.
And, although it’s not recorded in Matthew, Mark’s Gospel tells us
that Jesus asked the rich young ruler to “take
up the cross” in addition to following Him.
What does that mean?
Well, in the case of the 12 disciples, we already know what it means.
It means sleeping under the stars in all kinds of weather.
But, that was only the beginning.
It would mean―instead of sharing an immediate and important
place in Jesus’ kingdom―they would be the servants of all, endure
persecution, and, in most cases, martyrdom.
Yes, following Jesus would not be easy.
However, that was only one side of the coin.
If they followed Jesus, they would enjoy opportunities that they
had never dreamed of.
They would be pillars in the church of Jesus Christ, and, someday,
they would rule over the 12 tribes of Israel.
And so it is with all who will follow Jesus.
In this world, they will have tribulation, but the rewards of their
faithful service will be beyond belief!
And this was the future that Jesus wanted for this young man.
If he followed Jesus, he would be weaned from the dead works of
the law, and, in time, would be a partaker in the eternal life he was seeking.
But there was a problem, and it was a big one.
Yes, there was a huge stumbling block in his way―that left
untouched―would bring about his downfall.
So, with love in His heart, Jesus said . . . “If
you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you
will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
As you might have noticed, Jesus didn’t say, Give up your wealth and you can earn your
way to heaven.
No, there’s only one way to get there, and it
has nothing to do with good works.
But good works are important.
In fact, Ephesians 2:10 says . . . “we are His
workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared
beforehand that we should walk in them.”
And, 1 Corinthians chapter 3 makes it clear that God is far more
interested in the materials we use than
the impression we make.
Certainly “. . . no other foundation
can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
But having said that, we have the choice between constructing a
grand edifice to our own glory out of wood, hay and straw, or, motivated by our
love for Jesus, working in gold and silver and precious stones.
On the other hand, we could dedicate our life to an entirely
Jesus discourages such a choice, and especially in the case of a
Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not lay
up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where
thieves break in and steal; "but lay up for yourselves treasures in
heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in
and steal. "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Certainly, it is Christ’s work, not ours, that secures our place
in heaven, but the destination of our
life’s work is our responsibility.
Wouldn’t it make sense if it ended up in the same place we did?
I heard about a man who walked in to an airline
counter and said, “I would like to travel to England, and I would like my
baggage to go to Hong Kong.”
The clerk said, “I’m sorry sir, we can’t do that.”
To which the man replied, “Why not? That’s what you
did the last time I flew with your airline.”
So you see, Jesus wasn’t making an unreasonable
He was simply giving this young man the opportunity
of turning his stumbling block into a heavenly asset.
You might say Jesus was asking him to melt down his
worthless idol and lay its gold at
It was a big decision, and one Jesus doesn’t ask
everyone to make.
No, He doesn’t ask every rich man to give up his
For instance, Abraham was a rich man, so was King
David, but their wealth wasn’t an obstacle.
You see, the real problem isn’t money, it is “the love of money” that “is a root of all kinds of evil.”
In fact, it is the love of anything, be it wealth, the
approval of friends and family, our reputation, or some cherished ambition . .
. just anything that takes the place of the Lord Jesus.
Yes, the first commandment is just as relevant in
the case of the Lord Jesus as it is in the case of His Father . . . “You shall
have no other gods before Me.”
And as far as the rich young ruler was concerned, his
riches would be an insurmountable obstacle.
Would it make sense, humanly speaking, to sleep out
in the open, like the disciples, when he had enough money to afford the best
hotel in town?
How could he depend upon the Lord Jesus when he had
such a backup plan?
No, He must make a decision, and he did . . . “when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had
I’m sure you
have been following this young man’s encounter quite carefully, but at this
point, I would ask you to pay very close attention.
In fact, it was
the events that followed his departure, and particularly Jesus’ reaction to his
departure, that drew my attention to this scripture.
As the young man walked away, I don’t think he was
the only one who was sorrowing.
No, I can almost see the tears in Jesus’ eyes as He
turned to His disciples and said . . . “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to
enter the kingdom of heaven. "And again I say to you, it is easier
for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the
kingdom of God.”
“When His disciples heard it,
they were greatly astonished . . .”
Why were they
Well, I think
it’s because they held the common belief, as we often do today, that riches are
a sign of God’s approval.
that can be the case, but it’s not always so.
In fact, many
of God’s dear saints possess very little of this world’s goods.
though their astonishment might not have been well founded, the disciples had
asked a good question . . . "Who then can be saved?"
Yes, it was a
good question, but I don’t think they were prepared for Jesus’ answer.
Turning to His disciples, to get their full attention, Jesus said,
“With men this is impossible, but with
God all things are possible."
Did He really say that?
Did He really say―not only is it hard for a rich man to
enter the kingdom of heaven―but as far as man is concerned, it is an
Yes, He did.
I realize, most everyone here understands the truth of Jesus’ words.
have settled that question long ago.
there might be someone here this morning who is thinking . . . “What about the multitudes of people who
believe they can sufficiently obey God’s commandments to gain an entrance into
heaven, or, at least, if they haven’t quite obeyed all of God’s Laws, they can
do enough good works to put themselves on the plus side of the ledger?”
me hasten to say that God’s Word absolutely refutes the idea that we can work our way to heaven.
2:8-9 says, “For
by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it
is the gift of God, (look at that
little word, it’s a gift) not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
And Titus 3:5-6 plainly teaches us that it is “not by works of righteousness which we have
done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of
regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us
abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.”
And in addition to this, the Son of God―Who
certainly should know what the criteria is for getting into heaven―made
it quite clear, that "With men this is impossible.”
why is it so impossible?
is impossible because God is entirely righteous, and man is
as you might have guessed, those two conditions are not compatible.
it wasn’t always so.
see, in the beginning, God created Adam and Eve in His likeness, which among
other things, meant they were entirely sinless.
under the influence of Satan’s lie, they rebelled against their Creator.
when sin entered the world and became part of human nature.
fact, this change is recorded in Genesis 5:1-3 “This is the book of the genealogy of Adam.
In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created
them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind in the day they
were created. And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image,
and named him Seth.”
You see the transition?
Adam was created in “the
likeness of God.”
However, after he had sinned and was cast out of the garden, he “begot a son in his own likeness,” and “after his image.”
Seth was created in the likeness of his father, and,
unfortunately, so were the rest of us.
Yes, we are sinners by inheritance,
and we are sinners by our own actions.
Now, I realize most everyone here is fully aware of that fact.
And, of course, most everyone would admit they’re not perfect, but
neither is anyone else.
After all, we haven’t robbed a bank, or committed murder, or lied
How bad does sin have to be before it will keep you out of heaven?
We talked about that a few minutes ago, didn’t we?
Remember Jesus’ words concerning God’s view of our sin?
He said hatred is just like murder, and lusting after a woman is
just like adultery.
No wonder Romans 3:23 draws the conclusion that . . . “all have sinned and fall short of the
glory of God.”
And no wonder Romans 3:10 confirms the fact that . . . “There
is none righteous, no, not one.”
Yes, when Jesus told His disciples−with men it is impossible−He was right on the
But He told them something else, didn’t He?
He also told them that. . . “with
God all things are possible.”
Yes, “with God all things
are possible,” but all things are not easy.
God can’t snap His fingers and simply say, “I will forget about
Romans 6:23 tells us that the “wages of sin is death,” and those wages must be paid.
And by the way, not only are we talking about physical death, which we are all familiar with, but we are talking
about spiritual death, separation from
God, lost forever in hell.
Yes, the “wages of sin is death.”
But praise God, “the gift of God (there’s that little word again) the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans
But how could such a gift be resident in the Lord Jesus?
How could God be righteous, and at the same time justify the unrighteous?
Well, believe it or not, the prophet Isaiah foretold such a gift.
He even explained how it works.
And so, why don’t we just turn together to Isaiah 53?
I know you are all pretty familiar with your Bible, but if you’re
having trouble, Isaiah 53 is right after Isaiah 52.
No, it’s right after Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of
Solomon, and then comes Isaiah.
And here we see, you might say, the inner workings of what was
done on the cross.
Isaiah 53:11: “He (that
is God) shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.”
Yes, Jesus’ sacrifice would completely satisfy a righteous God.
Does it satisfy us, or do we want to add something else to it?
And then, Isaiah goes on to say . . . “By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall
bear their iniquities.”
Did you hear that? “He
shall bear their iniquities.”
It’s the only way anyone can be justified.
And because Jesus paid the full price of our sin, God could “demonstrate at the present time His
righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith
in Jesus.” Romans 3:26
Can you imagine a love that would compel Someone to sacrifice His
own Son to save those who were His enemies?
Can you imagine a Son who would trade places with such sinners and
allow them to trade places with Him?
It’s hard to believe, but 2 Corinthians 5:21 confirms that very
“For He” (that is God) “made Him” (Jesus) “who knew no sin to be sin for us,
that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
That’s the cost of the free gift that is offered to you today.
And these are the conditions under which you can receive it.
You must forsake your
sins―the sins that nailed Jesus to the cross―and you must acknowledge
Him as your Lord and Saviour.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of
yourselves; it is the (what?) “gift
of God” (it’s a gift), not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
No, you cannot be saved by works.
Jesus was right when He said . . . "With men this is
And that awful impossibility made something else impossible.
Remember Jesus’ words in the Garden of Gethsemane?
“O My Father,
if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me.”
But it wasn’t possible
Because God is “not willing
that any should perish but that all should come to repentance,” He had to
The “wages of sin is death,” and those wages must be paid.
And knowing the cost―that awful cost―Jesus immediately
responded . . . “nevertheless, not as I
will, but as You will.”
You see, be it God or man, there are only two ways, two choices.
“He who believes in the Son has everlasting
life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of
God abides on him.” John 3:36
So, what should we do?
Well, the apostle Paul gives us the answer.
He says . . . “The word is near you, in your mouth (you
might say it’s right on the tip of your tongue) “and in your heart” (because God put it there) “(that is, the word of faith which we preach):
(and now, here it is) “that if you confess with your mouth the
Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you
will be saved.”
Not, might be saved . .
. “you will be saved.” Romans 10:8-9
That’s His part . . . “you
will be saved.”
Your part is to believe and receive the Lord Jesus.
then can be saved?”
You can, because of Jesus.
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