The Rich Young Man

August 16, 2021

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. (Matthew 19:16-22).

This is a most important encounter of Jesus while on His way to Jerusalem to face the cross. It is important because there are several questions that must be asked and answered regarding who Jesus is, the requirements of salvation, the good works of those who would follow Jesus, and the religious sincerity of the young man.

• Jesus’ first response seems inconsistent with His formula for salvation. It sounds like a works program focused on keeping the commandments, which commandments were not given to save, but to point out the sinfulness of men and the need for salvation. Jesus came preaching the formula for salvation, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15).

• The man’s response that he has kept the commandments seems unrealistic, especially considering Jesus’ interpretation of the Law in the Sermon on the Mount, i.e. (Matthew 5:21-22) 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 whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire. Are we to believe this man never got angry at anyone without cause or called anyone a fool?

• Jesus’ last response also smacks of a works salvation, Go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me. I get the ‘come follow Me’ part, but ‘give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven’ seems like something you would do after being saved, not what you would do to be saved.

We will hopefully answer some of these questions as we take a closer look at Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man.

“Lord Jesus, there are things in Scripture that puzzle us because they seem contradictory. Give us wisdom through Your Word and the Holy Spirit to clearly understand the message of the Gospel so that we can present it plainly and powerfully to those who ask. To Your honor and glory I ask, Amen.” 


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