Rejecting Jesus’ Love?

We are studying the book of Matthew in BSF (Bible Study Fellowship). Recently we discussed Matthew 19:16-22, the story about the rich young ruler coming to Jesus to ask what one thing he had to do to gain eternal life. Mark adds in one little phrase that Matthew left out, and I’ll italicize it in the quote.

Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”

So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? no one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.'”

And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.”

Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, adn follow Me.”

But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Did you see that? Jesus looked at this young man and loved him. And still, the man left without recognizing the deity of Jesus and with a greater love for himself and his stuff than for Jesus and other people.

I’m interested. What do you make of this?

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10 Comments

Filed under Bible, Christ, Christianity, faith, religion

10 responses to “Rejecting Jesus’ Love?

  1. I’ve often thought about this wonderful story. What do we know about the man? He was rich, and he was young. Most likely he was born into the money he had which is helpful in understanding why Mark quotes him saying “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”. It is interesting to note the use of the word “Inherit.” The man was probably personally familiar with the concept of an inheritance. We also can surmise that he had a relatively high opinion of himself; “all these (commandments) I have kept from since I was a boy.” He was probably a man who got what he needed (wanted) without having to do too much to get it.
    Jesus starts his part of the conversation by debunking the rich mans thoughts about the man’s ability to be “good enough” by saying “Why do you call me good? No one is good – except God alone.” Jesus then directed him to the standard for everyone, the commandments.
    (Matthew) Jesus replied, “‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19honor your father and mother’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”
    (Mark) 19You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'”

    There’s a slight difference in the accounts here and I can’t help but to wonder why. Matthew quotes Jesus as saying “Love your neighbor as yourself” while Mark chooses to quote him as saying “do not defraud”. The probability could be suggested that the way this particular man would have chosen NOT to love his neighbor would have been to defraud them for possessions or money and so Jesus was saying the same thing in both cases.

    While the man was of the opinion that he had, from childhood, nailed those commandments down, both he and Jesus knew that there was something still lacking in his life. (Matthew) “What do I still lack” (Mark) “One thing you lack”. One thing was getting in the man’s way. One thing was more important than Jesus. One thing was more important than God; this man’s money.

    We sometimes get into a twist because we view this as money being bad. I don’t believe that is what Jesus is saying. He uses the same language in Matthew 5:29 & 30 when he says “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away … and if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to loose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” What is causing me to slip away from God? What keeps me from my spiritual growth? What hampers my relationship with Jesus? I must find those things and stamp them out.

    Alright, the point: This man lost the battle (as far as we know from the accounts given). Jesus was truly sad because he truly loved the man and wanted him to come home. The stakes are high and the battle is great. The going is rough for us all (like a camel going through the eye of a needle). After the man went away because of his wealth, and after Jesus laid out how difficult the choice for many is, the disciples asked the $1,000 question “Who then can be saved.”

    Great question. Who can win against wealth? Who can win against pornography? Who can win against anger? Who can win against selfishness? It may be something different for each of us, but who can win against that sin?

    Jesus gave the $1,000,000,000 answer “with God, all things are possible.”

    Salvation isn’t something I can earn.
    It isn’t something I can buy.
    It isn’t something I can get lucky and fall into.
    I can’t get it on my own by being perfect.
    I need Jesus.
    I need God.
    “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3: 20 &21).

    Sorry this is so long, I was on a roll.
    Tom

  2. Thanks, Tom. So much of what you said is exactly what we discussed in BSF or what I wrote on my lesson.

    Anybody else? I know some of you are studying this exact thing in BSF.

    Do any of you have any thoughts on this young man turning away from Jesus’ love? Is Jesus’ love resistible?

  3. Jeff

    This might be a bit long. Sorry (a little bit)

    I think these 3 passages (Matt 19:16-end of chapter, Mark 10:17-31, Luke 18:18-30) are very interesting. To begin to understand what Jesus is saying, we fist need to wrestle with the meaning of some of the words used, such as eternal life, the idea of keeping the commandments, the kingdom of heaven, and the question of why did Jesus tell him to sell everything.

    I don’t think that when the man came and asked what must I do to inherit eternal life, he was asking how can I be saved. If that was the question, we should be shocked at Jesus answer. (See also Luke 10:25-28) The concept of eternal life as defined by Jesus is knowing God (John 17:3). For the Jew, knowing God meant keeping His law (torah – not law as we think of law in today’s legal sense). So he says I have done this since I was a boy. He had. Paul practically says the same thing, yet we know he also called himself the chief sinner.

    Now the kingdom of heaven is a much bigger discussion than a short post on another topic, but in the Jewish context of Jesus teaching it is much bigger than the idea of going to heaven after I die. In a brief overview the concept emerges from the idea of God showing himself to be king, people proclaiming his rule and then living in obedience to that rule. We first see it in the Exodus and then in the coming of Jesus. His and John’s message is the Kingdom of Heaven is near (here now is essentially what the word translated near means), shows that it is not something to look forward to someday, but something to participate in now.

    So why did Jesus tell him to sell everything and follow him? A while back you posted about a disciple wanting to be like the rabbi. If this man were to follow Jesus, why would he need to sell everything to do so? I think that Jesus is saying he needed to be like him – to leave everything behind like Jesus did when He left the presence of the Father. In order to be like Jesus, this man’s wealth was standing in the way. For other people it was other things, but for this one it was his money.

    A final thought. For the longest time the camel through the eye of the needle bothered me. Was Jesus really saying it was impossible (we all know that a camel can’t fit through the eye of a needle) for a wealthy person to get into heaven? And what does he mean by wealthy? If you live in America, you are wealthy compared to almost all of the world’s population. When I was in Israel I learned something that helped better understand what Jesus was most likely saying. At night the city gate would be closed for protection. You did not want to open the gate after dark, but what if someone were still outside the city walls and needed in? there was a small opening beside the gate that people could enter in after the gates were closed. By small, I mean small. It was a tight fit for a man to carry things through the opening. Guess what it was called – the eye of the needle! Why, I have no idea, but that is what it was called. While it was a tight fit for a man, it was possible for him to get his camel through the opening, it had to have everything unloaded off of it’s back, and it had to get down on it’s knees and practically crawl through. Very difficult, but not impossible. I love the picture that Jesus paints with his words, one that all of his hearers would have immediately recognized and one that unfortunately we so often miss.

  4. Jeff, the eye of the needle thing is very interesting and makes a lot of sense.

    I think that knowing God and being saved are the same thing. I really can’t think what else eternal life would be. Eternal life is eternal life.

    Because the law was designed to be a schoolmaster to teach us how incapable we really are of keeping the law and how much we need Someone who could keep the law, I thought that Jesus was teaching this young ruler during this discussion. He asked how to inherit eternal life, so Jesus first needs to help this young man understand his need for a Savior.

    So right away, the young man, who thinks he’s pretty good, wants to do one good thing to earn eternal life. Jesus responds by pointing out that only God is good — two lessons in this statement: 1. you aren’t God so you aren’t good, 2. if you say I am good, and I am, then I must be God.

    Then Jesus tells him to obey the commandments. And the young man asks “which ones?” So Jesus names them. I don’t know why Jesus names the ones He does. Maybe He knows the young man’s heart, and the young man really hadn’t kept these commands as well as He thought He had. Maybe Matthew and Mark summarized Jesus. I don’t know.

    Then this rich young ruler tells Jesus he has obeyed these commands from his childhood. And I believe this man really believed he had. But I think Jesus wanted him to know that he really hadn’t. Because nobody could really obey the commands. Because nobody is perfect, except Jesus.

    I think Jesus knew that this young man needed to understand his shortcomings before he could understand that he could never earn eternal life.

    And then Jesus addressed the real issue in this young man’s heart. This young man loved his possessions more than he desired eternal life. This young man loved money more than God. His money was his idol. And until he was ready to give up his possessions, or at least the power they held over him, he could never know God and follow Him.

    Yes, our Rabbi gave up everything. He gave up His throne to come be one of us. To be like Him, we will do the same. And to begin to follow Him, we must give up our idols.

  5. By the way, this is an interesting article about the “eye of the needle” http://www.biblicalhebrew.com/nt/camelneedle.htm

    And here is another article which seems to contain much of the first article– http://www.shamar.org/articles/camel-needle.php

    I don’t know whether Jesus was using a pun or play on words, whether there really was a gate called the eye of the needle, whether He was using a common Jewish saying, or what. I do know Peter and the disciples responded by saying, “Wow, then how can anyone be saved?” And Jesus agreed that it seemed impossible. Salvation is impossible for us. But it’s possible for God.

    Jeff rightly pointed out that almost all of us in the US are wealthy compared to most everyone else in the world. And I think that this proves Jesus’ point. I know the difference between a presentation of the gospel to people in the US and a presentation of the gospel to desperately poor people in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. When you’re wealthy, it’s easy to think you don’t need God. It’s easy to think you can earn salvation, like you earned your money, or inherit it, like you inherited your money. It’s easy to think you’re self-sufficient. People here in the US have a difficult time understanding our need for Christ. We don’t seem needy. But, for the most part, those poor people in the jungle, they know they are poor and they know they are in need.

    I think the point we all get is that it’s really hard for a rich person to understand his need for Jesus. It’s hard for someone to want Jesus to be first and most important when there are so many other things competing for that place. It’s hard to hold all our possessions up to the Lord and say, “Take them. I’ll give them all up if you want.” We can’t do that sort of thing on our own, we need the Holy Spirit’s help.

    I read last week that if this rich young ruler had simply said, “Oh, Jesus, I want to sell everything I own and follow you, but it’s so hard. I can’t do it. Can you help me?” Jesus would have responded with help, and this young man would have had such great joy — instead of the sadness he walked away with.

    It seems impossible to us to be willing to give it all up, leave it all behind, love others more than we love ourselves, love God with everything we have . . . but with God, it is not impossible at all.

  6. Jeff

    Interesting articles, I will investigate further.

    Thanks,

    Jeff

  7. Yeah. I don’t know. But I felt like I should be fair and point out that there are differing opinions. And everyone can study it and figure it out for himself. I’m certainly no expert! 🙂

  8. Jeff

    Well, after a bit of research and reading, the only conclusion I can come to is we don’t know. There is much disagreement among scholars about the word used for camel. The Greek words for rope (ka’ mi los) and camel (ka’ me los) are very similar, and in Aramaic the word gamla is used for both. So scholars can’t agree if Jesus meant camel or rope. I’m not sure that even though it changes the picture He paints for us, the meaning is still essentially the same. While it is impossible for us to get into the kingdom ourselves, it is possible for God. On that I think we can all agree.

    Happy Easter!

    Jeff

  9. Tom

    Does that mean that you can tie up your camel with a camel? Maybe we could say “Give him enough camel and he’ll hang himself.” Are there any ropes made from camel hair, because if there are, I’m going to be really confused.

    Anyway, I think you’re correct that the point is that we need God. Alone we are hopeless, with Jesus we have both hope and assurance.

    Tom

  10. Mike

    I’ve really beingmeditating on this and related sciptures lately. don’t know why butI just kepp going back to them. Anyway I always used to think that this was specifically about this young guy who had a problem with letting go of his posessions and Jesus put his finger right on it. Never thinking that this was a requst/direction for all disciples but then I came across Luke 12.32 where he is speaking to his disciples and says ‘sell your posessions and give to the poor…No I can argue why Jesus stated this and what is intention was and even justify why he wouldn’t require this of us. But what if he does require this of us? That would mean there would be very few of us that comply. Next thing he’d be saying something like the path to eternal life is narrow and only few make it. But hold on all we have to do is believe within our heart and confess with our mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord right? Well what if that meant more than just than just (truthfully) fooling ourselves and simply saying it. I’m mean what does Lord mean anyway. I think it means Master, Boss, Captain. If that’s the case truely beliveing and confessing that some one is boss would be to literally follow there direction and not question their intention but simply to just do it. It would appear that the disciples did this Mt. 19:27 Peter said we have left everything and followed you. What if God if God does want us to leave everything? I’m mean forget the pleaures in life what about the staple things like food, clothing and shelter. It’s not like he promises to take care of these for us right? Or does he?
    Anyway, I’m sorry if I sound sarcastic in my above comments but this what seems to be circling my thoughts for months now and it’s almost driving me insane. I know that life in Christ is about faith and not works but when it boils down to it the request ahh correction what appears to a ‘directive’ of Christ to not onlt the rich you ruler but also his disciples seems to truly be about ‘faith’ more than anything else and I’m not so sure if we should water down faith to justify ourselves.

    I too live in the western world (australia that is) and live quite comfortably. i have a mortgage a nice house, a car, decent furniture, the usual plasma etc. but nothing more tan my local neighbours living in a typical blue collar suburb. Now although it would be nice to win the lottery and get even more stuff I don’t strive for such nor dream about rices all day long. i simply want to live comfortably (pretty much the way i am at the moment). Nothng wrong with that right? well then I read Luke 12.16 where Jesus calls the man a fool for pretty much doing the same, that is ‘taking ease, eating, drinking and being merry’. Now if paying off a mortgage isn’t laying up treasure for ones self what is. I spend the majority of my wage on back repayments not for forwarding the Kingdom but simply to secure a place for myself and family – to one day be at ease, at drink and be merry…hmmm.

    Did Jesus actually say sell any of your possessions that are more of a priority that God or did he simply just say ‘sell your possessions and I add the the rest just to justify myself.

    any oppion s welcome and appreciated. I’m by far and expert on this matter but am really puzzled by this. Help me Jesus please.

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