We need to revisit the last three verses of last week’s lesson. You will see shortly why.
13 Some people brought their small children to Jesus so he could touch them. But his followers told the people to stop bringing their children to him. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was displeased. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them. The kingdom of God belongs to people who are like these little children. 15 I tell you the truth. You must accept the kingdom of God as a little child accepts things, or you will never enter it.” 16 Then Jesus took the children in his arms. He put his hands on them and blessed them. International Children’s Bible
Jesus often told people that they were cured because they believed, they had faith, just like the little ones.
Now, we have a different picture.
17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” ESV
This may not grab our attention, but there are several things for us to see and understand. First, Jewish men did not run, especially prominent, well-to-do men. Even 12 year old males were discouraged from running.
Second, he called Jesus, Teacher, but knelt. Students always stood in the presence of teachers.
Third, he called Jesus, good. We moderns do not see that as a problem, especially in reference to Jesus who was the definition of good, but it was not proper within Judaism.
Fourth, he wanted to do something to be guarantee his eternal inheritance. He seems to misunderstand the concept of inheritance. An inheritance is in the control of the giver, not the receiver.
That’s a lot of mistakes.
18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. ESV The Greek word is agathos, which happens to be the 18th word in the Greek NT Dictionary. A quick search of good in the ESV yields 690 verses in the Bible, nine of them in Mark. The surprise for me is that the word does not appear in Revelation.
Jesus reminds the young man that Jews are allowed to call God good, but not each other. Privately, Jesus might not reject it if one of his disciples called him good.
Jesus goes on. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” ESV
Jesus is lobbing a softball for an easy hit. He says it up front: You know the commandments. For those of you who are keeping score, Jesus sneaks in an extra command—do not defraud. Actually, this may be a shorthand way of expressing the last three commands: You shall not steal.You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.
In any case, it seems that Jesus knows the young man is on solid ground with this list. 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” ESV
Now comes the hardball, but it is softened a bit. 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” ESV
The word, loved, is agapao in Greek. It was a little used word until Christians latched onto it. The ancient Greeks used the word to suggest a high level of morality. The Greek word, agan, means much, and is a part of the meaning of agapao.
Jesus had to tell this eager young man to do what Jesus knew would be too hard for him. When Jesus called Peter, James, and John, we are not told that Jesus loved them. Nor are we told that they had to give up all they had to follow Jesus. They just dropped their nets and left the boats. For them, it was childish. It was faith. For this man, it was not a choice. He could not give up his wealth.
Now, go back to verses 13-16. You must accept the kingdom of God as a little child accepts things, or you will never enter it. Do you see why the young man had trouble? He ran to Jesus all excited. The emotions were fairly bubbling up. ‘I am nearly perfect. I keep all the commands. What one thing do I need to do?’
Why did Jesus not say, “All you need to do is believe.” Children believe in Santa and the Tooth Fairy. Why could the young man not believe in Jesus?
Because he had to count the cost and he could not stand the loss.
Peter never looked back. He even said, ‘Where can we go?’ He did not count what he had as being worth more than Jesus. Even Matthew/Levi willingly gave up half of his wealth and would have (and may have) given it all.
One more point. The young man might have been willing to follow Jesus if he could have given all his wealth to his sons. The oldest son was responsible for the whole family, every close relative from grandparents to grandchildren. How could he leave them destitute? Surly he must see to their future.
Matthew kept some of his wealth. Andrew and Peter, James and John returned to their boats between resurrection and ascension.
The problem is, the young man never hurt anyone, but he also never did much good for anyone. Jesus challenged him to be willing to do the most good possible. He could not.
22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?”
We have just seen that children have no trouble entering the Kingdom. Now, adults, at least rich adults, have no chance. No wonder the Disciples ask, “Then who can be saved?”
27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” 28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” ESV
This long exchange leaves me thinking that the young man would not have had to give all he had to the poor anymore than any of the Disciples had to. He was not willing. That is the key. Give all you have to God and let God care for you.
Be righteous and do good.