Tuesday, December 25, 2012



Peter said to him, "We have left all we had to follow you!"

The rich, young ruler has heard Jesus' direction to him: "Sell everything you have and give to the poor. Then come, follow me." The man walked away sad and, no doubt, Jesus was also saddened by this encounter when He said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!" 

This statement may have caused more confusion than you might think. Remember Job? As long as he was rich, he was viewed as a blessed man of God. And, when his riches were taken away, the assumption was that he had sinned. This rich, young ruler was probably viewed by many as a very spiritual man-blessed by God. So, if this man who was keeping the law and seemed to be blessed by God with his wealth wasn't going to make it into salvation, then, "Who is going to be saved?"

The rich trust in their wealth to open doors of heaven for them. But the net value of their wealth in heaven is zip. Jesus makes it clear that only if they become as little children will they enter the kingdom.

It's in this context that Peter says, "We have left all we had to follow you." It was a statement begging some sort of response. Matthew's gospel adds the words, "What then will there be for us?"
Jesus answers Peter's question simply: "Truly I tell you," Jesus said to them, "no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life." 

The point here seems to be that your reward for being faithful and giving your all will be highly abundant. Matthew and Mark's account give specifics of reaping 100 times-super abundant results.

To me Jesus is saying simply this: YOU CAN'T OUTGIVE GOD. Whatever you think you have given up for Jesus and the Kingdom will be abundantly supplied back to you. This abundant reward is both near and far-temporal and eternal.

This reminds me of the kingdom parable where the man found a treasure in a field, hid it and then went back and sold all he had in order to buy the land. Or, the parable about diligently searching for a fine pearl. And, when he finds it, goes and sells all that he has to purchase that pearl. One comes into the kingdom by surprise and the other by careful searching. But both of them see the kingdom for its invaluable quality and go for it with their whole hearts.

We can all become a little discouraged from time to time. But know for certain that whatever you have given up for Jesus and the kingdom will be abundantly rewarded. You can count on it. So, with a reckless abandon give it all up for Him. You'll never regret it!



A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good-except God alone. You know the commandments: 'You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'" "All these I have kept since I was a boy," he said.

This ruler is apparently a leader, a successful businessman. Matthew writes about this man, too, and describes him as a young man who had an abundance of possessions.

His question is a powerful and pointed one. He must be feeling some sense of spiritual inadequacy. He seems to believe that eternal life is something you can earn or inherit or acquire.
NOTE the rich, young ruler, even though he had been keeping the commandments, he still felt a lack in his life. Jesus perceptively targets in on that lack. Note what happens: When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
Jesus here gives the answer to the original question, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" The answer? DON'T LET ANYTHING YOU HAVE OR YOU ARE SEPARATE YOU FROM YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. He goes on to say, "Sell everything you have and give to the poor, THEN you will have treasure in heaven. THEN COME, FOLLOW ME." This is a tough saying, yet very, very simple. Eternal life has everything to do with a relationship-FOLLOW ME. In this man's case, it was necessary to say to him to sell all and give to the poor in order to get to the heart of his real god he was holding on to.

When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God."

The rich, young ruler was sad, because he knew what Jesus was saying to him was true. It was his wealth that was keeping him from entering the kingdom of God. It's important to note that it is not his wealth per se, but his holding it closely as something too dear to him-even more important than a relationship with God. This is proven by his sadness and that instead of coming to Jesus in order to follow Him, he was obviously going to walk away.

NOTE the question that was asked Jesus: Those who heard this asked, "Who then can be saved?" Jesus replied, "What is impossible with human beings is possible with God."
Jesus' answer was clear. No matter who you are-rich or poor, being saved or having eternal life or entering into the kingdom of God is an impossibility in human terms, but not with God. With God the impossible becomes possible.

Over the years I've traveled into the Middle East. And, in Jerusalem it is continually explained what it means for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. They show you a small opening that a camel on its knees and stripped of all of its baggage could squeeze through with great difficulty. That sounds like it may be true. But then I came to realize Jesus' words here. This salvation thing is not just difficult, but impossible. So, it makes so much more sense to me now that having salvation from God (eternal life) for a rich person who has so many things to distract him away from God is like a camel going through a large knitting needle. IT'S IMPOSSIBLE! BUT GOD specializes in the impossible. What is impossible with humans is possible with God. Talk about AMAZING GRACE-how sweet the sound!



In just three verses in Luke 18:15-17 we have the message of the kingdom bottom-lined and it's all about being like a child.
People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."  
In the parable just before this story about children Jesus said, "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humblesw himself will be exalted." Now Jesus says, "You must receive the kingdom of God like a little child in order to enter into the kingdom." This seems to be saying the same thing. And, there seem to be several ways we can hinder children from coming to Jesus.

The theme here is: Disciples of Jesus must remove all hindrances that keep children from coming to Jesus. The disciples were slightly annoyed that people were bringing babies to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them. They scolded those who were bringing the babies to Jesus. They certainly didn't seem to think that children were strategic appointments for Jesus to bother with.

Jesus took this opportunity to make an important illustration out of this incident. Jesus ignored their rejection of the babies and countermanded what they were doing. He invited all of the little children to come to Him. He gives a most significant reason for embracing the children. The reason? The kingdom of God belongs to the little children.

Then Jesus makes a most amazing statement which is the lesson He wanted to make clear: "Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

Two things come to light here: FIRST-Don't hinder the children in any way from coming to Jesus. So, what are the things that we do that might hinder children from coming to Jesus.

1. Our pride in thinking that children don't know enough and haven't lived long enough to understand the things of Jesus. 2. Parental beliefs-There are two ways to hinder children from coming to Jesus. One is to indoctrinate your children with your beliefs. If you do this without encouraging your kids to think it through on their own to embrace it for themselves, you run the risk of propagandizing your children to believe what you believe without thinking about it. This will most surely set your children up for losing their (your) beliefs later, when attacked. The second is to ignore sharing any sort of beliefs with your children, believing they must be left alone to figure it out on their own. This sets your children up to be lost and confused throughout their lives. There is nothing redeeming about this approach at all.

The best way is for you to embrace your beliefs personally and to set an example for your children. This sets up your children to be more fully persuaded by the observation and influence of your life, based upon your relationship together. If you don't possess certain qualities, you can't pass them on to your children. But, most importantly, from your own faith and lifestyle you have the opportunity to advance the conversation about faith and about Jesus.

The SECOND thing that comes to light for me in this passage is the clear understanding regarding who will enter the kingdom of God. Jesus says that no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he comes as a little child. What are the characteristics of a little child? A few obvious ones are a simplicity, pure heart and thinking, inquisitive, an openness to learn and a curiosity.

Possibly the best characteristic of all is that children are trusting. I think this is what Jesus loves the most. He is looking for and waiting for "ANYONE" who will come to Him with simple and pure trust. For adults this is very difficult; for children it's easy and very natural. So, come to Jesus as little children.