Markby Robert M. Solomon
After ministering to little children, Jesus ministered to a young man (Matthew 19:20) who was already very wealthy (v. 22), perhaps like young entrepreneurs today who become millionaires in their twenties. Or perhaps he was born into a rich family. He ran up to Jesus (with youthful energy and passion) and fell on his knees (with humility and appropriate respect), according to verse 17. Observers would have been impressed. What a fine young man.
He asked Jesus, ″Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?″ (v. 17). With every action and word, he appeared even more promising. Jesus pointed to the second section of the Ten Commandments (v. 19), and the young man responded, ″all these I have kept since I was a boy″ (v. 20). Very impressive indeed! Jesus looked at him lovingly, for he was a nice, intense young man. So Jesus told him the truth. ″One thing you lack″ (v. 21). The young man had everything going for him. He was rich, humble, and earnestly kept the commandments. What could he lack?
He lacked the most important thing-love for God. Jesus gave him five actions to perform-go, sell, give, come, follow (v. 21). Tragically, he was not willing to do one necessary thing-to release his grip on his wealth and grasp the hand that God extended to him. His ″face fell″ and he ″went away sad″ (v. 22). What a miserable young man, who threw away eternal blessings for temporary earthly riches. Jesus told His disciples that it was difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God (cf. 1 Timothy 6:9-10), more difficult than ″for a camel to go through the eye of a needle″ (vv. 23-25). But it was not impossible, for ″all things are possible with God″ (v. 27). Remember Zacchaeus, Joseph of Arimathea, Barnabas, and other rich people who had been converted?
Contrasting himself with the foolish young man, Peter reminded Jesus of how he and the other disciples had left everything to follow Jesus. Jesus commended the disciples and said they had already received many blessings in return and will receive many more in the age to come (vv. 28-30). God is no one's debtor. Those who are first (preeminent) in this world may end up last in the kingdom, and vice versa (v. 31).
Why is it difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God? Are there any other strong obstacles that prevent people from following Jesus? Think of some of your friends in such situations and pray for them.
What consolation and encouragement is there for those who trust Jesus enough to let go of things they cannot keep to gain what they cannot lose (Jim Elliot)? Is Jesus pointing out to you the one thing you lack?