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by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa

November, 2012

I remember when I was growing up in the Church of God, and later the Baptist Church, hearing the story of the “rich young ruler” (Matt. 19:16-30, Mark 10:17-31, Luke 18:18-30). But when I got older and read the story for myself I realized it doesn’t say he was young and only Luke refers to him as a “ruler.” Matthew and Mark just call him “a man” But he was apparently rich because he had a lot of stuff. He asked Jesus how to be saved and Jesus told him to follow the commandments. “‘All these I have kept,’” he replied (Matt. 19:20b ESV). Jesus then said, “‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’” (vs. 20b ESV). And the man “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” (vs. 22b ESV). Jesus then talked about rich people getting into heaven and camels going through the eye of a needle (vs. 23-24) and the disciples asked him “‘Who then can be saved?’” (vs. 25b ESV). And Jesus replied, “‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” (vs. 26b ESV).

The bar of salvation is higher than we can imagine. Not only can you not murder somebody, you can’t even be mad at him (Matt. 5:21-22). Not only can you not commit adultery, you can’t even look at a woman the wrong way (5:27-28). Not only do you have to love your neighbor, you have to love your enemy (5:43-44). And not only do you have to follow all the commandments, you have to give away everything you own and follow some itinerant carpenter. You can never do enough. You can never follow enough commandments carefully enough. There will always be something else. The bar of salvation is so high because our sin is so great.

Peter wasn’t satisfied though. He asked, essentially, “What about us?” (a paraphrase of vs.27b). And even though Peter was the one speaking, I’m sure the others were thinking the same thing. James and John had turned their backs on their father and the family fishing business (Matt. 4:21-22). Matthew had given up a good job as a tax collector (Matt. 9:9). They had all left their old lives behind to follow Jesus. They were all thinking, “What about us? We gave up everything: businesses, families, careers, land, and for what? To follow this guy around until we all die broke?” But Jesus said to them, “. . . everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” (vs. 29 ESV).

Peter and the others missed the part where Jesus said “‘. . . with God all things are possible.’” In other words, if you make a sacrifice, God will make it worthwhile; He won’t hang you out to dry. He won’t “throw you under the bus.” He’ll be there for you no matter what.

Hebrews says “. . . we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, . . .” (Heb. 4:14b ESV), an advocate, someone to take our side with God. He understands. He’s “. . . one who in every respect has been tempted as we are,” (vs. 15b ESV). The difference is that he is without sin (vs. 15c). God knew that we could never stand before Him on our own so God Himself provided the way for us.

About ten years ago, a man in Romania was told by a fortune teller that either he or his son would die before the week was out. So the man went home and cut his own throat in order to save his son. You can respond to this in one of a few different ways: You can be creeped out by what the man did, you can laugh at him for being foolish enough to believe the fortune teller, or you can marvel at the love he had for his son.

God has that kind of love for us and He died for us in the form of Jesus. But then he rose from the dead and he lives for us so that we can live for him. God could have lowered the bar but instead he raises us. May we lift him up today and every day.

“And Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, 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.’ When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’ But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” (Matt. 19:23-25 ESV.)

Copyright © 2012 by David Phelps