Title: Infinite Need Met With Infinite Inheritance – Part 1
Text: Matthew 19:13-23
FCF: We often woefully underestimate our great need of God or overestimate how much we can control.
Prop: Only those who greatly need God will enter the kingdom of heaven, so you must be needy of God to enter.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to Matthew chapter 19. Last week we finished up the opening two episodes in this narrative as Jesus addressed the lack of humility in the Pharisees and perhaps even in his disciples. The Pharisees had God’s law, which means they did not need God any longer, and the disciples bucked under the teaching of Jesus about how God’s intention for marriage was not simply civil but spiritual. Adding such importance to marriage was certainly a shock to the disciples. And then Jesus adds even more shock when He recognizes the very real possibility that some are called to celibacy. What follows now are two more episodes that I believe are mentioned in quick succession, primarily so we would contrast them. The first is a short episode that repeats some key concepts we should already understand from chapter 18. These concepts ensure for us that we keep certain themes consistent. More on that in a moment. Then we will only really scratch the surface of the second episode this morning, because the effects and teaching of this episode actually extends through verse 16 of chapter 20. Obviously we can’t get there this morning. That is why this is part 1. I’m not sure how many parts it will be, but I do know this is part 1 J
But to prepare us to understand what is about to happen – we need to remind ourselves of the overall scope of Matthew’s narrative. Jesus just taught on humility. And last week Matthew showed Jesus to be the revealer of the truth of God’s Word. In fact, the Word of God is one of His titles. So humility and submission to the word of God, is submitting to Jesus’ teachings. But along the way through the narrative we will see Jews not needing Jesus’ teachings, because they think they have something better. The Pharisees have the law of Moses. The disciples had their more appealing view of marriage. And today we will encounter another who has, what He thinks, is something better than Jesus. I’m in Matthew 19 starting from verse 13 from the NET, but follow along in the version you desire.
Two very different but related episodes stand before us. Let’s make sure we understand the first…
I.) Those who have great need will enter the kingdom of heaven, so you must be needy to enter. (13-15)
a. [Slide 2] 13 – Then little children were brought to Him for Him to lay His hands on them and pray.
i. It was actually quite conventional for parents to bring their infant children to a teacher or Rabbi for a blessing. Even today, the Catholic Church and others that are on that side of Christianity have these kinds of rituals that they still observe.
ii. This is the second time Jesus has interacted with children in two chapters.
iii. And even though it has probably been several weeks since Jesus used a child to illustrate the nature of all kingdom citizens, you’d think that after hammering home the point that all kingdom citizens are humble and needy of God like children that the disciples would have had a better reaction than this…
b. But the disciples scolded those who brought them.
i. Now in the original language it is clear that the scolding was for the parents.
ii. Depending on your translation that may be unclear, but it is certainly not the children being scolded. Especially since the Luke parallel indicates that these kids were infants.
iii. Therefore it makes most sense that the Disciples were scolding the parents.
iv. But why? The text really doesn’t say, but perhaps it is not too much of a stretch to conclude that they assumed that Jesus was far too important for such things.
v. Or perhaps knowing Jesus’ propensity to buck against the establishment, they assumed Jesus would not entertain this ritualistic blessing of the children?
vi. In any case, they were dead wrong.
c. [Slide 3] 14 – But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not try to stop them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.
i. And even though Jesus had practically said the exact same thing just a few weeks prior, He patiently says it again.
ii. Let them come to me… why?
iii. Because the heart of God is near the neediest among us. Those who are needy – truly needy – that is whom God wishes to be close. And that neediness, that humility, that dependence is the core attribute of those who are kingdom citizens. The words such as shows us again that the children were an illustration for this point.
iv. He is pointing to the faith a child has in their parents. They are helpless without them. And so also we are hopeless without Christ.
d. [Slide 4] 15 – And He placed His hands on them and went on His way.
i. Placing His hands on them is a euphemism for pronouncing a blessing on the children.
ii. And He continues to the cross. Remember that is where He is going.
iii. We’ll be reminded of that again in a couple weeks.
[Slide 5 (blank)] So again Jesus reveals this truth, that only those who in humility recognize their desperate and infinite need, will be those who are citizens of the kingdom of God. That this characteristic is true of all who bear the name of God and are accepted into His kingdom. What about those who only need a little? What about those who are convinced that their need is small? What of them? That brings us to episode 2…
II.) Those who have no need will not enter the kingdom of heaven, so you must be needy to enter. (16-22)
a. [Slide 6] 16 – Now someone came up to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to gain eternal life?”
i. So right off the bat we have a textual variant. Some of your translations have this man saying “good teacher” and Jesus response will also be different.
ii. Probably that is the copyists attempt to make this match Luke and Mark. But the oldest and most accepted manuscripts actually have this as a little bit of a different statement than what is found in Mark and Luke.
iii. In the long run, the result is exactly the same, and perhaps Matthew records either another part of the conversation, or alters the conversation slightly to be more fitting to Jews. Nevertheless there isn’t really much difference.
iv. But what is this person asking?
v. What great deed of righteousness is necessary for me to do so that I can be in the Kingdom of God – to live eternally.
vi. Speculation arises as to who this man actually is. We know he is wealthy, not a Sadducee because he believes in life after death, and is young. Perhaps he is a Pharisee. Given his obsession over keeping the law, and therefore also a Jew. In any case, he is looking for His ticket to heaven. What great deed can I do?
b. [Slide 7] 17 – He said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good.
i. In typical Jesus fashion, He does not answer the question. At least not at first.
ii. Now don’t miss this. If Jesus doesn’t answer the question, usually it is because the question is wrong. Rather than starting on a flawed premise, he corrects the question and then answers.
iii. So what is wrong with his question?
iv. He says – essentially – you are asking me what good thing you can do to inherit eternal life?
v. What makes you think you are only 1 good deed away from securing your entrance?
vi. In fact what makes you think you are capable of doing anything good?
vii. There is only One who is good.
viii. Then He says this…
c. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
i. But back to your question… if it were possible for you to be good. If you were indeed capable of 1 good deed, and that good deed would secure your entrance… let me tell you what that would look like.
ii. Keep the commandments.
iii. Now when I tell Waverly to pick up her legos… how many do you think I mean?
iv. When I tell Moira to eat her dinner… how much of that dinner do you think I mean?
v. Lucy, when your boss tells you to go out and collect the carts at Kroger, how many do they mean?
vi. In a TV show, one character sat down to order from a diner. He said, “Bring me all the bacon you have.” The waiter started to walk away and the man stopped him and said, “Stop. Because I don’t think you understood what I said. I think you heard ‘bring me a lot of bacon’ but that is not what I said. I said bring me all the bacon you have. “
vii. Jesus is saying… keep the commandments. If you want to be good, good like God, you must be perfect, you must be complete, you must be lacking nothing. And he will allude to that later, but our dear entitled millennial first has a question for Jesus.
d. [Slide 8] 18-19 - “Which ones?” he asked.
i. Lucy! If your boss asked you to go get the carts… and you asked which ones… how would that go for you?
ii. Pick up your toys Waverly… which ones… ALL OF THEM!
iii. But Jesus has WAY more patience than you or I.
e. Jesus replied, “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself. “
i. People disagree, but here is what I think. I think Jesus started with the things He knew that the young man did not have right. Jesus always stumped the Pharisees when He explored the holiness that they did not turn outward toward others.
ii. I think He gave this young man a chance at being humble enough to admit that he did not have all these down.
iii. Especially as Jesus summarizes these last 5 commands of the Decalogue with the summery command of “love your neighbor as yourself”
iv. Again, and I won’t spend a lot of time on this because we have addressed it and will address it in chapter 22 – but it makes absolutely no contextual, grammatical, or theological sense for Jesus to be commanding this young man to love himself so that he can love others. Jesus assumes that this young man loves himself, A LOT. And that is why the command is so damning. Because NO ONE loves others like they love themselves. Not naturally anyway. And if you don’t believe me, come watch my kids and their cousins play at my house. None of them love the other as they do themselves. If they did they’d never fight over toys. And they’d never get in screaming matches that end in tears. Wouldn’t that be nice J
v. So if I’m right for why Jesus started here, this should have just nailed this young man to the wall… getting him to see the exact same point that Jesus started with… What makes you think you are only 1 good deed away? What makes you think you can do anything good?
vi. But, as if we are in some parallel dimension, this kid – STILL – cannot see his spiritual distress.
f. [Slide 9] 20 – The young man said to Him, “I have wholeheartedly obeyed all these laws. What do I still lack?”
i. The word wholeheartedly does not appear in the Greek per se, but the word to obey means with completeness or with perfection. The NET translators are trying to capture that so they add the word wholeheartedly.
ii. In Mark and Luke he says that I have kept them since my youth. Interesting that he was already called a young man. So keeping these things since his youth was probably not a great number of years.
iii. Nevertheless, His confession at this was of course… a lie. He wasn’t just lying to Jesus, He was lying to himself. Because I actually think he believed that he had kept them. And this reveals the true nature of his heart. He was not humble, nor did he need anyone or anything. He could do it all on his own. Or at least he had been convinced that he could by the teachers of the law. And as if this wasn’t bad enough… he has another question for Jesus…
iv. What else is there to do Jesus?
v. Can you imagine the feeling of grief that would come over our Lord when this young man said this? All Jesus has been saying to Him has been in an effort to draw Him to some measure of humility, some kind of awakening about the sad state of His spiritual condition, but low and behold – he just can’t see it.
vi. So how does Jesus address this?
g. [Slide 10] 21 – Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
i. What a hateful thing for Jesus to say? To suggest that he can be perfect by selling all he has, giving it to the poor, and following Jesus.
ii. Ok first of all – Jesus is operating under the young man’s question. What more do I lack? Jesus already told him that to be good enough to enter the kingdom of heaven, was to be perfect. So Jesus is simply answering what he lacks to be perfect.
iii. Secondly, in Mark we are told that Jesus was moved with love for the young man. This statement is made out of love. How is it loving to tell someone they have to be perfect to enter the kingdom of heaven, when we all know you have to believe on the name of Jesus?
iv. Friends no one is going to believe on Jesus until they realize that the standard for God’s kingdom is perfection. The most loving thing Jesus could say to this young man is… You must be perfect.
v. And what is the key concept to this added weight? If you boiled down what Jesus said to one summary statement, what would it be? Love YAHWEH above all other gods. This young man worshiped his money. Oh he gave, he gave alms I am sure… but would he be willing to give it all away and abandon it all for the sake of following Christ?
vi. Would He love God with all his heart, mind, soul and strength? Would He surrender His life to His Lord? Would he at least be willing? Does He know who Jesus is? Does He know who he is?
h. [Slide 11] 22 – But when the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he was very rich.
i. No. He is utterly, and completely clueless.
ii. Now I find it interesting that after Jesus tells this young man – you must be perfect. And this young man turns and walks away very sad because he wouldn’t do what Jesus said – Jesus did not run back to him and say – but let me tell you who can be perfect for you!
iii. He didn’t say you are a sinner destined for hell and before he turned to leave say to the man but I will die for your sins.
iv. Jesus let this man walk away.
v. WHY! WHY WOULD HE DO THAT?
&nnbsp; vi. Friends, if he wouldn’t be willing to give up his fortune to follow Christ, He is still clinging to his idols, and therefore he can’t be saved. Not yet. Why? Because he has no idea how lost he is. He has no idea how much he needs Christ. People who do not come to the understanding of their desperate and worthless condition, can never, and will never follow Christ. They may come to him as this man came to him. They may say a prayer to secure their spot in the kingdom of heaven as this man came expecting to do one thing to secure his spot in the kingdom. But the moment they discover that it will cost something for them to follow Christ – they will walk away. Why? Because they never really needed Him for anything anyway. And if you are not dependent on something – you won’t sacrifice what is necessary to keep it.
vii. As long as he was convinced that he needed heaven and hard work was the only thing that stood in his way, there was absolutely nothing that could be done for him.
viii. Even if Jesus ran up to him and said – but I will be perfect for you – it honestly wouldn’t have mattered folks.
i. If wasn’t so much what Jesus asked of this man that we need to learn from, but instead the reaction of this man to anything Jesus would have asked.
j. Borrowing and repurposing an illustration from a previous sermon, remember the training of a lifeguard to allow a person to tire themselves out before attempting to save them. Why? Because in their desperation for oxygen, they will do whatever it takes – even foolish things like fighting their rescuer – to keep breathing.
k. When you need Christ like oxygen – not just for heaven but for life, for everything - when He says to sell your possessions and give them to the poor… what do you do? You become a fool for the sake of Christ and you sell it all, give it to the poor and follow Him.
l. And what does it take to need Christ this way?
m. This infinite need of Christ is borne of genuine repentance.
n. Is it any wonder that the first word of the gospel message, presented by Jesus and John the Baptist, was to repent?
o. Genuine, heartfelt, repentance is absolutely core to the gospel. Without it, it is not the gospel at all. Accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior is meaningless unless a person sobbing, broken, and spilled out is repentant over their wickedness before a Holy God.
p. So how does this happen? How does a person come to a point in their lives where they reject their rebel hearts? Just as great need of Christ is born of repentance, repentance is borne of humility, and humility is borne of grace.
q. Can I suggest that it is by grace, through faith, gifted to you by God. Grace to see God for who He is. Grace to see you for who you are. Faith from and on Christ alone and always.
r. This is the path Jesus described in the beatitudes. A humbled person who recognizes their spiritual bankruptcy. Mourns over their own sin. Understands their inability to wrestle against God to change their fate, but humbly confesses their great need of righteousness and begs God for it. Their great need of God to act in their place.
s. Jesus says here that to be a kingdom citizen you must be infinitely needy, as an infant is needy.
t. And immediately a rich young ruler approaches Him. A man who was convinced that he was only a little bit needy, only needing 1 final good work to earn his spot in the kingdom – this young man convinced of his little need was shown that only God was good. And that no good could come from within him. And that to be worthy of the kingdom he would have to be perfect. And that should have humbled him. That should have awoken deep shame and mourning in his heart over his utter failure to keep the law. It should have driven him to great need of righteousness and therefore a great need of Jesus. And Jesus says follow me – but obey this one thing first. But he doesn’t need Jesus as much as he needs his riches.
[Slide 12 (blank)] So after seeing all this, what is there for us to learn for today? What can we take home today?
Jesus again introduces this concept, that the humble, those who are infinitely needy, those are the ones who are citizens of the kingdom of God. Those are the ones who gain entry. Those are the ones who have awoken to their desperate need of God.
And immediately following this we have a young man who only sort of needs something from Jesus. He only needs Jesus to provide a little guidance. Just a couple pointers on how he might add on one more thing to secure his place in the kingdom. He is the opposite of needy. He is the opposite of humble. He thinks he has most, if not all of it together.
But what is the reality? He, like all men, desperately needs God, desperately needs righteousness, and desperately needs a Savior and Lord. But does he see it? When it is right in front of his face, does he see it? No. No he doesn’t.
Perhaps you also have come to Jesus for 1 thing. Perhaps you have come to him for salvation. You have come to him for heaven. You have come to him for peace. You have come to him for forgiveness. You only lacked one thing. So you came and you vowed to do whatever someone said to get that one thing from Him.
And when you came to him for that one thing, the person who introduced you to Jesus, did not spend a lot of time attempting to probe your humility. They didn’t call you to repentance. They didn’t question your neediness. Perhaps in ignorance, they simply called you to pray a prayer and accept Jesus as your savior. And then you would have salvation, heaven, peace, forgiveness or whatever you came searching for. And maybe then they assured you that based on Jesus alone, you could never lose what you came and got – so you should never doubt that you got it.
So you walked away getting the thing you sought, but now you find yourself seeing Jesus’ words to you… flee fornication, tell the truth, never steal, do not lust, love your enemies, dwell with your wife in an understanding way, count it joy when you are in trials, love the word of God, and on and on it goes – you look at these demands of what it means to follow Christ and you think… surely this is not what I signed up for. Surely holiness is not what God demands? Surely this level of devotion to Him is not the purpose of my salvation?
But friend… if you say you Know God, but do not obey His commands you are a liar and the truth is not in you. And that is not Chris Freeman speaking that is a quote from I John 2.
This rich young ruler came to Christ wanting eternal life. He wanted to be saved. And he asked what can I do? Jesus initially told him – NOTHING! But then answered the flawed question by saying - BE PERFECT. If you want to do something to be saved – be perfect. Not pray a prayer, not accept me as your savior. BE PERFECT. Essentially Jesus is still saying that there is nothing you can do just in a different way. Because after all – who is perfect? And the rich young ruler understood to some degree, but he was unwilling or unable to do what Jesus said. And instead of driving him to repentance and desperate need… it drove him to despair.
[Slide 13] Analyze your life. Analyze your conversion. Does the law of Christ, to love God with all you are and others as much as you love yourself, does that law drive you to despair or to repentance and desperate need of Christ?
Do you hunger and thirst after righteousness? Or are you satisfied because you got your ticket to heaven? You prayed the prayer so you’re good. And all the talk of living for Jesus – well that is just for Super Christians.
If I have been describing you – you should re-evaluate the cost of following Christ my friend. Because the fact of the matter is, that all who follow Christ have been humbled. All who follow Christ have been graced to see that they are infinitely needy of Him. Like oxygen, they will do whatever it takes to get Him. Like water in a dry and weary land, they will seek Him until they thirst no more. And that means that anything He says, we set out to do. In His strength, in His power. [Slide 14] We set out to obey Him because we desperately need only Him. And we desperately need only Him because only He can provide what is necessary to obey Him.
In short, there is nothing that Christ would ask of His genuine followers that they would walk away from in despair. At least not permanently.
Which brings me to those who are genuine followers. Those who have been brought low, who have been given grace to see the wickedness of their own hearts and the holiness of God. Those who have been awoken to their infinite need of Christ… to those I preach a message that God preached to me Tuesday through Friday of this week. And it is a message that hurts every time it rings in my ears.
[Slide 15 (end)] Chris, you NEED to NEED me.
How much do you need me Chris? Oh sure the big things… salvation, provision, sovereignty the world spinning. Yeah the things you know you don’t have control over….sure.
But what about the things you have convinced yourself that you can control?
Do you need me to love your wife? Do you need me to get over that neck twinge you just got? Do you need me to drive from the church to your home and back again – 3 minutes - do ya need me?
What about to breathe? Do you need me for that?
Can you teach your children my ways without me? Can you love your enemies without my love? Can you hate your sin without my holiness burning and melting it away inside you?
Where would you be without me Chris?
Can you even read my word; much less understand it, without my help? Do you presume to approach my words – from my mind to yours – and assume that you don’t need my help to understand what I am saying?
Do you think you can whip off a prayer in my name flippantly? Do you think that the Spirit does not groan as you bumble through your best prayers to me?
Would you be so arrogant to think that you have provided the food on your table and not me? Would you be so presumptuous to plan your future without first bowing to my will for it? Can you even know you have a future beyond today?
Can you produce even 1 work of righteousness without me? Can you walk in my ways without my power and my passion? Do you think you do not succumb to temptation because you are strong? Do you think that sin has to sneak up on you because you are the one on guard? Don’t you know that when you are weak, I am at my greatest potency? Be weak so that I may make you strong!
Why do you roll out of bed so flippantly in the morning, assuming it is by your strength and not mine that you are able to lift yourself up? You open your eyes, but who gives them sight? You open your ears but who gives grace to hear? You plant your foot on the ground, but who holds you up? Do you really believe that your muscles do this? And even if they did, who gave them to you, Chris?
What do you have that I have not provided? What can you say that is good, that I have not given to you to say? What have you kept from saying that I have not blocked with my hands on your tongue?
What can you do without me, Chris? What would you be without me?
It was at this point in writing this, that with tears, I stopped writing and confessed that I was nothing, insignificant. And repented to the Lord for my pride and begged for His help to need Him.
What about you Christian? Do you also need to need Him?
I invite you also, to repent of your pride and beg the Lord to help you need Him.