Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life ?” “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
“If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Jesus said this to a young man, who went away sad for he had many possessions. If Jesus were to say this to us, what would we do? It isn’t the first time he has asked someone to leave everything and follow him. He did this to Peter a few months ago, and Peter immediately left everything and followed Jesus.
It would help us gain some understanding by contrasting the responses of the two men. Why was Peter able to leave everything and follow Jesus and not the rich young man? Most people say that Peter had nothing, but at the time that Jesus called Peter, he was in possession of two boats full of fish and that would have been enough to set him up in business. He could have started Peter Fisheries selling fried fish, dried fish, pickled fish. He could have become fish king of Jerusalem.
No, that isn’t the reason. But I’ll give you three. One. See, both Peter and the rich young man were blessed; one with a lot of fish, the other with a lot of money. But Peter understood it was better to be with the blesser than with the blessings because when you are with the blesser you get all the blessings you need. Like the rich young man, we sometimes lose focus of the blesser and concentrate on the blessings instead. We don’t realize how this binds us. Can you imagine living without your phone for three days? See what I mean?
Two, the rich young man thought he was being asked to give up everything he had for nothing, not realizing that in truth, he was being asked to give up nothing for everything. Jesus told him this — give it up and you will have treasure in heaven - but he didn’t get it. Heaven was too abstract a place for him, as it tends to be for us. So we work so hard towards securing possessions here on earth, that we won’t take anywhere once we are dead, but we don’t think of accumulating treasure in heaven where we will be forever.
Three, Peter followed his heart over his mind. He heard Jesus calling him and he responded with his heart, because his heart told him this was the right thing to do. The rich young man however analyzed the situation and from whichever way he looked at it, the deal just didn’t make any sense. I reflected upon this heart-head thing on August 9 and you might want to check that out if you missed it; it’s really insightful. So, now given these three reasons, what would you do? You are a follower of Jesus, aren’t you?
I want to leave you with something that you will find in Mark’s account of this story that isn’t here in Matthew’s. When the rich young man told Jesus what a devout follower of God he was, Mark writes, “Jesus looked at him and loved him” (Mark 10:21). Just something else to think about today.
May the Spirit be with you.