SECTION 9: THE SERVANTS OF THE KING
MORE LESSONS OF A LIFETIME
THE GREAT REFUSAL
Scripture To Consider:
“Then little children were brought to Jesus that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’ And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.” Matthew 19.13-15
Something To Consider:
Something is added to the significance of this beautiful scene by the setting in which it is placed. Jesus has been speaking of the sanctity of the marriage bond by which the safety of the home is secured. He now teaches the sacredness of childhood which brings to the home its completeness, its glory, and its ennobling care, as Matthew records, “Then little children were brought to Jesus that He might put His hands on them and pray.”
These children were probably carried in the arms of their parents. What was desired for them was that blessing from the Master which may well symbolize the personal relation and spiritual contact with Christ which all parents with equal eagerness should seek for their children.
Matthew does not hide the fact that the disciples rebuked the parents for their efforts. The disciples may have felt that the children were too insignificant to be allowed to interfere with the work or to demand the care of Christ. Many things today tend to keep parents from bringing their children to the Master, such as custom and carelessness and indifference and fear, even friends seem to play the part of the disciples and to conspire to prevent and to rebuke those who really desire to see their children brought to Jesus.
The reply of Jesus has cast an unfading halo about the face of every helpless child, as Jesus proclaimed to His misguided disciples, “Let the children come to Me, and do not forbid them.” Their innocent helplessness appealed to the King. Should it not affect us, and should we feel that no work is more Christ-like, none more blessed than the spiritual care of children?
We are true servants of the King as we feel the appeal of childhood, and only as we seek to supply to children their physical, mental, and spiritual needs. According to Jesus, “For of such is the kingdom of heaven.” In other words, the kingdom of heaven is theirs by right; not those particular children, and not all children in general, but all of whatever age who are childlike in their trust and dependence and purity in the living God of the Word of God.
All those who cast themselves upon the King and upon His sustaining grace will enter His glorious kingdom. And so, Jesus laid His hands upon the children and then departed from them. But His blessing has brought its benediction wherever His name has been heard. Christianity is peculiarly the religion that regards the rights of children. Where Jesus Christ is known, trusted, and followed, there childhood is cherished.
More Scripture To Consider:
“Now behold, one came and said to Jesus, ‘Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?’ So Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ He said to Jesus, ‘Which ones?’ Jesus said, ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, honor your father and your mother, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’“
“The young man said to Jesus, ‘All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me.’ But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Matthew 19.16-22
Something Else To Consider:
Here is the striking story of one who, in spite of riches, youth, position, power, and great possessions, was not satisfied with his life. Therefore, he went to Jesus and said, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” Jesus at once rebukes him by stating, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.” It is a mistake to suppose that Jesus denies His own sinlessness or disclaims divinity. As to the latter, many assert that Jesus is suggesting that He is either not good or He is God. This is true enough, but it is not the point.
Jesus may have wished to convict the young man of his moral need. He suggested that the thoughtless use of the word “good,” in addressing one whom he regards as a human teacher, is an indicator of his superficial view of goodness. In the sight of a holy God, and judged by a divine standard of righteousness, can the young inquirer claim to be good? Can any man, woman, or young person call themselves righteous, in the light of divine holiness?
Jesus now proposes the true test of the revealed will of God. He mentions the commandments, at least such as concern man’s relationship to his fellow man. The self-righteous inquirer at once replies that he has kept these from his youth. Jesus looks with love upon the young man whose moral purpose has been so high, but Jesus now applies the deep probe which shows that the man has never observed the spirit of the commandments even though he believes he has kept the letter of the law.
Jesus sees the real selfishness of the heart; therefore, He proposes the supreme test, by stating, “Go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” In this sentence Jesus convicts the man of having broken the second table of the law which requires one to love his neighbor as himself. Jesus promises an eternal recompense for his sacrifice, and He offers, by His personal companionship, the power and influence which will make the keeping of the law more possible and complete.
No one can claim to be righteous when judged by the commandments as interpreted by Christ. Our only hope is to come to Him for guidance and help. He will lay bare the secret selfishness of our hearts and He will develop the spirit of self-renunciation and love which forms the essence of eternal life; and in His kingdom we ultimately shall be recompensed for every loss and rewarded for every gain.
Our Lord does not demand that all His followers shall sacrifice their worldly possessions. He is dealing with a specific case and character. He does demand that each one shall give up anything which keeps one from open and honest fellowship with Him. In the case of this inquirer Jesus makes plain to him that his goodness is superficial and inadequate. Love of money is the spiritual cancer which is hidden in his soul. Jesus further shows him that he must choose between his wealth and the eternal life which Jesus alone can give.
No wonder the young man went away sorrowful. He had to make a choice. He realized his weakness and his need; but he kept his wealth and he rejected or refused his Savior. He desired the highest good; he yearned for eternal life; but he was not willing to pay the price which Jesus required. He was more willing to attempt to gain the whole world and lose his own soul, than to gain that which he could never earn and never lose. How many are still making the same calculated but distinctively wrong decision?
More Scripture To Consider:
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man [or rich woman] to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again, I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ When His disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’ But Jesus looked at them and said to them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’“
“Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, ‘See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit everlasting life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.’“ Matthew 19.23-30
More Something Else To Consider:
The disciples had witnessed a tragic incident. They had seen a young man who had been offered eternal life but who had been ready to barter his soul for wealth. Jesus now startles them by the statement of a truth which is illustrated by the scene they had witnessed. Jesus confirmed the false teaching of the religious establishment by declaring, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man [or rich woman] to enter the kingdom of heaven.” This was particularly surprising to the Jewish mind. They had imagined that wealth was a positive proof of the favor of God.
What then could Jesus mean? He did not intend to teach that the possession of riches was sinful, nor that poverty was necessarily virtuous, nor that private property is a social wrong. He rather meant to indicate that one who seeks to satisfy himself or herself with wealth, one who trusts in riches, cannot enter the kingdom of God. Jesus even adds a pardonable hyperbole, by stating; “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
According to Jesus, one who would enter that kingdom must be as a little child. He or she must abandon all trust in self, in self-attainment, and in self-righteousness. He or she must be willing to sacrifice anything which stands between them and Jesus Christ ruling and reigning supreme upon the throne of their hearts. And for some this takes many years, and for others it takes an entire lifetime. How is the process coming along in our own lives?
When the disciples heard it, they were astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” Our Lord replied, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” It does require resolution, decision, and sacrifice, but God is ready to supply all needed grace. His Spirit can give strength to those who turn to Him in trust and turn away from those things that hinder that complete trust. The final decision rests with each of us!
As the rich man slips away sorrowful in his costly robes, Peter looks upon him with apparent scorn, and turns to Jesus with self-complacency to say, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore, what shall we have?” It was a noble question. And yet, how many of us have asked the same question or a similar version of the same question?
Peter’s question expressed a commercial and worldly spirit; but Jesus refrained from uttering a rebuke. A moment later Jesus will be found correcting Peter by telling him the story of the laborers in the vineyard; but first of all, Jesus gives to Peter a promise, and some of the followers of Christ today need to be assured by that same promise.
Sometimes a whisper steals into our hearts and we feel like asking what recompense we are to receive for our sacrifices made for the sake of Christ. Jesus replies with His kingly promise. He declares that in the regeneration, in the age to come, when Jesus has returned and has made all things new, then those who have followed Him through the scenes of present trial and sacrifice will share with Him the glory that radiates from His throne. Nor was the promise for His immediate followers alone. It is for everyone who has sacrificed for His sake. All such will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.
Jesus adds however, a word of warning, that Peter must beware of self-confident pride. According to Jesus, “Many who are first will be last, and the last first.” That is to say, many, like Peter, who have had the opportunity of being nearest to Christ in this present life, may not receive the greatest reward. Men, women, and young people will be judged according to faithfulness.
Still, more solemn is the warning to those as the rich man, who cling to their wealth and who refuse the service of the King. Their power and riches put them now in the first place of opportunity. They may be the last to accept Christ and the eternal life which He offers, or they may never accept and reap the whirlwind of being lost for all of eternity.
Something More To Consider:
Jesus is forever instructing us in more lessons of a lifetime. The true-life story of the young rich man is a story with a sad ending, and one that is repeated on a daily basis by thousands or millions of deceived individuals. Satan, in conjunction with the world and human nature, has spun a most intriguing web of deception and earthly enticement.
As a young person, the advertising giants of my youthful days, were pushing a few extremely worldly concepts in order to entice as many of my generation as possible to let go of their hard-earned cash or to extend their debt load on credit cards. And yet, the more things change, the more they stay the same!
One of those ingenious slogans was “You only go around once in life, therefore, grab all the gusto you can!” Millions of those who did so have died of cirrhosis of the liver or have become crippled or worse due to driving under the influence of so much alcoholic gusto. Others have simply tuned out the truth of the gospel good news, as did the rich young man, because they have drowned their sorrows in much too much, much too often, with much too much gusto. The fact remains, we always reap what it is that we sow! What will we then reap in eternity?
A Few Final Words:
One final slogan I remember hearing over the air waves through both radio and TV was, “If it feels good, do it!” Nike later shortened this saying to “Just do it!” The problem was and still is, that many things in life feel good, but that doesn’t guarantee they are good or good for us. But what these catch phrases and others accomplished, was the misdirection of several generations since.
In other words, life in general is full of lessons to be learned. The rich young man in our Scripture to consider, learned to his detriment that he loved his money, his wealth, and his position in life more than he loved to obey the truth of the Word of God.
Therefore, this follower of human nature, this puppet of Satan’s schemes, came to grips with his decision to voice his great refusal of Jesus’ lesson of a lifetime. This man like millions or billions in every generation since, chose rather to continue grabbing for all the glittering gusto this earthly life has to offer.
This rich young man, like so many, foolishly chose to do that which felt good and satisfied his sinful fleshly desires, ambitions, and egotistical life goals. And doing that which feels good is diametrically opposed to living by faith in Jesus Christ.
And according to the Word of God, without faith it is impossible to please God. Therefore, may we be willing to learn every spiritual lesson of a lifetime Jesus offers to teach us while we have breath within us. For there is coming a time and a moment when that breath and our remaining breaths will cease. What will we have learned?
Our Father in heaven, thank You for every lesson of a lifetime You choose to teach us. May we never refuse to learn them and to benefit from them Father. Help us to never commit the great and foolish refusal of Jesus Christ and His end time warnings. Teach us what we need to know of coming end time events that we may honor you and be prepared to endure unto the end, according to Jesus. In Him Always, Amen!