What good thing can I do to have eternal life?
Daily Reading from Matthew 19:13-30
13 Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. 15 And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence. 16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. 18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, 19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? 21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. 23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 25 When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? 26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. 27 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? 28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. 30 But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.
It is one thing to be told a truth but another to be led to personal discovery. Jesus often helped people come to the right conclusion themselves rather than simple instruction. That is what Jesus was doing with the rich young ruler who came to him and asked, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” The young man did not understand that we are all incapable of doing enough good to earn Heaven. His instruction began with a lesson on goodness. Jesus asked why he had called him good since nobody but God is good. The Lord Jesus was good, he is good, he is the only one that is good because he is God! Paul taught us in Romans 3:10 that there is none good, no not one. How could this young man not see? Since Jesus had already taught that none were good why did he teach the young man that that eternal life would come if he kept the commandments? The young man must discover his inability before he will trust in God’s ability. The young man was obviously not getting the lesson since he asked, “all these things I have kept from my youth up, what lack I yet?” He hadn’t by the way. Jesus taught in his sermon on the mount that the law went deeper than the external. Lust is adultery in the heart, hatred is murder not yet brought to completion. The law must be kept in the heart and that is where we often fail. Jesus responded with yet another attempt to bring this young man to the truth. “One thing you are lacking, sell all that you have, give to the poor and you will have treasure in Heaven” He loved his money more than God so he walked away sad. If his money made him happy then why so sad? I guess stuff doesn’t satisfy after all. Jesus had revealed that the young man had not kept the commandments. He had broken the very first one, he had another god. He had also broken the tenth commandment, “thou shalt not covet..” In the end, the law revealed a lack of goodness and a sinful condition in this self righteous man. Paul said in Galatians 3:24 the law was a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ but the young man went the wrong direction, he went away from Christ. How unfortunate that he walked away sad when he could have turned to Jesus and been glad. Jesus led him to the living water but he did not make him drink. The disciples asked, “who then can be saved?” The answer, “with men this is impossible but with God all things are possible”. That is the truth of the gospel. The law we can’t keep, God the Son kept on our behalf. The salvation we could not earn he paid for in full. The impossible salvation of sinful humanity was made possible by God himself.