Summary: Mature believers in Christ concern themselves with being and doing "good" not for the praise of man but for the Lord because of that "moment of truth" which occurred during their personal encounter with Jesus.
OF CONCERN TO JESUS: HIS DISCIPLES’ PERSPECTIVE ON WHAT IT MEANS TO FOLLOW HIM
A brief glance at the Lazarus story: Yes! Sometime after Jesus raised him from the dead - “for God’s glory that God’s Son may be glorified - Lazarus died again, and his body was buried, as with anyone who dies.
At the moment of Lazarus’ death: His soul left his body and went to be with God his Father, as do the souls of all God’s children.
When Jesus died on the cross: His soul left His body which later that afternoon was buried. On the third day: At the very moment Jesus was raised from the dead, His body and soul were reunited.
Yes! “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye”: Our Lord’s body and soul became the “glorified body” that appeared numerous times prior to His Ascension. Now . . . Having established the fact of resurrection:
What about your future resurrection and mine (should we die before Christ returns)? The fact that our bodies will be raised and reunited with our souls is guaranteed by Jesus - for all who believe in and follow Him. A Fantastic Future awaits us!
Keep in mind though: Raising Lazarus from the dead brought resurrection into the present - symbolizing that which occurs when in this life we “die to sin” and are “raised to walk in newness of life”- a transformation depicted by Baptism.
Why are we reflecting on these two resurrection stories as we begin our study of the “Rich Ruler”? To help put what it means to follow Christ into proper perspective – the fact that eternal life begins in the here and now as we surrender our all to Christ our Lord - to enjoy our newness of life in the present – but with our sights set on our glorious reunion in the future in that place Jesus has prepared for us. Only in Christ can this be!
A wealthy young man whose story, by the way, was told not only by Matthew . . . but also by Mark and Luke – a repetition which shows its significance - was on a quest of the kind carried on by many folks – to find what was missing in his life.
Lazarus and his sisters found that “missing element” in Jesus. Abundant life - experienced by this family in Bethany due to their trust in and loyalty to Jesus the Messiah – is exactly what the wealthy young man was searching for!
As with Martha (who asked Jesus about something she had in mind, but was given an answer from the mind of Jesus that opened up a whole new concept of what it means to follow Him) this inquirer (the ruler) experienced his moment of truth – Matthew 19:16-26 . . .
Notice how this man’s idea of “doing good” to earn eternal life is eliminated by Jesus at the outset: “God is good. He wants His children to be and do good. However, if securing your way into heaven depends on good deeds, there is no way by which imperfect human beings can measure up to God’s perfect goodness.”
“If you want to be perfect”, Jesus said to him, “go sell your belongings and give to the poor - and you will have treasure - in heaven - then come, follow me.”
Keeping the commandments is a good thing. Mature Christians, though, do so because they have surrendered their all to Jesus - not as a means to gain favor –“for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) It’s a matter of the heart! We love God . . . We love God’s Son . . . We love God’s Word . . . By love we are compelled . . . !
Did you notice that, when Jesus quoted the second set of commandments, He omitted the tenth - Thou shalt not covet.” Coveting was one thing preventing the ruler from surrendering his all. He had a “god” in his life - obsession with possessions.
Remember the first commandment - there is to be only one God in the life of a child of God. Jesus goes straight to the heart of the matter and examines the young man’s willingness. God knows hearts! This particular individual failed the test!
No, Jesus did not command all financially wealthy Christians to take a vow of poverty to be a follower of Jesus. Many financially wealthy persons pass the test!
Joseph of Arimathea, for example, was wealthy but was not told to sell his belongings; he was not obsessed by possessions. Rather, he used what he had to serve God, not the least act of service being his burial of Jesus’ body in his personal family tomb.