“Just then someone came up and asked Him, “Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life? ” “Why do you ask Me about what is good? ” He said to him. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.””
Matthew 19:16-17 HCSB
I have to admit I have struggled with the story of the rich ruler. I have struggled not because of Jesus telling how it is easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle than a rich person to enter the kingdom because I know with God all things are possible. Rather, I have struggled because it seems to be saying that we earn salvation. Looking at this through a fresh lens I see something different. I see 2 things:
1. Jesus acknowledging that there is only One who is good, and it is as though Jesus is testing him to see if he will acknowledge that he is looking at that One!
2. Second, I think on the later verses, as I mentioned earlier, how it is easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle… The rich young man here is essentially trying to buy his way into Heaven. Jesus tells him if that is what he wants to do, he needs to give EVERYTHING he has and put all his faith in Jesus. You can’t buy your way in, this person was trying to do that, instead Jesus is saying there is a price – everything.
“Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you? ’”
Matthew 18:33 HCSB
Jesus’ parable of the two slaves, one who owed their master a large sum, that he could never pay, and another who owed a small amount to the first slave. The first slave begged the master and his loan was completely forgiven, but then he went after the one with the smaller debt and had him thrown into prison. Having heard this, the king reinstated the debt and held the slave accountable for the debt. The debt that he would never be able to repay.
What stands out to me here is the amount of the debts. The king is God, and we are the slaves. We owed so much to Him, but He forgave us all of it. But there are people who have done us wrong, and if we don’t forgive them, it is the same thing. What they owe us, or did to us is small fry compared to the magnitude of sin we owe God.
“Then the disciples approached Jesus privately and said, “Why couldn’t we drive it out? ” “Because of your little faith,” He told them. “For I assure you: If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting. ””
Matthew 17:19-21 HCSB
I have always read this and thought Jesus was saying that this particular demon couldn’t come out except with prayer and fasting. Now I think He is saying that is where faith comes from. You don’t just get it. You have to work at it.
“From then on Jesus began to point out to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, “Oh no, Lord! This will never happen to You! ” But He turned and told Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me because you’re not thinking about God’s concerns, but man’s.””
Matthew 16:21-23 HCSB
This comes just after Peter proclaims Jesus is the Messiah. What I find interesting is that when Jesus responds, He not only responds to Satan, which is what I usually focus on, but He says he (i believe this is Peter) is thinking of his concerns – he didn’t want Jesus to die, and didn’t understand that He had to. At the same time the enemy, knowing Jesus’ compassion, tried to play on that through Peter.
“But you say, ‘Whoever tells his father or mother, “Whatever benefit you might have received from me is a gift committed to the temple” — he does not have to honor his father.’ In this way, you have revoked God’s word because of your tradition. Hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied correctly about you when he said: These people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. They worship Me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commands of men.””
Matthew 15:5-9 HCSB
Jesus is rebuking the Pharisees and teachers of the time. I noticed something when reading this that I don’t know I’ve caught before. Jesus quotes Isaiah when he says “They worship Me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commands of men.” To misinterpret God’s commands, namely to do so out of a selfish heart, is to worship God in vain. Anytime I read scripture, and I’m not 100% clear what it is saying, I need to pray, and then be very careful that what I think He is saying is in fact from Him and not what I want Him to say.
““Lord, if it’s You,” Peter answered Him, “command me to come to You on the water.” “Come! ” He said. And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid. And beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me! ””
Matthew 14:28-30 HCSB
Peter saw Jesus and his faiths and courage got him out of the boat. Then the waves and wind caused him to be afraid and when that fear came, he began to sink. Fear can displace faith. I can’t let this happen!!!
“And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.”
Matthew 13:58 HCSB
Jesus is rejected in Nazareth, so, because of their unbelief, He doesn’t perform miracles. Thinking on this, this is true throughout. He performs miracles due to the faith of those He heals, He doesn’t perform miracles to cause them to believe.
“I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.””
Matthew 12:36-37 HCSB
I just realized that when He is speaking of careless words, Jesus means not only negative words, but positive words as well! If our hearts are pure, even our casual words will be for God’s glory.
““Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.””
Matthew 11:28-30 HCSB
I read this still remembering Jesus’ exhortation that we must be willing to take up our own cross to follow Him. He usually doesn’t say that following Him will be easy, but then I read this and I see where He tells us that His burden is light. Then I realize He is telling me that His yoke is easy and His burden is light WITH THE HELP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. I am going to have trials, but if I put my faith in Him, He will help me and make them easy – probably because I have the Peace beyond understanding.
““The one who welcomes you welcomes Me, and the one who welcomes Me welcomes Him who sent Me. Anyone who welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward. And anyone who welcomes a righteous person because he’s righteous will receive a righteous person’s reward. And whoever gives just a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple — I assure you: He will never lose his reward! ””
Matthew 10:40-42 HCSB
I find this very interesting. There is direct correlation between reward and level whom you serve. You welcome a righteous person, you receive a righteous person’s reward. You welcome a prophet, you get a prophet’s reward. Welcome a disciple of Jesus, and it never ends! For me Jesus is saying, as He does elsewhere, that to welcome a believer is to welcome Him. To serve a believer is to serve Him. How can I serve the Kingdom? I can help my fellow believers!