Matthew 19 = Rich Man, Jesus, Eternal Life
Bible Background: Matthew, Mark, and Luke report this story with slightly different details (young, rich, ruler). Wealth in those days would be seen as a sign of God’s favor. It shocks the disciples to hear how hard it is for a wealthy person to enter the kingdom of God! If that’s true, what chance does an ordinary person have? Note the good news: “With God, all things are possible!”
Digging Deeper: 1. Remember the context: Jesus is “on the way”, not to a life of ease, but to Jerusalem and the cross. This story has to do with the ‘cost of discipleship.’ It is tempting to think that following Jesus makes life good and meaningful and easy!
2. This eager man is a good man; an upstanding person; he’s respectful! He seems to have it all, and to have done the ‘right’ things with his life. Yet something is missing. He’s looking for more. What do you suppose that is? What is it that Jesus has to offer that nothing else can match? Might we expect to also yearn for something ‘more’ even if we are very blessed in life?
3. In Mark’s version, Jesus’ response to this man’s request is to look on him in love, and to make him an offer-which, the man refuses-and which grieves him greatly. This is disorienting! It might be just as difficult for us to do what this man could not do! Nevertheless, in following Jesus, it is possible to put God first, and to pour ourselves out to live for others. Is that the ‘secret’ to a life of faith? To a life of meaning and purpose?
4. “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God!” Wow! That’s hyperbole, for sure. But it’s a wake-up call, too. By the world’s standards, most of us are among “the rich”. Not the 1/10th of 1%, but actually the top 5-10%! What is it about wealth and possessions that might hinder our ability to embrace the life Jesus offers? Is it that we are insulated/isolated from others? Is it that we don’t have to depend that much on others? Is it that we don’t see how dependent we are on God? Or how gracious God is? What are you unwilling to give up for the kingdom of God?
5. A final question might be “What is eternal life?” In scripture, it’s not just a reference to life after death. It’s got to do with the kind of life possible here and now, as followers of Jesus and as sisters/brothers with others. What shape would Jesus want for our lives in this world? How is a strong sense of community and caring part of that? Does “Gifted and Grateful” help us picture this kind of life?