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Communion Meditations (2020)


Rich Man

Originally scheduled for September 13

Matthew 19:16-22


Christians are sometimes confronted by the question, “can you be a righteous man without believing in Jesus Christ?” If you’d like to see the answer to that in person, check out this passage. Most of the people Jesus associated with would’ve had no trouble telling you that this rich young man was a righteous person; after all, his wealth was a sign that God had blessed him. As we see here, he was in the habit of being obedient to the Old Testament Law. It is not difficult to imagine that he was a consistent student of the Torah. In short, he is what every one of the time would’ve agreed was a righteous man.

This goes some way to explaining his question to Christ. He doesn’t ask how he can become more righteous; he’s not there to get his halo polished. He asks “what good thing” he must do to get eternal life. It’s an intelligent question. There’s not much sense in being righteous in this life if you’re not going to have eternal life at the end of it. It is one of those “ultimate” questions.

Christ begins his reply by challenging the idea that being good, or righteous, is somehow sufficient. He points him to the true source of righteousness, and therefore places the discussion on a different level. It’s not about some obscure passage in the Old Testament; it’s about you and God. Just to make the point clear, Christ tests him on the subject of his obedience, and apparently accepts that he has been in fact the obedient believer that he claims to be. This qualifies him to hear the answer to his question — but not necessarily to carry it out.

The “one good thing” that Christ tells him he lacks is to sell everything he has, give it to the poor and follow Christ. It is the one thing that a prudent businessman would not want to hear. We don’t like taking risks; here is an irreversible risk that costs everything.

Let’s look at it in a post-resurrection light. One of the characteristics of great leaders is that they would not ask you to do something they would not be willing to do themselves. Christ is asking for all his material possessions to be given away. Christ himself, however, is on the way to the cross. This is his last trip to Jerusalem. He is about to demonstrate to the rich man that he is willing to give all he has.

On Good Friday Christ gave it all. The soldiers got his clothing, but you and I will be receiving his body and his blood this morning. The bread you will take represents his body; the cup, his blood. You are receiving everything he possibly could give.

He has set you the example. He made his total commitment to you, so that you might have eternal life. That’s what the young man was asking about. The answer didn’t come till a few days later. But you have that answer now; you have that example before you. The only real question is, will you follow that example? If there is something in your life that prevents you from being completely committed to Christ, then purge it from your life now. The question is not one of life and death; it’s more important than that. Take his body; take his blood — and follow his example.


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