Matthew 19: 13-30, Stripping Ourselves of What Holds Us.
General Idea: Jesus challenged people to care for children in a culture that mostly ignored them or considered them nuisances. The wealth of relationships and family supercede the world's wealth, and who we are in Christ supercedes it all. We have to realize our position and our blessings so we can have it all by getting rid of it all. Wealth may seem like a big asset to possess, but it is a burden that gets in the way of His Way. Its richness is shallow and temporary; we can have so much more through Him.
The rich man refused to see his sin or to repent. He was only able to see his needs and desires. These desires became his barrier to knowing and growing in Christ. We are never to think too highly of ourselves lest pride comes in to ruin us. Pride removes God from our equation of life and relationships. It removes honesty and sincerity. Jesus tells us never to allow money to stand in His Way. When we do, it blocks us off from the true treasures and blessings He has for us! If you fear you will lose out in happiness or lose out in what seems important, the fact is-you won't! Wealth is a false god that subjugates us; Christ frees us and blesses us!
1. Let the little children come. Adults often trample over children and fail to consider their feelings or potential impact. Adults often fail to see how their actions affect the future and mindset of children.
a. The Disciples saw children as a nuisance; Jesus had to point to their role as caregivers, and to the children as blessings.
b. Rebuked them. Pushing people away who are called by God or who are seeking His help (this includes children) will bring grave repercussions (2 Kings 4:27; 5:27).
c. Children must be considered as precious agents of God whom we are called to care for and teach, to help form and to educate. When we subjugate children, we subjugate our future and society into dysfunction and chaos.
d. Christ calls the children to come to Him. Good parents help their children come to Him by modeling His character and teaching His precepts with love and care. Anything else would be heinous, such as not loving, caring for, or teaching them.
e. Children then were powerless and dependent; they had no rights. With dependency, there is responsibility to the care givers-the parents and the Church.
f. Many children died from disease and/or neglect before they reached puberty. In some counties today, half of all children die. Many others are discarded when the parents cannot, or refuse to care for them.
g. Laying on of hands was a way to bestow blessing (Gen. 48:14; Num. 6:24-27)
h. Children are never to be a distraction; rather, they are to be seen as blessings, and adults are to take their responsibility seriously!
i. To enter the Kingdom of Heaven requires the kind of trust and faith in Christ that a child has that they will be cared for. It also means to be dependent on God and not on self. Children cannot achieve or pay for their own way just as we cannot do so for our place in heaven (Matt. 18:1-9).
2. Good teacher. This is a title for Jesus and demonstrates His Divinity and mercy.
a. Philo, the Jewish teacher, remarked about the goodness of God, that God alone is good, and that the Law is good.
b. Jesus confronts the man with his own question and need.
c. Eternal life refers to the entry into eternity and Heaven, or as evangelicals say, "to be saved."
d. Which ones. These are the Ten Commandments. Jesus lists here the ones that deal with how we are to be to each other; the others, which are not listed, are the ones about how we are to be before God (Ex. 20:1-17).
i. This is summarized as, love your neighbor as your self (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:39).
ii. Notice that the tenth one, not to covet, is missing; it is not missing because it is not important, but it is humanly impossible to keep.
iii. Most Jews then, as well as now, would claim they keep the commandments, just as this rich man asserted; however, as Jesus states, this man said, what do I still lack? We lack a lot!
e. Young man refers to being 25-40; if he were younger than 24 or older than 40, different words would be used.
f. Each classic Greek philosopher has stories of rich students who were too prideful or spoiled to learn.
g. Go sell to the poor. Jesus' demands are radical. He is showing that what we think is important is not, and what we lack, is. What we lack is spiritual maturity and a sense of what is really important.
i. Most Jews considered giving 20% above their tax and tithe to the Temple as generous; it would have been a total of 60+% of their income.
ii. Most scholars say this was not a requirement, but rather a test to see if the person's sincerity and commitment was real.
h. He went away sorrowful. This young man failed. Greek and Jewish upper class people often were so self-absorbed they would not even respond to confrontation, or do anything that would be out of their way.
3. It is easer for a camel. This was hyperbole speech, and humor. Jesus is performing stand up comedy, much like you would see in a comedy club or on TV, except clean and with a very important point. This was also a figure of speech where people compared something to the impossible to make a point, as Jesus did in Matthew 16:21-28 (Psalm 24; 23; Prov. 17:22; 26:1-17; Matt. 5:39, 46; 6:24; 7:3-5,16; 12:48-49; 15:14; 17:24-27; 19:24; 23: 24, 27; Luke 11: 5-13; 12:13-21;15:1-7).
a. Eye of a needle. Most people consider it the hammered and bent portion of a small iron or brass needle used for sewing, but archeological evidence and the Talmud suggest this could also be the name for a small gate into Jerusalem that was used for people and not animals. It was like a small maze to keep predators and animals out and deter attacking forces by slowing them down. They would get stuck in the gate and could easily be defeated. Perhaps it meant both. Either way, to the first century Jew, this was hilarious! Jesus got people's attention, and He used humor.
b. Rich were, as today, both loved and despised, the reasons being because of oppression, being jealous or envious, or desiring their favor. Jewish leaders tended to give the places of honor to the rich and treated them well. They also promised eternal security in exchange for donations, as did the Church prior to the Reformation. This was not official, but it was practiced. Jesus is not saying the rich will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven; rather, they have far more hurdles to get over than most are willing to do. Some rabbis taught that the rich must give all their wealth to the poor before they could enter heaven.
c. Jesus is making the point that we enter Heaven, not by our means, our wealth, or influence, but only by God's grace and mercy. We can do nothing to earn or pay our way (Eph. 2:8-9)!
d. Regeneration meant the "renewal of the world," for the Jew and a "new world order" for the Greeks (Isa. 65:17; 66:22). Each of the Caesars would seek to establish his own new world order. The Dead Sea Scrolls talk a lot about this topic; it was a "hot topic" in Jesus' day. It meant that the original twelve tribes of Israel would be restored in their power, position, and lands, that all the Law of Moses would be followed, and Israel would prosper. This was also used as a term for kinship, community, and end times.
The way of God is not about "feel good" comfort and self gratification; rather, it is an eternal perspective with a life that is created, honed, and ruled by the Lord of the Universe. People with fewer assets to lose are more willing to accept Christ because they see they have less to give up. People with influence and wealth have more to lose, so they think, and reject Christ or put limits on their faith and on what they are willing to do. The touchtone theme of Jesus' point is how we come before God. It is not about whom we are in the world or what we can do. It is not about us at all; it is all about Him, about God's love, God's grace, and God's mercy. Children are far better at modeling humility and trust than adults because we have so much baggage from life; we need to be stripped of what holds us back. Perhaps, that is the main reason we have children and spend so much time in our childhood-to learn trust, abiding, and love. We learn them, and then we tend to forget them and switch to other things that distract us. Allow the children to remind you about faith and the important things in life. Allow Christ to strip you to your bare self, with no distractions or concerns other than to see Him! The only way we can receive His regeneration, the Kingdom of Heaven, is by our abiding trust. Let the children and Christ teach you!
1. What were you like as a child?
2. What happens to you when you think too highly of yourself? What happens to your relationship with others, and how do you feel when another person is prideful toward you?
3. Do you believe that the wealth of relationships and family supercedes the world's wealth? Why, or why not?
4. How can wealth be a burden that gets in the way of His Way? How can it not be?
5. Why did the people bring their children to Jesus? Would you have? Why?
6. Why did the Disciples see the children as nuisances? Why do people forget and ignore children?
7. Do you see children as precious agents of God? Why, or why not? How does God desire us to see children? Why do some people dislike children?
8. What can children teach you about faith? What can you teach them?
9. Why is God alone good? How does this fact promote your faith?
10. Jesus confronts the man with his own question and need. What needs do you have that need confrontation?
11. Why did Jesus emphasize the part of the Ten Commandments concerning how we are to be to each other? How are you challenged by these commandments?
12. Jesus is showing that what we think is important, is not, and what we lack, is. So, can you list what is important to you and honestly evaluate its importance to Christ and His call to you?
13. Why and how did this young, rich man fail?
14. How does it make you feel that Jesus used humor to grab people's attention and make His points?
15. How do rich people make you feel-fearful, suspicious, jealous, envious, desiring their favor, or, what?
16. What is the point Jesus is making about how we enter Heaven? Do most Christians realize this point? Why, or why not?
17. Can you explain the ways of God versus the ways of how you or the world would like to do things?
18. What did you forget about your childhood that can help you in your walk with Christ now? What can you learn from a child to help you in modeling humility?
19. What do you need to be stripped of? How would being stripped (what needs to be given up, uncovered, revealed) improve your faith and relationships?
20. Explain in your own words how we come before God. This can be a big help to your witness and understating of faith.
© 2004, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org