Matthew 19:16-30: Hundredfold
February 21, 2021
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Another encounter that is well-known, and often misinterpreted. A man comes up to Jesus with what is apparently a genuine, as well as important, question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (19:16). But Jesus notes the precise elements of his question that indicate a set of problematic assumptions, and heart orientation in this man. “What good deed?” is how he puts it.
To start off the exploration, Jesus states that there is only one who is good (19:17) (assuming the point to be that only God is good). So why is he asking Jesus about what is good? Jesus is trying to help the man see that what has drawn him to talk to Jesus in this way is because Jesus is himself God. The man wants clarity over which commandments he must keep. Jesus quotes from the Ten Commandments, but only the second table of the Ten Commandments, the ones that are to do with the responsibilities we have to each other, not with our relationship with God.
We begin more and more to get the sense that this man is concerned with what is right in people’s eyes, but does not have a secure relationship with God himself. Now comes the nub of it (19:21). This verse is not so much about money per se, as it is about the fact that what this man was putting as his first priority was money. In essence, he was, while keeping the moral commandments of being a good neighbor to other people, actually worshiping money, not God. If he is to inherit eternal life, he must remove his idol of money and start to worship God himself.
Jesus then, from verse 23, starts to explain and apply this encounter to his disciples. He uses a touch of humor to make the illustration poignant: it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven. Note he does not say it is impossible for a rich man to get into heaven, but that while someone still has money as their god, or any other thing except God himself, it is not possible to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Who then can be saved? The answer is “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” This tells us both that salvation is a gift of God and only something that God can do for all people, rich and poor alike. It also tells us that the nub of the matter for the man that Jesus was talking to was that he was not worshiping God. Peter pipes up and points out how much they have left in order to follow him. Jesus then encourages him that those who leave much behind to put Jesus first will receive a hundred times as much (in this life, cf. Mark 10:3), and eternal life in the age to come. Putting God first, worshiping and following Jesus, may at times be difficult and cost us much, but it is worth a hundred times over even in this life, and in the life to come leads to joy forevermore in eternity.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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