A man approached him and said, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to have eternal life?” Jesus said, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There’s only one who is good. If you want to enter eternal life, keep the commandments.” The man said, “Which ones?” Then Jesus said, “Don’t commit murder. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t steal. Don’t give false testimony. Honor your father and mother,[d] and love your neighbor as you love yourself.” The young man replied, “I’ve kept all these. What am I still missing?” Jesus said, “If you want to be complete, go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven. And come follow me.” But when the young man heard this, he went away saddened, because he had many possessions (Matthew 19:16-22, Common English Bible).
We are going to spend the next few days on the story of the Rich Young Man’s encounter with Jesus. This story has always been a bit intriguing to me and over the next few days I will share some of my thoughts with you.
Today let’s focus on the first part of the story. A rich young man comes to Jesus and wants to know what he has to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus’ response? Keep the commandments.
So, what part of “Keep the commandments” did this guy not understand? It’s pretty obvious that he wants something more specific. “Which Ones?” he asks.
I really can’t see that Jesus would be all that happy with his question. And, I don’t think his answer of, “Don’t commit murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, honor your father and mother and love your neighbor as yourself” was an all inclusive list. First, the five of the Ten Commandments specifically mentioned are the five commandments considered to be sins against other people. The sixth commandment Jesus mentions is one of the two Jesus says together are the greatest commandment and neither is part of the Ten Commandments. And, that greatest commandment is all about sins against other people too. There is no mention about God anywhere in the instructions Jesus gave to the rich young man. None of the first five of the Ten Commandments are mentions, nor is the Great Shema of the Torah, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.”
As a Jew who had at least be keeping part of the commandments “since his youth,” I feel pretty certain he knew about there being more than what sometimes is referred to as “The Big Ten.” In fact, there are 613 commandments in Hebrew law. I can’t help but wonder, if the young man knew this, was he searching for an easier way. Trying to keep 613 commandments straight could be a pretty daunting task.
Still, had this young man chosen to follow, those commandments wouldn’t matter quite so much because there is something else in this lesson. Jesus offers the opportunity to follow Him. With following Him, there also would be the gift of grace. The free gift of grace comes to all who believe and follow the Risen Christ.
If you asked Jesus what you had to do, what commandments do you think you might hear?
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Thanksgiving,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved