Matthew 19:16-30 Part 1

We are in that period of time when the Lord Jesus Christ was moving inexorably toward Jerusalem and His crucifixion.  As He nears Judea on the other side of the Jordan, He encounters Pharisees who attempt to entrap Him concerning the issue of divorce and remarriage.  And, strangely enough, these are the very ones about to receive the death penalty for fornication against God!

Then the children were brought to Jesus – a remarkable insignia of the necessity for covenantal rebirth.  Then Jesus went away from there and continued on toward the Jordan and Jerusalem – huge crowds following Him on His way.

But it’s time now (perhaps a little past time) for me to introduce an Old Testament foreshadowing – anticipatory of the glorious Messiah shortly to come.  I’m probably, as I said, a couple of months late with this – we might have understood a little more about what was happening – but there is, in the older Scripture, a very clear idea of The Redeemer to come.  In fact The Redeemer is an Old Testament concept – one which will emerge often during the preaching of the last chapters of this Gospel.

Jesus Christ was born of Jewish heritage.  And His stated goal was to search out and save the lost sheep of the House of Israel – His Own elect kinsmen!  And having done that, the favored, Only Begotten Son of God received the Gentile nations of all the world as His inheritance!  And having been seated on His Throne, He now rules all the world and is putting all the enemies of His received Kingdom under His feet.

Now, the Older Testament Scriptures anticipate the coming Messiah in a number of different ways, and by different images.  We’ve already seen a few of them in past sermons.  But one of the most profound of the Old Testament images is one which is rarely preached and, therefore, hardly ever considered by New Testament believers.  A part of the reason for that is because the Church doesn’t preach much from the Old Testament any more; and the other part of the reason is that there are no “kinsmen redeemers” in the New Testament Church!  That’s because the Kinsman Redeemer is an anticipatory image.

But the position of the family redeemer was integral to the life and culture of Israel throughout its history.  For example there are three places in the Law of Moses which explicitly mandate the duties of the redeemer.  First, in Leviticus twenty-five, from verse forty-seven to the end of the chapter, we read the Law concerning the designated redeemer who is able to pay the ransom for a poor, lost relative who has had to sell himself into servitude.  Then, in Deuteronomy nineteen and Numbers thirty-five, we see the law of the avenger who redeems the name of his oppressed or murdered relatives.  Third, in Leviticus twenty-five, there is the law which designates a redeemer to ransom back a poor relative’s forfeited inheritance.  And, fourthly, the kinsman redeemer (Ruth three and four) marries the widow of a slain relative, redeeming the name and the property of the family and giving offspring to that relative.

Now, I think it very important that we comment briefly about each of the duties of the family redeemer and see how each one is a specific image of the Messiah to come; and then to touch on how our Lord Jesus Christ is the “fullness” of that Old Testament foreshadowing.  As I said, we’ll just “touch” on it today; but as the occasions arise we will expound of them more fully.  Our text today, as a matter of fact, at least partially depends on our understanding of this concept, or image.

First I said that the designated family redeemer was one who was one who was able to ransom a family member from slavery and oppression.  In order to accomplish this, Jesus Christ had to meet two conditions.  First, He had to be a blood relative of those He would ransom; and then He had to be able to pay the required ransom price!  To meet that first condition, Jesus had to be born in the flesh in the likeness of men, and He had to be born a Jew!  (First the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and then the Gentile nations of the world.)  So He became a kinsman, a family member, of those He would ransom by being born of men after the likeness of Adam!

Then, in order to meet the second condition of the family redeemer, Christ had to agree to pay the cost for the redemption!  Sin was the reason for the oppression since Adam.  And the ransom price for redemption from sin is the shedding of blood of a perfect sacrifice.  So the ransom price for the family members was death!  And that’s why Jesus Christ went to the cross.  We ought always to think of Christ – not as our “brother” in the emotional sense – but as our family redeemer, our brother Who redeemed us from our bondage and oppression under sin.

Next I said that the family redeemer was one who married the wife of a slain family member.  Jesus Christ is the fullness of this image too.  In fact we just got through with a passage of Scripture in which we learned of the fornication and adultery of the nation of Israel – leaving the elect remnant of God in a state of forsakenness and widowhood!  But Christ, as the family redeemer, shows up to take the forsaken to Himself and to be in union with His new “bride” – the Church!

Thirdly, we said that the family redeemer avenges the blood of his family members against their enemies who oppress them and kill them.  And our Lord Jesus Christ is the fullness of the family avenger.  For the forsaking and oppression (entrapments) and murder of the elect remnant of God, Christ annihilated the nation of Israel.  He avenged their blood.  He has, and is, and will avenge the blood of His servants against His, and their, enemies.  And even further, the family Redeemer has already avenged the ravaging of the race through Adam by the serpent Satan.  The avenger has crushed his head, and He will destroy him altogether in due time.  That victory was definitively accomplished on the cross, and it is worked out in space and time in putting all His enemies under His feet and subduing the nations.

Lastly, the family redeemer in the Old Testament is one who is able to ransom his family-member’s forfeited inheritance.  Our inheritance was to be eternal life and “dominion over the earth forever” through an obedient Adam.  But He sinned and died – and we in him.  And the inheritance which we were to have of eternal life and earth dominion were lost – squandered!  The promise to Abraham was the inheritance in the land – if his heirs obeyed.  But Israel from the beginning disobeyed, fell into apostasy, and God removed them from the land.  They lost their inheritance.  But Jesus Christ, the second Adam, came to ransom back what the first Adam, and Israel, lost.  It is eternal life and dominion over all the earth!  By rebirth into the second Adam we are now heirs to all that has been given to Christ, for He has paid the full ransom price for that inheritance.  We forfeited it, and He bought it back!  First for the lost sheep of the house of Israel; and then for elect Gentiles from all the nations of the earth – by adoption!

So Jesus Christ was moving toward Jerusalem to be the Kinsman Redeemer – to buy us back from the bondage and oppression into which we had sold ourselves; to take us to Himself as a virginal bride; to avenge all our enemies who have crushed us and oppressed us; and to buy back the inheritance which we squandered and sold when we fell into sin against God.

He was, first, the family Redeemer of His Own Jewish kinsmen – the house of Israel who, although they were savagely oppressed by this apostate nation, were kept by God for Himself.  And He is, secondly, the Kinsman Redeemer who opened up His inheritance to the Gentile nations; for God has many people of the world who will participate in the “new birth” and enjoy eternally the inheritance which was lost in our father Adam – life and dominion.

So God the Son became our flesh – the Son of Man – in order to be our kinsman.  And He was able to buy us back, to wed us, to avenge us, and to pay for our inheritance.  And being able, He freely chose to pay the full price for the ransom.  We aren’t able to pay any price, because we are the destitute ones.  We are the ones who squandered and lost everything – including life itself!  So the price paid is by grace alone.  We aren’t privy to the motivation behind the grace; we only know that He graciously paid it for us when we were completely incapable of doing anything about our condition!

Now, as I said, the understanding of this Old Testament Biblical foreshadowing of the Messiah is very important to us – especially as Christ began heading toward Jerusalem to be crucified.  Because He is ready to accomplish the fullness of the prophetic Word concerning the “Kinsman Redeemer”.

As we left the text the last time, Jesus had laid the hands upon the children and went away from there.  He was continuing to go through Perea across the Jordan from Judea – moving toward Jerusalem – with huge crowds following Him.  As the Gospel writer, Mark, says, “and He set His face toward Jerusalem”.

In fact, the way the text just ahead reads, it’s possible that this very day He would cross the Jordan River and go through Jericho on His way up the mountain of God.

But before he reached the Jordan there is this encounter with a young man along the way.  Now, I don’t think that Matthew intends for us to relate this man’s youth to the age of Jesus.  Because Jesus was thirty-six to thirty-eight years old at this point.  What Matthew means by a “young man” is according to Jewish custom.  And custom had it that a young man was one under forty.  He wasn’t a “youth”, but neither was he older.  So we can surmise that the man was somewhere between twenty-five and forty.

Mark says that he came running to Jesus and kneeling before Him.  Luke said in His Gospel that he was an “archon” – a ruler.  That word may come from the fact that he had been given political control over a number of people or a section of the country under the Roman government; or it could mean that he had a special post in the local synagogue.  Whatever the case, those who had “holdings” were afforded special privileges and offices.

Now, from verse twenty-two it becomes evident that his holdings had to do with real estate.  The King James Version and others translate the word as “possessions”, but the Greek word is one which is commonly used with reference to “real” property.  Realty.  And since he was a “young man”, it can be safely assumed that his great property wealth came about as a result of inheritance!  In Israel the inheritance of the land was of great importance.  The first son would inherit a double portion from his father – unless he was profligate.  And if a more worthy son was the next oldest, then he would receive the major portion.  So it looks like Jesus is about to encounter a young man of very high quality and from a very wealthy family – one which had left him in possession of large real estate holdings; probably as a result of buying up the inheritances of those who were poor (oppressed) and had to sell!

Matthew begins his account, in verse sixteen, with this little word “lo!”, which we’ve seen a number of times already, haven’t we?  Matthew doesn’t do that unless we are about to witness an event of cosmic magnitude!  Something of major significance is about to happen; or Jesus Christ is about to speak with earth-shaking Revelation!

Usually this passage is glossed over with about fifteen or twenty minutes on the evils of loving money more than God.  That’s not the essence of this passage any more than “making Jesus a part of your life” is the Gospel message!  Matthew is alerting us to the fact that the substance of this encounter concerns matters of a very grave and ascendant nature, and that the time is nearing for great and magnificent things to occur!  It is the epicenter of prophetic Revelation.

And indeed it does concern such matters.  What would you think, knowing what you now know by the grace of God, if you lived in Israel at this time, and you knew a fine, upstanding young man who owned great numbers of properties in an eschatologically doomed nation!?  If you knew that the Messiah was about to be sacrificed, and that He would redeem the land for the oppressed, disenfranchised elect remnant of God, and that He was the Avenger for the house of Israel – what would you do!?  And what would you say to this young man if you knew that in order for him to participate in the inheritance belonging to God’s Son he had to be reborn as the babes?  Would you say, “You must accept Jesus into your heart???”

The man ran to catch up with Jesus and His disciples; and he threw himself down before Him – ready to be a student!  Ready to be a disciple, a learner!  A fine, upstanding, moral young man – certainly the apple of his father’s eye, an astute businessman, wealthy, respected, given deference and office.

Not like the Scribes and Pharisees and priests of Israel who came with guile and cunning and deceit in order to trap Jesus in false doctrine!  This was a man of some quality, who placed himself under the tutelage of Christ, and who was self-consciously aware of his own mortality!  His fear is evident in his question, isn’t it?

“Teacher, what ‘good’ should I perform that I might have eternal life?”  Apparently he had heard much about Jesus’ miracles, but he didn’t understand that they were condemnatory on the nation.  And of course he had heard that the Scribes and Pharisees had been publicly shamed by His powerful and authoritative teaching.  And he had probably heard that many were calling Him “Messiah”, and that large crowds were following Him and crying out “hosanna”, which means “save now”!

Didaskalos.  That’s what he called Jesus.  Teacher.  And he wanted to know what this great teacher would suggest as something “good” for him to do which would gain him eternal life!  Make a note in your own minds (or on the text sheet if you wish) that the young man uses the neuter gender when he says the word “good”.  He does not use the masculine gender, but the neuter.  In other words he is seeking some “thing”; some act; a performance of some deed, in order to “buy” an inheritance in eternity!  After all, he had probably acquired his father’s favor, and his inheritance, by being an excellent son and a quality young man!

“I received my inheritance in the land of Israel because I was good.  I earned it.  It is meritoriously mine.  But I want to have eternal life also.  What good can I do in order to merit that?”  “The land was promised to our father Abraham, and I own a sizable portion of it.  Is that the sum total of eschatological bliss?  Or is there more?  Certainly I will die; and what is to become of the land?  And, more seriously, what is to become of me?”

“Teacher, what good thing can I do to merit life forever?”  But Jesus said to him, “Why are you inquiring of Me concerning the good?”  Take note of the fact that Jesus repeats the neuter gender just as the young man used when he asked the question.  But when He says, “One is the Good,” Jesus changes to the masculine gender!

I want to discuss this a little, and then we’ll have to end the preaching because of the time.  But there’s only one possible reason for the change of genders here.  And I tell you these things – most of the time this passage is interpreted in such a way that Jesus denies His Own goodness!  “Why are you inquiring of Me concerning the good…?”  This has given theologians and commentators fits because of what looks to be deceptiveness on Jesus’ part concerning His Own divinity!

But you see, if Jesus had been responding concerning His Own goodness, then He would have changed the neuter noun to a masculine noun!  But He didn’t do that.  He left it neuter.  So His response is not this… “Why are you inquiring of Me concerning the good…?” but it ought to read like this:  “Why are you inquiring of me concerning the good thing?”  “Why are you asking me about some good deed so you can inherit life?”

One is the Good.”  Of course He refers directly to the Shema Israel, which says, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is ONE!”

“One is the Good.”  And He changes the “Good” to the masculine gender to refer to the Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Ghost.  One.  So the contrast is provided here between the supposed “good” works of men, and the Goodness of God!  The young man seeks to be good and to do good things – neuter – in order to merit life, and Christ directs him to God Who is only Good – masculine. 

This places this man and his good deeds in dire jeopardy – and all others who depend upon their “works” – good things – in order to inherit what they themselves have lost and squandered.  Fallen man cannot be his own redeemer.  He must have a “Kinsman Redeemer” to pay the redemption price for him and for his inheritance.  Next week the Lord tells this young man that he must rigorously keep the Commandments of the God Who is “Good” in order to have life!  Don’t miss it.

In summary, this morning we come in gratitude for our Kinsman Redeemer’s ransom payment.  He came in our flesh in order to be our kinsman.  And He was able to pay the ransom price for us.  We had sold ourselves into bondage and oppression, but He freed us.  We had squandered our inheritance, but He bought it back.  We were widowed and cut off, but He wed us.  We were victims of malevolent oppression, but He avenged us.  And the ransom price, paid in full, was Himself.  And we celebrate our freedom and our new inheritance by thankfulness and obedience and public worship.