Matthew 19:16-30 Part 3

Matthew 19:16-30 Part 3


The first thing we want to do this morning is to go through some of the verses one by one and do the interpretation work, and make some comments on the issues as they come up.  And then we’ll go back and spend a good part of our time on the major events and prophecies of the Older Testament which foreshadow the coming new birth in God’s Messiah.

As I’ve already mentioned twice before, this occasion is given a pre-eminent place in the Scriptures.  That is evident due to the fact that Matthew has begun it with his little word “lo”, indicating its importance, and due to its distinctive length (being given half of chapter nineteen and half of chapter twenty – maybe up to four or five percent of the entire corpus of the Gospel).

And looking at the passage as a whole, it’s no wonder it is given such pre-eminence, for herein is the center of the Gospel!  The depravity and inability of man; the necessity of the rebirth; and the predestinating will of God with regard to Israel – all in one encounter between Jesus and a rich man.

But might I say first, (if I can jump ahead a little bit), that wealth, is not, in and of itself, evil!  I just want to get this out of the way right here at the beginning; but, at the same time, I certainly don’t want you now to be set free to go out and set up, as a target (focus) for your life, to become rich!

As I said, there is no inherent evil in land or money – or in any other accumulation.  To illustrate that point, think back to the encounter that Jesus had with the Pharisees concerning the “baptism” of utensils and food.  Thinking that evil impurities were attached to things they ate and the things with which they ate, the teachers of Israel set a standard for the entire nation which included the notion that evil was outside of man; and that ritual cleansing purged the evil from whatever they put in their mouths!

But Jesus shamed them publicly for their hypocrisy, saying that the locality for cleansing wasn’t outside – but inside!

And the same is true where any other “thing” is concerned.  Evil is not attached to “things”.  So land, and money, and valuables are not evil.  In fact, through all of Scripture God has blessed His people – many times with great wealth!  Not to say that that’s a pattern which holds true in every case, but it is certainly true that the world belongs to God’s people in Christ.  The Covenant is broadly inclusive of prosperity for nations and families who obey.

Okay, so what’s the problem with wealth?  The problem is man.  His nature is sin.  He is depraved.  And what is the “short-form” definition of depravity?  Self-centeredness rather than God-centeredness.  What has been the fact ever since our father Adam, and his wife Eve, gave birth to Cain?  The totality of our thought and purpose has been exhaustively and collectively self – and the world with respect to self.  We want to be “as God”.  We would have Him not rule over us.  Although we all know Him, our “eye” is turned to the “I” – rather than the “Thou”.

So the problem with wealth is not the wealth, but the “self”!  All that self-centeredness is, is exacerbated and potentiated when we possess (or come in contact with, or even think about) wealth!  The evil is not in the riches; the evil is depraved man.

Now, when this rich, young man came running to Jesus, what was the intent of his mind and his life?  “What good should I perform that I might have eternal life?”  And Jesus responded, in effect, “Why do you think so highly of yourself that you can perform a good thing that will merit life for you?”  “Turn your life toward God and His holy Law in order to glorify Him.”  (This is the nature of rebirth)

But the young man, seeing nothing but himself, said, “All these I did observe; what do I lack in addition?”  And Jesus gives him the perfect answer.  He pinpoints the real problem, which is self-concern, self-esteem, and self-interpretation.  “Go sell everything you have and give it away and follow Me.”  Turn your life from self to God!  Turn and remake your nature.

I often think of a term that John Calvin used to describe the man who is concerned with “the self” and its surroundings.  He says he is no better than “brute beasts” who know nothing except the satisfaction of whatever its needs are.

I want to follow up with that thought in a minute; because you all need to have a working knowledge of epistemology – what it is; what it means to be “epistemologically self-conscious”.  But first we must continue to comment on the verses of Scripture.

In verses eighteen and nineteen, Jesus answers the young man’s question, “Which Commandments?”  Jesus had said that he had to obey the Commandments because God is the Good.  The “Good” originates in Him, so heed His Words!  But the man wanted Jesus to be specific!  The only thing I can figure here is that his morality was his, and he wanted to have it confirmed that his good works with regard to those around him ought to merit praise – even from Jesus.  The second table of the Law has to do with others with whom we come in contact – in other words, our immediate surroundings.  “Doing good” or “being a good son” was the reason for his inheritance.  So he was a good, moral man who, in his opinion of himself, had kept the Law with regard to his neighbors.

And Jesus does, indeed, quote the second table of the Law in response to the question, “Which Commandments?”  The list is from Commandments six through nine; and then the summary of the second table – “Love your neighbor as yourself”, which also serves as a summary of the tenth Commandment.  Jesus’ “Law-work” omits the first table of the Law, because it has to do with knowing and glorifying God rather than self!  The second table of the Law shored up the man’s self-confidence and his personal idea of his own goodness; and then Jesus used it against him to destroy any idea of personal worth!  The first three Commandments have to do with God; and without the “self” being turned toward Him, any ideas with regard to personal goodness are worthless!  Any ideas of personal obedience to the second table, without the first table, are worthless!

This is the same thing we hear all the time, isn’t it?  “I’ve been a pretty good person – I treat others as I wish to be treated.”  And our response?  “That’s good.  But why isn’t Christ and His Kingdom the focus of your entire life?  Why isn’t the worship of God, and the Name of God, and the Glory of God, and the Son of God the consuming passion of your heart?  Get your eyes off your personal worth, your personal goodness, and follow Christ!”

Well, that’s exactly what Jesus did with this young man.  Well, since you’ve obeyed the Law, “sell all you have and give it away, and come follow Me.”  The first table of the Law destroyed him, and he went away having been grieved.  Being thoroughly self-concerned, and with his eyes on himself, he would not turn from, and reject, his own fallen nature.  Instead, he had his eyes on his wealth, his status, his goodness – in other words, the world order.  The fallen, Adamic world-order.

Then, Jesus in verses twenty-three and twenty-four, makes two statements concerning the rich with regard to the Kingdom.  He said to His disciples:


“Amen I say to you that the rich shall enter in into the Kingdom with difficulty.  And again I say to you, it is easier to pass a camel through an eye of a needle than the rich to enter in into the Kingdom of God.”


The second statement defines the “difficulty” of the first; and, as I said in Sunday School last Lord’s Day the popular interpretations are far too fanciful – and overlook the language.  The “kamil” is probably a sailor’s rope.  And you can imagine how difficult it would be to pass a large rope through a needle – no matter how large the eye of a needle might have been in those days.

But the point here is, that, as impossible as it is to pass a rope (or anything else that’s big) through the eye of a needle, it’s at least as impossible for a rich man to pass from death unto life!  It is a narrow gate indeed!  And it is narrow because there is only one way to do it.  And that is through rebirth.  The old “generation” must pass, and there has to be a re-generation!

The old “genesis” in Adam must be re-created, and a new “genesis” must take place in Christ.  And, therefore, the old, self-concerned, self-oriented, self-respected (self-deluded) man must become a God-concerned, God-honoring, God-glorifying man!  (The first table of the Law.)

And apparently, according to Jesus, there is, in this case, a very heavy weight tied onto the already impossible task of a depraved man entering the Kingdom.  And that extra, very heavy weight is wealth!  For there is nothing that fills a man up with himself more than money.  Without it the inherent self-orientation is in conflict with reality; but with it comes confirmation of one’s own deluded self-esteem.

Now let me make those points again, because this is very important.  The old, Adamic nature, depraved and unclean, is focused entirely on the “self”.  And when there is no “confirmation” of self-worth, in terms of money of fame or power, then there is conflict with the reality of that situation.  The man is full of self, but, in reality, he receives no corroboration of his self-worth!

On the other hand, the one who is rich or powerful or both, has his deluded self-worth affirmed – by the money and the adulation of others!  And, in reality, it is a confirmed perversity!  That’s why wealth is such a heavy weight tied to depravity.  And that’s why Jesus points to the impossibility of a rich man entering the Kingdom.  This rich man would not give up the confirmation of his self-worth!

Now, as Matthew tells us, the disciples were really taken aback by those two statements (verse twenty-five).  Who then is able to be saved?” they said.  Now the question to be asked here is, “Why were the disciples so astonished?”  Matthew was one of them, and as he writes this later on, he certainly remembers his own astonishment over what Jesus said.  But why?

Well, in the first place the context requires us to know that there had not yet been a crucifixion, nor a resurrection, nor an ascension – nor had there been an outpouring of the Spirit.  Therefore there had not yet been a Second Adam given to purchase the new inheritance!  And, in turn, there had not yet been a rebirth!  The New Covenant, defined from the beginning by the birth of a new Creation – a new heavens and a new earth – had not yet taken place!

And so the disciples were not yet fully aware of the things that were to take place.  They did not know what the rebirth was.

And, secondly, what was their anticipation for the Kingdom?  What was its nature, and how was it to come to be?  We’ve covered that, so we don’t have to do it again.  But the creation of an all-new humanity, and a Kingdom inhabited by new creations of God, and an entrance to that Kingdom dependant on being reborn – none of that was a reality for them at this time.  They still had their anticipation in Jerusalem.

So “what was so difficult”, they were thinking, “about a rich man being a part of the restored Israel?”  The glory of Israel, with its new King, would need wealth in order to rule the world!  That, I think, was the source of their astonishment when Jesus said that it was impossible for a rich man to enter the Kingdom.

And then, in verse twenty-six, Jesus says this remarkable thing to His disciples:  “This inability is with men; but all powers are with God.”  Dead, depraved men can’t become new creations of God.  And that inability is enhanced – potentiated – by wealth.  But God, Who is all powerful and Good, can rebirth men – turning them away from their deluded self-interest, and causing them to acknowledge and respond to their Creator and Savior.  Who is able to be saved?  Where does that power exist?  With God!

I said that I wanted to bring up epistemology again, and here’s where I want to do that.  I want all of you to have a usable knowledge of this word and its meaning.  Epistemology is the study of how we “know”.  The word comes from the Greek word “pistis” which means faith.  Pisteuo is the verb – usually translated “to believe”, but I have never seen any reason to leave the basic meaning of “faithing” just because it’s the verbal form.  It seems to me that society has weakened the word “believe” to the point that it no longer has any Biblical content, so I’ll stick with the verb “to faith”.  To know.

But epistemological self-consciousness concerns ones awareness of who he is and who God is.  The deluded, self-interested man is one who views himself and the world in terms of himself (and who desperately needs that confirmation we mentioned earlier).  But the one who is faithing – the faithful man – is epistemologically conscious of himself – only in relation to God!  He knows himself, who he is, what he was; and he knows those things because God has chosen to purchase him out of his old heritage and ancestry, and made him a new creature!  Therefore in response, he gives God honor and respect and glory as the first cause of Creation – and the Creator of the second humanity!  God is the GOOD Who freely chooses to give dead men new life!  And the evidence of that rebirth is a complete reorientation from self – to God, in worship and praise and thankfulness and obedience.  Therefore the epistemologically self-conscious is that one who knows himself because he knows God!  And all because God initiated it!

And, even further, we can say with great certainty that there is no knowledge of the Truth outside rebirth into the Kingdom.  For whatever man in Adam believes, it is perverted.  And therefore it is a lie!  And even if he apprehends a truth it is still a lie, for he doesn’t recognize or acknowledge the Creator and source of that Truth!  Therefore it is not true!

Now, at this point I’m going to stop commenting on the text – here at verse twenty-six.  (We will pick up here next time.)  Because I want to give you, very quickly, some of the major foreshadowings and prophecies of the coming rebirth of mankind in Christ.  These are remarkable passages of Scripture; and, needless to say, there won’t be time to expound upon the full meaning of them.  We’ll start to do some of that next Lord’s Day.

But men love, and are intoxicated by, the world of the first Adam.  That was the truth when the Scripture says that “men did only what was right in their own eyes.”  And that was when God “washed” (baptized) the world with the flood.  And that destruction and regeneration of the creation was a foreshadowing of the New Creation to come.  The world was “born anew” – restored – to begin again.  As the apostle Peter would later say (First Peter three, eighteen through twenty-one), the world was “saved by water.”

Abraham left ancestry, heritage, land and family in order to go to another inheritance – a promised land and a separated out people of God – foreshadowing the new inheritance to come, by way of rebirth in Christ.  This was a prophetic event foreshadowing a new inheritance in Christ!

Israel was saved and released from bondage (Egypt) and rebirthed as a new nation as God adopted her as His Own.  That “Exodus” was a foreshadowing prophecy of the New Birth to come in Christ.

The sacrifices given to Israel – the sprinkling of blood signifying the washing of regeneration in the blood of Christ.

The reestablishment of the people and the nation of Israel after the Babylonian exile was a foreshadowing of things to come in the time of regeneration.

Jeremiah prophesies concerning the new birth:


“I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”


In essence that’s the same thing Moses said in Deuteronomy chapter thirty:


“And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.”


Ezekiel said the same (chapter eleven, at verse nineteen):


“…I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh – that they may walk in My statutes….”


And he says the same thing in chapter thirty-six, and then follows it up with this:


“Then shall you remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations….”


Isaiah said, chapter nine:


“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light:  they that dwell in the land of the deep darkness – upon them hath the Light shined….”


And concerning the New Jerusalem, the prophet Zechariah says,


“In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.”


We’ll complete this and look into the New Testament next Lord’s Day, but these are all prophetic events and sayings of the new birth to come.  The heart of flesh; the Law put within; the washing of regeneration; the sprinkling of blood; from darkness unto light; the restoration of the nation – all signs of the rebirth in Christ in prophetic Old Testament languages.

I leave your with this one thought from Paul to Titus (chapter three):


“…not by works we did in righteousness, but according to His mercy He did save us through the washing of new birth and renewal of the Holy Spirit, which He richly shed forth on us through Jesus Christ our Savior.”


It is “new birth” that all men need.  Not self-interest and performance of good things.  The rich, young heir of Israel could not buy it, but “according to His mercy He did save us through the washing of rebirth….”