Sunday April 5, 2009 | Greg Boyd
A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother."
“All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?"
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God."
Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!"
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life."
Jesus used the law to show us that we can’t get to heaven on the basis of our own good deeds. Once we accept this, we can enjoy the freedom to live radically and generously in the community that is the family of God.
Today’s message focused on two themes that emerge from the conversation between the rich ruler and Jesus in Luke 18:18-30. The first theme has to do with the way Jesus uses the law to drive this man to despair so that he can see that it is by grace alone that salvation is found. The second is the new way of life that is found when we embrace this grace together in community and how that frees us to participate in the kingdom of God.
Law and grace: We can see from the dialogue that from Jesus’ perspective, there is no such thing as “good enough” when it comes to obeying the law. In fact, he states that only God is good! So, when this rich ruler claims that he has kept the law since he was a child, Jesus intensifies the law and shows that it requires more than this man expected. Only perfect is good enough, and only God is perfect. The rest of us must rely on God’s grace because we cannot do the law—the checklists—as Greg put it well enough, and that’s not even the point; the point is to come to God and find life there rather than in what we do.
Jesus’ promise of plenty: In Luke 18:28-30 Jesus makes a promise to those who have left their home, spouse, siblings, parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God. The promise is that they will receive many times as many of these things both in this age and in the age to come. Mark 10:29-30 makes it clear that this was not to be understood in some abstract or spiritual way and also adds that persecutions will come to these same folks. If you want to claim the prosperity Jesus is talking about, you need to know that persecutions come with it!
But what is really meant by all of this? Consider the following passages: Matt. 12:47-50, Acts 2:44-45 and Acts 4:32-35. In these passages the following becomes clear:
It is in this way that Jesus’ promise became true: his disciples gave up one home and one family to join this larger family with many homes and live in community with the family of God both in this life and in the life to come!