• School of Faith

Hang around Jesus - Matthew 19:16-26: Rev Ian Clarkson

This is the historic account of the rich young man or in Mark's Gospel, the rich young ruler. He’s three things - rich, young and a man. And I want to call my reflection today “Hang around Jesus”.

So here we have this fairly confident chap coming up to Jesus. The passage says: “a man came up to Jesus.” Now, that's quite different from what we normally hear. The centurion said. “Lord, I'm not worthy to have you come into my house. Just say the word.” We have Zacchaeus going up a tree. He couldn't seem to get close to Jesus. And there was a blind man who said "Yes, I believe. Help, my unbelief." And the sorrow of the Phoenician woman who said: "We'll just gather up the crumbs under your table."

But not this guy. He just rocked up to Jesus. He came full of confidence. He came to see what this Jesus was all about. He comes up to him and says "How do I get eternal life? Just tell me and I'll do it. I'm rich. I'm young. I can do just about anything that's within my power. What good thing must I do to get eternal life?” “Why do you ask me about what is good?” asks Jesus. “There's only one who is good? If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” No problem for this guy. No problems at all. “I've kept the commandments”, he said. “I’ve done all these things.”

How would you feel? How would you answer? The Lord Jesus, the Son of God, the one who obeyed the Father to the utmost. Would you say in front of him? “Yes. I’ve done all that. I’ve obeyed all those commands.” Jesus leans back. He's got his disciples around him. The man is waiting and thinking, “He’ll tell me one more thing and I can tick that one off as well.

Then Jesus says: “sell all your possessions. Give to the poor. Then when you've done that, you're ready to sign up to be my disciple.” He completely undresses this man morally and shows his utter helplessness. Then the critical verse comes. It says, “When the young man heard this, he went away sad because he had great wealth.”

Compare this story with Jesus when he was tempted by the devil and the devil shows him all the kingdoms of the world - the Byzantine Empire, the Roman Empire, the British Empire, the American Empire, all of them all through history. They all past before Jesus’ eyes. "Just bow down and worship me. And all this is yours," says the devil.

And here's this rich young man. He had just a just a speck of sand compared to that kind of wealth. And yet it kept him from worshipping Jesus. Staggering. Mark has this man walking away sad. And it says that Jesus loved him as he walked away. I think it's the only time we have Jesus actually saying he loved a particular person. He loved to be with Lazarus, Mary and Martha, didn't he? But this is a particular emphasis. He loved him as he walked away. He couldn't do anything for him. The man walked away, and the son of God incarnate, couldn't do anything for him. He had given him the best he had. He walked away.

But see what happens next. Jesus turns to his disciples. This is a real teaching point for the disciples. He says, “I'll tell you the truth. It's hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom. It's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.” Those who sew think of a needle you've got and the eye of that needle. Jesus said that it was easier for a great big, dirty camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked “who then can be saved?” Peter and Andrew ran a fishing consortium around the Galilean Coast. They hired men. They still had the enterprise functioning in the background. They hadn't sold everything and given to the poor. So, they are completely stunned. Jesus looks and tenderly says “with man, this is impossible. But with God all things are possible.”

Now let's just pause it there. If that rich young man had hung around Jesus and said something like, “I can't do that, please help my unbelief. I can't sell all my possessions and give it away. Does that mean I've got to sell my penthouse on the Mediterranean coast? I've got a business deal coming up, in Gaul and it's going to reap me billions of shekels. I just can't do it. Please help me.” You know what, I think Jesus would have put his arm around this young man and said, “follow me and I'll show you what's going to happen in the kingdom of God.”

The disciples were in the same boat. The previous conversation in this passage was on marriage where Jesus gave those incredibly impossible stands for marriage. And the disciples said, “who can get married then” It's not possible with your standards.” If only that rich young man had hung around Jesus like Peter did when he denied Jesus three times, when he said “I don't even know him. I've never been near him. I have nothing to do with him.”

Peter just wept and wept. But he hung around Jesus.

Peter hung around the disciples. And then on that beautiful morning, the messenger said to the women, “Go and tell Peter and the other disciples. I'll see them up in Galilee”. And Peter sees Jesus cook fish on the shore and he jumps out of the boat. I think he might have almost walked on water. He was so full of affection and love as he raced and fell at the feet of Jesus. Judas didn't. Judas did not hang around Jesus and the rich young man did not hang around Jesus.

When things seem too big for us, when we can't do anything to get away with a sin that we committed back in our childhood or in our youth, we've got to hang around Jesus. We've got to hang around his shed blood when we feel as if everything's going the wrong way and society is just crushing Christianity and we start to wonder, is it really true? We've got to hang around Jesus and recall the fact that he's risen from the dead and he's coming back.

And it might be a lot sooner than we think.

We've got to hang around Jesus when sometimes we get really perplexed. Like the apostle Paul said, “I'm perplexed, but I'm not despairing.” We've got to hang around Jesus like Peter did. But Judas didn't. The rich young fellow didn't unless he came back later on. We don't know. We've got to hang around Jesus. And that's my message for us this today. Dear people, hang around Jesus, Amen.

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The School of Faith is a ministry of the Assembly of Confessing Congregations within the Uniting Church in Australia


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