And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.  You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'”  And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”  And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
The man kneels before Jesus and calls him “Good Teacher.” He comes in the right context even if he doesn’t realize it. Kneeling is an act of worship. Many places in the Bible we see men and women of God kneel. Were they kneeling before angels or men or God? There are even examples when men or angels rebuke the persons kneeling before them because worship is only meant for God Himself. (We even kneel in Lutheran worship as we receive the Holy Sacrament, for confession, and the like. At what points in your congregation’s life do specific people or the congregation as a whole kneel?) Jesus does not rebuke the man who kneels before Him. His question is not one of rebuke but of teaching and emphasis. The man is kneeling before God, and indeed, Jesus is God and He is good.
The man has come before the Creator of all things and wants to know how he inherits eternal life. What does it mean to inherit? It is of man’s nature to want to do and to accomplish. This particular man had much. He was, no doubt, an accomplished and respected man and one who supported the community. What must you do to inherit eternal life? Your sinful nature also wants to know and to do.
Before the fall, Adam and Eve walked with God and it was in their nature to please him and keep His law. That ended when man fell into sin. Man’s nature now runs from God and cannot keep His law. So this is exactly where Jesus leads the man. What is the law? (The law is what God requires of us.) Is the Law only the Ten Commandments? (No, the law is anything that God requires or commands of us.) It is where He leads you and me. The mirror of the law shows us the sinner we are. (The law has three functions. Do you know the three functions? Curb, Mirror, Guide). The man running to Jesus believes that he has kept all the law. Has he really? We are not able to keep God’s law. All have fallen short of the glory of God and it is the law that always shows us our sin. But the man is convinced. He hasn’t murdered, or committed adultery or stolen anything. He hasn’t bore false witness, defrauded anyone and he has honored his father and his mother.
FAITH moment: The text says that Jesus loved him. The man was kneeling before Him. He called Jesus the good Teacher. It was the Holy Spirit who led him to this act of worship and moment of intercession. He believes his words and has come to Jesus to find an answer. Jesus acknowledges these things. Jesus loves him because of his faith.
But Jesus must go farther. “Give all you have to the poor!” This is what Jesus does for us poor, miserable sinners. Everything He has He sacrifices for the poor and the rich, the sick and the healthy. He suffers the loss of all on the Cross of Calvary. It gives new meaning to the word “all.” Jesus teaches the man to give up the idol and worship the living God! It is impossible to keep all the law. It will always crush you. However, “you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14 ESV) He wants you and the man complete in Him and His cross only. We won’t inherit eternal life by works of the law; we will only inherit eternal life by the work of Jesus on the Cross. That work is finished and complete for you and me. We are forgiven of our sin, restored to favor before God, and made GOOD before our Father in heaven because Jesus–the Good Teacher–died on the cross for you and planted faith in your hearts…that you too can come before the Good Teacher, and again He feeds you and sustains you unto eternal life.
What are good works?
Who is good?
Does the law still have a place in our lives?
Hymn for thought: LSB 730 (What is the World to Me.)
Lord Jesus Christ, whose grace always precedes and follows us, help us to forsake all trust in earthly gain and to find in You our heavenly treasure; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Published October 2012