Luke 18:15-30 (NKJV)
15 Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 17 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”
18 Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ ” 21 And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” 22 So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 23 But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.
24 And when Jesus saw that he became very sorrowful, He said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For 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.” 26 And those who heard it said, “Who then can be saved?” 27 But He said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” 28 Then Peter said, “See, we have left all and followed You.” 29 So He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.”
In the first part of today’s reading Jesus teaches us that it is those who ultimately have a child-like faith who are part of His kingdom and reign – not that you have to be or become a child, but simply to believe by faith in Christ’s work of atonement on the cross for you and all mankind.
The certain young ruler did not have child-like faith. He asked the wrong question of Jesus: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He did not understand what it meant to inherit something. An heir is someone who, only by virtue of someone else’s favor or family connection, receives what the other person wishes to give. The inheritance doesn’t depend on anything the heir does; it depends strictly on the giver.
The rich young ruler trusted in his many possessions and his good behavior. He boasted that he had kept the commandments from his youth. But when Jesus challenged him to give up his possessions in which he had trusted, he “became very sorrowful.” He was unable to let go of his idols of good works and self-sufficiency. Sadly, he couldn’t understand his own desperate need for what Christ offered.
The devil, the world, and our own sinful nature always try to get us to focus on ourselves. These things turn us inward, and then we become navel-gazers: “Look at me! Look what I can do! I have life all figured out!”
But Christ bids us to look away from ourselves and onto Him and His work which has paid for our sins. We must never hold up our good works or our possessions as our ticket to heaven and eternal life. By God-given faith we look to Christ who has done the work of suffering, dying, and rising – all for us and in our place. By His grace alone we are received into His family and have full rights as heirs of His kingdom.
Let us pray: O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy, be gracious to all who have gone astray from Your ways and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of Your Word; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.