Text: Matthew 19:13-22
For true obedience
For true freedom
For the young
A SERMON FROM A FEW YEARS AGO on this text had a good, if gentle laugh at the young man in this story. Matthew does an excellent job of capturing the blithe spirit of this youth as he answers Jesus’ searching questions with a punchy “absolutely!” It is only when Jesus diagnoses the source of what is holding the young man back and preventing him from achieving what he seeks that the young man’s cheerful, can-do attitude collapses. Matthew reports that he “departed grieving.”
It is salutary for us moderns that Matthew puts this story right next to the report that Jesus welcomed children and blessed them. Our tendency is to assume that there is something inherent within childhood or youthfulness that makes them attractive or closer to Jesus. They possess innocence, authenticity, honesty, or some such Rousseauian notion that we lose as we move further and further into adulthood. The truth is far more bracing—Jesus welcomed children precisely because they are the sign that we come to God with nothing, not even our own purity or some similar Romantic notion. While we in the West idealize youth and childhood (to our great detriment), in the ancient world children were a liability, a drain, an investment greatly delayed. Jesus invests those that the ancient world saw as easily discarded with equal worth to those of full adulthood—because the child comes to the Lord not out of his strength but his weakness!
By contrast, the young man comes to the Teacher having conquered every ethical and spiritual vista and seeks only that final key to unlock the secret of eternal life. He is strong, he is sure, he is secure in himself—and Jesus must break the bad news to him: you are lacking. There is much you need to learn; much you need to experience! If you wish to be complete and find what you seek, then let go all that stuff you’re dragging along and follow me. But the young man finds he does not have the strength to do so.
So, remember the child, whose hand is open to reach out to the Lord who is kind and gentle, who leads to places of blessedness; and remember the young man, who could not open his hand because he did not have the strength to let go.
May your day be grace-filled ~ Pr. Dave Brooks