Thursday, September 25, 2008

Matthew 19:13-30 - Leap of Faith

KNU International English Church

Josh Broward

September 28, 2008

Funny Kids Video (Feel free to watch all of this, but we'll only watch about 2 minutes of it together.)

Aren’t kids great?! We’re going to start out with some audience participation today. Turn to your neighbor and answer this question: What are two things you love about kids?

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OK, what were your answers? What do you love about kids? Just shout them out.

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Now, just hold on to that for a minute. We’re going to keep going with our journey through Matthew. Try to keep all this great stuff about kids in mind as we read Matthew 19:13-30.

“The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these little children” (19:14). The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are bold, humble, playful, trusting, loving, forgiving, honest. “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (Hebrews 4:16).

When Matthew makes the transition from the little children to the rich young man who wants eternal life, it feels kind of abrupt to us. “Be like kids. … Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” It feels like a left turn out of nowhere, but I don’t think it is. Let’s get into the passage, and maybe you’ll see what I mean.

Right at the beginning, you’ve got to understand one thing. This guy isn’t asking Jesus, “What do I need to do to go to heaven?” He says, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life” (19:17). “Eternal life” does not mean “going to heaven when you die.” This might be kind of a tough one because we Christians have really messed up with this phrase over the last century or so.

For starters, listen to how the conversation keeps going. The rich dude wants to know how to have eternal life. Jesus answers. The rich dude walks away. Jesus says, “It’s hard for rich people to get into the Kingdom of Heaven.” We’ll talk about what all that means later, but for now I just want you to pick up on this. Jesus just did some math-type logic: eternal life = Kingdom of Heaven. They’re the same thing.

The disciples add to the equation, “Then, who in the world can be saved?” … So eternal life = Kingdom of Heaven = being “saved.” They’re talking about the same thing using different words. To understand what’s going on here, we need to think a little about how Jesus talks about the Kingdom of Heaven.

Sometimes Jesus talked about the Kingdom of Heaven as something in the future that hasn’t happened yet, something we will one day “enter” or “get into.”

  • “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter” (7:21).
  • “And I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world – from east and west – and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven” (8:11).
  • “Mark my words – I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom” (26:29).

But other times, Jesus talks about the Kingdom of Heaven like it is right here among us, a living reality in the present tense.

  • “Change your life. God’s Kingdom is here” (4:17).
  • “God blesses those who are poor and realized their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs” (5:3).
  • “God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs” (5:10).
  • “But if I am casting out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you” (12:28).
  • “So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven” (18:4).
  • “For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children” (19:14).

For Jesus, the Kingdom is both future and present. Maybe we can get a clue from a difficult verse in chapter 11: “And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing …” (11:12).

For Jesus, the Kingdom of God, the eternal life of God, was breaking into the present. The old lines between present and future, heaven and earth, are no longer valid. Future is now. Heavenly reality is here. So Jesus taught us to pray: “May your Kingdom come. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” (6:10).

So remember the equation that Matthew is putting forward here: Eternal Life = Kingdom of Heaven = Being Saved. “Being saved” is living an eternal life. “Being saved” is entering the Kingdom of Heaven right here in the present. “Being saved” is allowing God’s will to be done in you as it is in heaven. “Being saved” isn’t saying a prayer to ask for forgiveness. Sure that’s part of it. Forgiveness is always part of it. But “being saved” is just as much about forgiving others as it is asking for forgiveness for yourself. If you can’t forgive, you can’t live in the Kingdom because the Kingdom is all about grace and mercy. (See 18:21-35.) So remember, this passage is not about how to go to heaven. This passage is about how to live in a heavenly way now and into the future.

So the rich dude – is it OK if I call him that? – the rich dude wants to know what he’s got to do to have this eternal/heavenly/Kingdom-of-God/being-saved/life.

Jesus says, “Live it out, man. Live it out. Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The rich dude says, “I’m there, Jesus. I’m doing it. I’m taking care of business, but something’s missing, you know? I can feel it. What else is there?”

At this point, when Mark’s telling the story, Jesus looked at the man “and felt genuine love for him” (Mark 10:21). Jesus can tell this guy’s sincere. The rich dude is for real. He’s trying to figure it out. He wants to connect with God. He wants more out of life.

Jesus takes a long, slow look at him. He sees his shiny, new clothes with the nice little gold hems. He sees his slick leather sandals with beautiful embroidery. He sees the rings on his fingers. Jesus looks at his smooth, rich face. Then, he looks into his eyes … deep into his eyes … way down into his soul. Jesus sees what the rich dude is all about. Money and wealth are really important to this guy. He has taken great care to make sure that his clothes are of the highest quality, showing his rightful place in the upper class, a respected member of society.

Wealth has taken on some basic functions in the rich dude’s life.

  1. Wealth defines his worth. He feels like a valuable member of society because he has money. He has made it. He deserves respect. He gives to the poor because he can and he should and because it shows his value. He is valuable because his house, his clothes, his businesses are valuable.
  2. Wealth provides his security. He’ll never be hungry. He doesn’t need to worry about tomorrow because he has enough saved up for several years’ worth of rainy days.
  3. Wealth guarantees him power. He knows the power of money. He doesn’t abuse it, but he’s glad it’s here. He can get make things happen. A little push here, a little movement over there, and things will work out OK.

Jesus looks into the rich dude’s heart, and he loves him, so he calls him out. Jesus says, “Your greatest strength is your greatest weakness. You’re looking to your wealth for stuff only God can provide. God’s love gives you your worth. You don’t have to do anything or have anything for God to love you. God’s love gives you your security and the only kind of power that really matters. If you’re really going to understand that and live in God’s loving kingdom way of life, you’re going to have to get radical. You’re addicted to wealth, so you need to go cold turkey. You need to sell everything. Then, you’ll be ready to come and follow me.”

Wealth is like prescription painkillers. People start taking painkillers for good reasons, but after a while the pill becomes more important than the pain. The pill can become more important than lots of things: our friends, our values, our jobs. The news stories are littered with people who screwed up their lives because they were addicted to painkillers.

Wealth is like that. When used properly, money is a good thing. But it can become an addictive drug for us. We want more and more. We can’t live without it. We base our lives around it. We are addicted.

We all have a potential drug in our lives. Yours may not be wealth. You may wish it was wealth! Wealth is at least a potential drug for all of us, but your big drug may be something else. It may be a real addiction like alcohol or pornography or tech-tainment, or it may be something more subtle like: pleasing people, being a high achiever, looking good, being in control, being the critic of everyone and everything.

So imagine yourself standing there before Jesus like the rich dude. Jesus is looking at you, really looking at you. What is he feeling? What’s the first thing Jesus feels when he really looks at you? Love! We’re all like that rich dude in one way or another. Maybe we want to do right but we’re addicted to money or affirmation or success or whatever. We may look good on the outside, but we’re just as screwed up as anybody else on the inside. But when Jesus looks at us, he feels nothing but love. He accepts us just as we are. He loves us just as we are.

Jesus looks deep into our eyes, deep into our souls, and he sees our addictive drug. He still loves us, but he sees that thing that we’re holding onto. He sees that other thing that we’re turning to instead of to God. Jesus loves us so much that he says we’ve got to give that up. Jesus says, “Hey man, hey sister, that junk is messing you up. You’ve got to turn it loose. You’ve got to let it go. Give it up. Toss that aside and the treasures of heaven are yours. Then, you’ll be free to come and follow me on the adventure of a lifetime.”

We’re standing there – you and me. Jesus is looking at us. Jesus is loving us. Jesus is looking way down into the deep places of our hearts: “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable” (Hebrews 4:13). Jesus sees all we are, everything we are. He sees our good stuff. He sees our secret stash of heart-level drugs. And Jesus understands. He gets it. He gets what it’s like to be here on this earth and to have those heart-drugs calling out to us. “He understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do” (Hebrews 4:15).

And Jesus says, “Focusing on money will make you poor inside. People-pleasing will never please you. Drinking will always leave you thirsty. I’ve got something way better for you. I’ve got the eternal/heavenly/Kingdom-of-God/living-saved/full-of-love/LIFE. Give up all that crap and follow me.”

What are you going to do?

The rich dude had a lot of stuff. He liked is money-drugs. He walked away sad.

What are you going to do?

This is where it comes full-circle. Jesus is asking for a child-like faith. Jesus is asking us to jump into God’s arms. We’re standing there on the edge of choice, holding onto our old security, our old self-worth, our old power structures. And God is holding out his arms and saying, “Jump! I’ll catch you.” Jesus is there standing next to us. He says, “Look, I’ll show you how to do it. Follow me. Just like this!” (Leaning and holding arms like a cross.)

The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children and jump to the Father. (Leaning and holding arms like a cross.)

What are you going to do?

I’m jumping. I’m so jumping. I’m not missing this!

What are you going to do? Let’s jump together. Ready?

"Dive" by Steven Curtis Chapman.

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