Well, we are back in Luke 18. One final look at this section that began with a question, as we’ve seen, from a rich young ruler, Luke Chapter 18 and verse 18 and following. That’s where you’ll find us in the text. We see that the rich young ruler in verse 18 came to Jesus with a, a question. We’ve said that he comes in sincerity. He comes with a sincere question and It’s a good question. And he asks that question in Luke 18:18. “What must I do? To inherit eternal life.”
Jesus answered the man’s question. We’ve kind of gone through that the past couple of weeks. He told him how to find certainty, the certainty he sought. Told him how to find certainty about eternal life, but the man, as we’ve seen, walked away sad because, frankly, he didn’t like the answer.
We’ve been in the text for a couple of weeks now, and we know that the rich young ruler walked away, and it was ostensibly because he was extremely rich. He just couldn’t part with his money, with all that was caught up in the tangled web of his wealth. When Jesus told him how he could find assurance of eternal life. Sell all, verse 22, distribute to the poor, then come follow me. Well, the young man just couldn’t bring himself to do it, couldn’t part with this stuff.
And that’s how it seems on the surface of the text. That he just couldn’t part with his stuff. He had so much. Then it really eclipsed any promise of God, any promise of Christ, any command of Christ. That’s how it seems. Truth is, it was not his stuff that was the real problem. The problem was his heart. If this man had half the stuff that he had had, he still would not have obeyed.
If he had one quarter of the stuff that he had had, still wouldn’t have obeyed. If he had one tenth of his wealth, or even one percent of whatever was in his bank account, whatever that sum was, I guarantee you he would not have obeyed. Why? Because the problem is not with the money or the lack of the money.
The problem is always a problem with the heart. It’s about whether one has faith to believe unto eternal life or not. It’s about whether the source of one’s hope is in this life, in any capacity, in any way, or whether hope is in God. It’s about whether one loves God’s supremely or if there happened to be rivals to the love of God. Whether or not idols occupy the heart.
It’s not a matter of bank account, it’s not a matter of income. It’s not a matter of holdings, wealth, not a matter of whatever one has or doesn’t have by way of title possession, opportunity, influence. It’s about those intangibles of the heart. I know that because I’ve seen the same dreadful malady at work in my own heart. Trying to deceive me. Trying to turn me away from trusting in God, from hoping only in him from loving Christ supremely. And I would guess if you’ve been a Christian for anytime, you’ve seen that in your own heart as well.
That even after coming to Christ, making a decision to forsake all and follow him, but sometimes this idolatry, which is very subtle, which is, easily insinuates itself into our heart, and there are so many opportunities of an aggressively idolatrous world that we live in, coming after us. I would suggest and believe that you also have had the same struggle. I’ve seen the same malady at work in the hearts of others as well.
Others who have professed Christ. Others who vehemently claim to know him, claim to love him, even in the face of great disobedience on their part, claiming to know him, love him. They’re fine with God, fine with Christ. And it doesn’t really matter what the evidence says. And sadly, I’ve also seen some that when tested, they walk away from Christ. They walk away, frankly, for a whole lot less than this rich young ruler had in his bank account.
So what is it that marks the difference between the true Christian and people who are more like this rich young ruler? Those who may be very religious. Maybe they’re upright, upstanding people, good neighbors. Maybe they’re moral and ethical people. Maybe they’re well regarded, outwardly blessed. What is the difference between them and us? Why do so many of them walk away while we remain? What is it that marks us as special, as different.
What keeps us, what holds us fast in obedience to Jesus Christ? What keeps us continuing to follow him. Might say it another way, as we’ve been saying in the past couple of weeks, what is the source of our assurance? What’s the source of our assurance? We’ll go back to the rich young ruler’s question. A good question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Or how can I know that I will have with certainty have eternal life? Where do I find assurance?
We’re going to get some insight and clarity about answering that question from what Jesus said to his disciples here after the rich young ruler walked away. We’re going to answer this question for ourselves, but one last time since we’re going to be moving on from this text next week, let’s read the entire account starting in verse 18 and read through verse 30.
“A ruler 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 commit adultery. Do not murder. Do not steal. Do not bear false witness. Honor your father and mother.’ And he said, ‘All these have kept from my youth.’ When Jesus heard this. He said to him ‘One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have. And distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come follow me.’
“When he heard these things. He became very sad. For he was extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that he had become sad said, ‘How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God. For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.’ Those who heard it said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ But he said ‘What is impossible with men is possible with God.’ And Peter said, ‘See, we have left our homes and followed you.’ And he said to them, ‘Truly I say to you there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the Kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time and in the age to come eternal life.’”
This conversation that Jesus is having with his disciples, it’s after the rich young ruler has walked away. So verses 24 to 30, that’s all a section where the rich young ruler is gone and now Jesus is there with his disciples. We hear the disciples expressing some degree of anxiety about their own spiritual condition. Seeing what’s happened with the rich young ruler, they seem troubled by his departure.
He seemed to be the perfect candidate for discipleship, but he walked. So if he, this young man who really seemed to be like the poster boy of true religion, like he was going to be great for the messianic campaign entering into Jerusalem. This guy had connections. This guy had wealth. He had influence. He was promising. He was on the rise.
This guy who seemed like the perfect prospect for discipleship man, if he walks away, what certainty that, can I have that I won’t walk away at some point? And once again, we’re kind of coming back to Luke’s purpose in writing this Gospel. And remember, he addressed Theophilus at the very beginning, Luke 1:4. He writes this Gospel that “you may have certainty concerning the things you’ve been taught.”
So he raises an issue that, that troubles the certainty, it troubles the certainty of the disciples who are there on that occasion, and it troubles with, with any depth as we read this, it troubles the certainty of sensitive consciences as well. It’s meant to do that. It’s meant to cast away any false sense of assurance. To tear away any props that have set you up that ought not to be there and whittle everything down to just one thought.
So how is it that we have assurance? How is it that we know that we have eternal life? How is it that we know that we know that we know, right? That we have treasure in heaven, that we ourselves will enter the Kingdom of God. That lying on our deathbed, whenever that comes, that we’re not filled with anxiety and terror in the heart. Cowering in fear about the prospect of crossing over and passing through that veil and coming to the other side and hearing “Depart from me, I never knew you.” Those are the things that keep us up at night, right?
So how do we know that we possess true salvation? That’s what this text answers for us. Three qualities here, or three characteristics that form the backbone and the substance of our Christian assurance that we find those three qualities here in this text. Here’s the first, so three points in the outline, here’s the first.
Number one, we hope in nothing but Christ. We hope in nothing but Christ. You could say we hope in nothing but God in Christ, but you could just simplify it to say we hope in nothing but Christ. Rich young ruler has walked away and as Jesus helps his disciples process this you may think his, his approach to doing this, to helping them process and helping them interpret it might seem to us as somewhat counterintuitive.
Because he, he really does begin by troubling them even further. Like “If that bothered you, wait till I show you this.” Verse 24, “Seeing [Jesus seeing] that he [the rich young ruler] seeing that he had become sad.” Jesus does not say Awe.” There’s no hint of that, right? And make no mistake, he loved him. Mark tells us that. He wasn’t trying to drive him away, he was loving him and answering his question.
But there’s no sentiment here. There’s no sentimentality. He speaks plainly and straightforwardly when he says, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God.” He does not chase the man down and say “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, wait. I think you took me all wrong. See, let me explain.”
He didn’t do any of that. He lets the man go. “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God.” Now he doesn’t say that to the rich young ruler. He says that to his disciples. The two other accounts, Matthew and Mark, they make that very clear. They tell us that the man walked away before Jesus said this. Mark says, “Disheartened by the saying he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” And then, seeing the man’s face, observing his reaction followed by his behavior, Jesus was able to discern his heart.
This man had chosen the wealth of the world over the treasure of heaven. He had chosen his own way instead of obedience to Jesus Christ instead of following Jesus’ way. He decided to hold on to this life and continue in his current lifestyle with all his current duties and obligations and responsibilities and all the meaning and significance that he found in those duties, responsibilities and obligations. He chose to hold on to that instead of obeying Jesus’ call to discipleship.
So Jesus said “How difficult it is for, for those with wealth to enter the Kingdom of God.” Wealth here is the word chrema. Chrema in a singular form refers to a sum of money. Here it’s in the plural form, so it’s expansive and it comprehends all that money can buy. Okay, so property, holdings the wealth that money generates and creates. You know you have to have money to make money, as the saying goes. The influence that money can buy. The power of riches, the way you can extend your influence, reach out to others, influence politics, influence legislation, influence policy in your favor and the favor of your business. All the stuff that money can do.
So the greater the wealth, the harder it is, and to ensure they get the point he emph, he emphasizes this with an illustration, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God [verse 25 he says] for it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.” Now if his disciples had been uneasy about the rich young ruler, a singular instance of somebody walking away, this comment that wealth is a hindrance to any heart, this illustration about the impossibility of entering the Kingdom of God, this really troubled them. This really made their hearts quake.
And the reason is because of what they believed about wealth. The illustration that Jesus gives here of a camel going through the eye of a needle, it was a common illustration. It was passed around, used to illustrate impossibility. It’s, a it’s a vivid picture of something that is so difficult that it really does defy the imagination. Edersheim calls it a, a common Jewish proverb. He says it’s mentioned twice in the Jewish Talmud in a different form, instead of camel using elephant, but it says twice in the Jewish proverb it talks about that a man did not even in his dreams see an elephant pass through the eye of a needle. You can’t even imagine it. You can’t even dream it up.
Some, because they’ve tried to say this is so impossible you can’t imagine it, they’ve tried to do away with it, coming up with alternative illustrations about Jesus talking about some camel gate or not, instead of the word camel, it’s a different word that sounds very much like camel, but it’s actually talking about a big thick rope. It’s so hard to put a thick rope and really jam it through it the eye of a needle and that’s not what he’s saying at all. Some have even said, “Well, I guess you could liquefy a camel and pour it through the eye of needle.” But it is impossible.
We have to come up with, people have to come up with foolish alternatives even to make sense of it, and you can’t even make sense of it then. Jesus is giving this little proverbial little illustration because he intends to communicate impossibility. Picture this massive beast of burden as they would have in Palestine, loaded up to travel across the desert. Baggage, water, all the stuff that they’re going to need for their journey, loaded up to travel and then trying to squeeze itself through an impossibly small space, much less through the eye of a needle. The image just stymies imagination.
I mean I have a difficult time with my fat fingers and thumbs and everything just put a, just thread a needle itself with this skinny thread. So this massive beast of burden, squeezing through an impossibly small space. What does this massive animal illustrate? If we look at the, what he’s trying to talk about, it’s illustrating those who love wealth.
Those who love wealth are like this huge animal, elephant camel loaded up. They are inflated to this, in our imagination, to this unwieldy size by the wealth that they love all its entanglements. By this complex, tangled web of commitments that wealth brings. The duties, the interests of concerns that occupy the hearts of all of those who harbor any love of money. And again, it’s not the stuff itself, it’s the love of the stuff. It’s the heart attachment to the stuff.
As Jesus has taught parable, and the parable of the soils, the heart that’s love, that loves money is a, is a thorny soiled heart. It’s a place where the good seed of God’s word cannot take root and cannot bear fruit. And Jesus said, as those people who have a love of money, when they go their way, they are choked out by the cares and the riches and the pleasures of life. No, no fruit matures.
So Jesus illustrates the wealthy, and those who love wealth, whatever that wealth is. If they’re illustrated by a massive camel, what does the eye of a needle illustrate? Well, the eye of a needle illustrates entrance into the Kingdom of God, doesn’t it? The way of salvation is comparable to entering through the eye of a needle.
I mean, he could have said it’s impossible for a camel or an elephant or a human being to enter through the eye of a needle. Or a rat, or a cat, or any, anything. A pebble can’t go through the eye of a needle. Salvation is a narrow gate, Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:13, “Enter by the narrow gate, [and by narrow he’s talking about small, constricted, squeezed] for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.”
What is that easy way? What is that wide gate? It’s not the irreligious. That’s for the religious. That’s people who go to church. That’s people who are purs, say they’re pursuing God. But they find a, a wide gate to go through one that doesn’t really squeeze them too much. They find an easy way that leads to destruction. One with no sudden turns, none with sharp bends. They want a road that’s easy to travel.
Jesus goes on to say, “But the gate is narrow.” Squeezed, constricted, tight, painful to go through. “And the way is hard that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” When Jesus says how difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God, what he actually means is how impossible it is.
It’s impossible. That’s what the illustration’s intended to convey, the impossibility of salvation, not just for the wealthy, but for all mankind to attain. And notice that’s exactly how those who heard him took it. “Then who can be saved?” Who? Who can be saved? And notice they’re not asking, they didn’t say, “Well then, what rich men can be saved?” That’s not how they took it.
Inferring from the rich man, they inferred to all man. Everyone, who in general can be saved. They saw the implications of Jesus teaching and especially in their own expectation, they said. What sort of person can be saved then. If not the wealthy, then what kind of person has the ability to be saved? If the rich can’t be saved, if that’s impossible for the rich, well, what’s to become of us?
His approach again, Jesus’, it seems so counterintuitive to us because the disciples here, they’re already a bit nervous. Watching this rich man walk away, they’re anxious about the departure of this prime candidate for discipleship, and Jesus does not at this point assure them. Not yet.
He doesn’t say “They’re there. No, no, no, not talking about….” Instead he, he doubles down and he troubles their hearts even further. Why would he do this? Do we mean is he just being unfriendly? He’s just kind of getting at them.
No, Jesus intends to disabuse the disciples of any false notion, of any false assumption about salvation. He intends to strip away any hope whatsoever of finding salvation in and through mankind. What man has, what man can do, what man can achieve. He’s gonna strip that all away. And then having taken away any and all hope and man, that’s when Jesus is going to replace that void that he created with, he’s going to replace it and fill it with God and God alone. That’s where we all need to be.
The Jews believed, and really, I, I think that this attitude is common to all of us, no matter where we live, what time we live in, what part of the world, what language we speak, what theology is informed our culture, because this attitude is actually endemic to the human condition. But they believed that the wealthy had a greater advantage of entering the Kingdom and attaining salvation than anyone else. They, they believed that, they weren’t necessarily resentful about that point of view, they just simply believed that wealthy people were recipients of divine favor.
That the more a man was pleasing to God the more God would bless him with wealth. And we can get into their first century heads a little bit by acknowledging there is a law of behavior and consequence. And we see it in the Proverbs, right? Isn’t that how we’re supposed to teach our children? My son, listen to me. Follow my ways. Don’t turn apart from your path. Listen, you’ll be blessed. God will reward you. He’ll bless you with long life and wealth and prosperity. Isn’t that generally true? Yeah, it is.
That is the promise of the Law isn’t it, do this and you shall live? It’s not completely wrong, is it? Wise living leads to blessing. Action, reaction. Behavior, consequence. What people do when God prescribes it, if they do what he prescribes, blessing results. We see that all around us, don’t we? Definitely.
People in our society who depart from God and turn away from his ways oftentimes they’re suffering for it. We see the bold or those who have born, been born into privilege, but we see the bold all the time. The liars, those who are ruthless and cruel, will take advantage of other people and build their wealth upon the backs of the weak. So we see that all the time. Generally speaking those who live in foolish ways, depart from God’s wisdom, they’re the ones who live under a curse.
They’re the ones who live under poverty and destruction and hurt and pain and sorrow. They ruin all their relationships and they’re not better for it. Doing what God forbids results in trouble. That is generally true. And conversely, as the Jews saw it especially, the more wealth that a man could accumulate, the more generous he could be.
So he had the means to give larger sums of money. He had the means to offer greater sacrifices at the temple, sometimes even pay for somebody else’s sacrifice that they couldn’t afford. They could make religious donations, they could contribute to projects to benefit the community, give alms to the poor. And they could do that far beyond what any common person could do or afford. And so to the common mind, the religious rich, those people were definitely closer to Heaven than anyone else. And Jesus says time out. Stop the truck, put it in park. Not so fast.
The problem with wealth, it’s not a problem of possessing wealth. The problem with wealth is the heart attitude toward wealth. Because if anyone, whether rich or poor, thinks that the money of earth can open up the gates of Heaven, we’ve got a serious problem. Serious problem. That idea represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what salvation is. That it is not like anything on earth.
Salvation is not based on your merit. It’s based on the merit of one, Christ and Christ alone. And what he has accomplished, God is willing to give to us as a gift of his grace. He’s willing to show mercy. So the metrics that we use to judge things in this life, we can apply that to the grace of God in salvation. Salvation is a gift of God, not by works lest anyone should what, boast.
Salvation is not by works. It’s not by money, it’s not by what you give, it’s not by what you achieve, not, not, not by what you merit, attain, it is the gift of God. And so Jesus bluntly and vividly demolishes any idea that the wealthy have the leg up on anybody else. He does that in verse 24-25.
He’s, he’s there to upend this false notion that the wealthy are somehow ahead of the game, that they have any advantage on anybody else when it comes to salvation. Why? Because all ground is level at the cross. If the problem is fundamentally a heart issue, if it’s fundamentally a problem of sin, the sin nature, sinful humanity, all ground is level at the cross.
Everybody has the same heart problem. Everybody has the same sin condition. Everybody’s in the same trouble. Leon Morris says that all of this, that Jesus is saying here, all this represents a reversal of accepted ideas. If the rich, with all their advantages, can scarcely be saved, what hope is there for others? And Jesus makes it clear, none. No hope.
No hope for you. But the person who’s very, very poor, very, very rich, that’s why it’s a foolish thing for anybody who says listen, the key to the Christian life and the key to living a godly life and a pious life is to get rid of all your wealth. Get rid of all your wealth. The wealthy ought to just divest themselves of everything and kind of come down to a, a lower level.
It’s kind of the whole idea behind communism, marxism, socialism, those ideas. No one should have a leg up on anybody else. That does not gonna deal with the sin problem. That is not gonna deal with the covetousness problem, the greed problem of the heart. It’s a sin issue.
It’s Alfred Plummer who says the whole world either possesses or aims at possessing wealth. If then what everyone desires is fatal to salvation, who can be saved? That’s the disciples’ question, isn’t it? The salvation is impossible for the rich. And I’m trying to attain riches. Well, what hope is there for any man at all?
So this, what Jesus says here, and he has to say at first, doesn’t he? Before he tries to give any hope or assurance, he has to start by decimating any false assurance and any false hope. This is a radical corrective. And I don’t mean radical like “whoa.” I mean radical, like deep. He’s going deep down profoundly to radically correct their thinking. Going down to a base level of their thinking, of their belief system.
He is subverting here an entire worldview. And listen, we need to subvert this at all times for ourselves too, because we tend to think the same way they do. We tend to drift back into that kind of thinking. So Jesus doesn’t, when they say, “Well then who can be saved,” he doesn’t relieve them. He doesn’t let them off the hook.
He doesn’t say “Wait, hold on guys. I was only talking here about the mega rich like this guy, you know, the uber wealthy, let the, let the billionaire go, you know? You who are of more modest means. You guys are going to be just fine when it comes to the Kingdom, all right?” Instead, now he presses the point.
If it is the case that those who seem to you to have more reason than anyone else to be certain that they’ll enter the Kingdom of God, that they’ll enter into and inherit eternal life if it’s the case that you think that way, which you do, you’ve got a flawed understanding of how this whole thing works. Listen, it is impossible. Salvation is impossible even for them.
And then, humanly speaking, there’s no hope for anybody else either. Humanly speaking, no one on his own can be saved. That is the message that Jesus wants them to receive. Let me tell you, they got it. They got it. So now that Jesus has disabused them of hope in man, all man’s efforts, ambitions, all his wealth, all his contributions, all external marks of blessing, and the ability to show generosity, after Jesus stripped all of that away, only then does he come to the punch line. And here it is in verse 27 where Jesus sets the foundation of all assurance. He says, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
That is good news. That is good news. That sentence, it’s, it’s very smooth there in the ESV. It does come across, if you translate it more literally, it comes across a bit awkwardly in English, but it’s helpful to expose it here. The, the preposition that Jesus uses, and the syntax he uses, he’s making here a contrast between man’s realm and God’s realm. Man’s realm and God’s realm. Literally he’s saying the things impossible in the sphere of man are possible in the sphere of God.
“The problem is always a problem with the heart. It’s about whether one has faith to believe unto eternal life or not.”Travis Allen
He’s talking about two separate spheres of existence. This is theology 101. He is taking his disciples back to the creator creature distinction. He’s maintaining this separation. Between God the Creator and his ability, and man the creature and his inability. Man in his limitations in the sphere of human existence that is bound by creaturely limitation. That’s by God’s design that we have limitations. It’s a good thing.
But in the sphere of the divine, there are no boundaries, no limitations, except for that which is consistent with God’s nature, God’s character, God’s will. God’s will is never to violate his own will in other words. People sometimes throw this little stupid little mental thing at you and say, Is God all powerful?” And you say, “he’s all powerful” and they say, “Okay, well, can God create a rock that’s so heavy that even he can’t lift it?”
It is a meaningless question, isn’t it? That’s stupid. They’re just trying to play with your thinking there, because what they’re asking you to do is enter into a world where God can violate himself, where you can violate his own attributes, violate his own character, violate his own will. No, God does not do that. He’s bound within his Godness. It’s strange to say that he is bound within his infinity, right? He’s bound and limited by his omnipotence. But even his omnipotence is directed by his will.
So whatever does not violate God’s nature, character, will, whatever is consistent with him, those are the things that are possible with God. The salvation of the elect is not only possible with God, it’s not just a potential with God. The salvation of his people is a matter of divine certainty with God. He chose them when? Ephesians 1:4, “Before the foundation of the world.”
He selected his people and when he sent the Lord Jesus Christ to die, Jesus did not die for potential salvation. He died for certain salvation. He had his people on his mind when he died for their sins on the cross. Salvation is a matter of his declarative will, his eternal decree.
We could see that spelled out very clearly in Romans 8:28 to 30. So Jesus sets here a foundation. He is establishing the only ground of hope for human salvation in the only ground that there is, in God and God alone. There is no hope in man or anything else. And if you’re depending on man’s free will, remember those spheres.
Those who are in Adam, those who are fallen, those who are in the sphere of Adam, the only place that there will can go is towards sin. Is toward that with which displeases God. Even, Isaiah 64:6, even their righteous deeds are as filthy rags to God. When they try to offer them up to God and say be pleased. People have to be taken out of that sphere and put it into the sphere of Christ to be regenerated, to have a new nature in order that they will believe. They’re made to want to believe.
And then their free will runs in the path of God’s commands. They do what he wants. They do what he commands. They love to do what he commands. So if salvation in any way is, if we’re banking on human ability. If we’re banking on the will of man to find some kind of innate goodness and spin it up toward eternal life. Hopeless. Lost.
Our only hope is in God, in Christ, working in and through Christ to reconcile us to himself. And that’s what Paul meant when he wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:19 that in Christ, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them. That is the very one that the rich young ruler walked away from. Tragic.
But beloved, you have not walked away have you? You haven’t walked away. You’ve remained with him. You remained steadfast, tied to him. You continue following along after him. You know, by some miracle of grace, you know Christ is your only hope. You know that because God was kind to you. Because he gave that to you.
Don’t take your faith in Jesus Christ, your seeing in him, your only hope. Don’t take that as a small or minor thing. You didn’t drum that up out of your own intuition. You didn’t come up with that because you’re so smart, because you’re so able, because you’re so well educated, or because you’ve eschewed all bad education and you’ve remained ignorant of all that stuff, and you’ve got a more holistic and, and kind of earthy form of faith. It’s not in us.
Reminds me of John 6 verse 66 after a crowd of would be disciples heard some very hard teaching from Jesus and the text says there, “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. And so Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you want to go this way, go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered him. [He’s always speaking up for other other guys right?] Simon Peter answered him. ‘Lord, to whom shall we go?’ [Where we gonna go? We’ve got no hope and anything else.] ‘To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know that you are the holy one of God.’”
Why does Peter know that? Because all those years on the lake fishing made him such a great observer of things. No. Peter’s a knucklehead, just like the rest of us. When he confessed Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, what did Jesus say to him? “Blessed are you, Peter son of Jonah, because flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my Father who is in heaven.” You’ve confessed it because he’s done it.
So Peter gets it. Peter gets that his only hope is Christ, but he’s got a follow up statement. It is a question. It pertains to assurance. And what Jesus has said here, it really has upset the assurance of his disciples. It’s troubled their hearts a bit, but only momentarily. And it’s with, in his heart, a kind purpose. And Jesus intends to establish their hearts further and solidify the ground of all true assurance.
So look at a second point. You can write this down number two. We love nothing more than Christ. We love nothing more than Christ. Everything else we love, everything else that we have an affection for is subjugated to this one supreme love, the love of Christ. There’s just one verse in this point, verse 28. That’s all we’re going to need, Peter said, “See, we’ve left our homes and followed you.”
Again, Peter is speaking for all the disciples. No, notice the first person plural, “we,” he’s speaking for all of them. And though it doesn’t seem at this point like he’s asking a question, he actually is. Luke and Mark record his statement. Just the statement itself. But it’s Matthew who gives the added question. “See, we’ve left everything and followed you. What then will we have?”
So he’s asking that question. He’s also picking up on what Jesus is laying down. He says, “Okay, so what is there for us? We have done what you’ve commanded us to do.” Peter comes to his Savior and he seeks assurance for himself. But he seeks assurance really for all his fellow disciples who are troubled.
He’s got a shepherd’s heart that’s being cultivated right here. I love it. Love seeing his shepherd’s heart, his concern for everyone, he wants to bring him all in. “Come on, gather around, guys. We all have this question don’t we? Let’s ask it. Let’s ask it.” And what he reveals when he speaks, though, Wwat he confesses, what comes out of his mouth, the testimony, is what we see here is a heart affected by Christ. It’s a heart that’s been affected by Christ.
And it points to a reason here for assurance. Peter’s words reveal within him and within all who share his thinking here. A supreme and exclusive love for Jesus Christ. And that is the love, the kind of love that exists in every true believer. In fact, no believer is without it.
Remember what Jesus told the rich young ruler in verse 22. “Sell, distribute, then come follow me. Cut ties with anything and everything that has a hold on your heart and give me the supreme place.” That’s what Jesus is saying. He’s, Jesus has, and he’s making the claim he has exclusive rights to be the supreme object of our love and our devotion and all our affection. And for the Christian he has it, does he not? He has it. Can I get an amen?
I mean, Christian, listen, you read through the Psalms, right? “Shout joyfully to the Lord.” Why? Because he has our supreme affection. He’s given that to us as a gift, that we are bound to him in love. He loves us. We love him. That is salvation, and in a word, isn’t it, that picture?
Here in verse 28, Peter’s saying “Jesus, we’ve done that. Cut loose of everything. Anything that would hold on to our hearts, we’ve snipped the cord with the world. We followed after you, so what’s to become of us?” He’s seeking assurance. He’s seeking assurance for his fellow disciples that their hope is not going to be disappointed, that they will indeed enter into the Kingdom of God. And even in the question, and ironically but beautifully, the reason of assurance is revealed.
If Peter could read ahead to Paul’s words, which will come years later, but in Romans chapter 5, verse 5, Peter, if he could read those words now at this point, he would understand the supreme love for Christ in his heart. That’s evident in his forsaking all to follow Christ and didn’t come from himself. It came from God.
“Hope does not disappoint us [Paul writes] because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts [through whom?] through the Holy Spirit.” Through a person. The Holy Spirit who’s been given to us. Love for Christ assures us. Our hope is well placed. Back in verse 28, Peter says, having left our, our life behind, that is, leaving everything behind, is what’s required to follow you. The ESV has Peter saying here, “See we’ve left our homes.” Like our homes, our houses, the literal expression, though in the Greek text is far broader, far more comprehensive. It’s literally “the things that are our own, the things that are our own, anything that I can call mine.”
So homes are included, yes. Property is included. Responsibility is included. Ambitions are included. Duties, privileges, wealth, holdings, animals, whatever. It’s all included. It’s all comprehensive. He’s speaking here broadly enough to include anything and everything that he and his fellow disciples have left behind, whether wife or children, extended family and close friends, private and public affairs, homes, fields, property, businesses, interest holdings, everything.
And when he speaks, he’s extending out his arms to all the disciples and says, “Here we are, Lord, here we are, having left everything. We have followed you. Listen, Lord, we have not been in Capernaum for a long, long time. We’re here with you. We’re going wherever you go. We’re in it for the long haul.”
That, folks, is indicative of an exclusive devotion. It’s evidence that he has sacrificed all other loves. It’s a supreme love for Christ that’s subordinates all other affections. The rich young ruler seemed like the prime candidate for discipleship, what he could not do Peter and the disciples had done.
Again, is that because Peter and all these disciples happened to be made of the right stuff? Is it mean that deep down inside they’ve got good hearts after all? No, not at all. Remember, first point, no hope in man, no hope in anything else. Our only hope is in Christ.
No one becomes a disciple by doing better, by working harder, by thinking the right thoughts, finding within himself a supreme love for Christ, reaching deep within to gut it out and forsake all and follow Christ. That’s just more enslavement to another religion. This supreme love for God that’s centered on Jesus Christ is not something natural. It’s, it’s not a love that’s generated from within. It’s not found in a human being.
It’s not summoned forth from the heart of man. It doesn’t come up bubble up from the bowels of the depths of his of his soul at all. Doesn’t come from human affection, supreme love for Christ, which is the operating principle of every single believer, it comes to us not from within, but from without, from above. “In this is love [John said, 1 John 4:9] not that we have loved God but that he loved us, and he sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
He showed love to us. First John 4:19 we love because he first loved us. I know the law. Exposure to the law is supposed to take us down to the depths, to see our sinfulness, to see God’s holiness. His great righteousness in our imperfection and our inability to keep it.
And we’ve blown his holy standards and thought, word, and deed. We’ve sinned sins of omission and commission. We’ve got so many sins that we don’t even know them all. We’re not even aware of how much we sin against God. And so the Law exposes that and it does a good job. But you know what really crushed me when I was coming to Christ? The Gospel. Because I saw the love of God.
Knowing all that he knows about me, seeing all the wicked thoughts. All the vile things. And he loved me when I was his enemy, not his friend. He loved me when I was loving sin and never loving him. He loved me when I loved unrighteousness and played around in filth, and he picked me up out of that filth, out of the miry clay, and he set my feet upon the rock.
Has he done that for you? He loved us first. And by the Spirit whom he put in us, made to dwell within us. Love comes from within us because it comes from him. And the love comes outward because it comes from him.
“Our only hope is in God, in Christ, working in and through Christ to reconcile us to himself.”Travis Allen
When we’re confronted with Jesus’ call to exclusive lifelong all forsaking discipleship in Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me,” what is it that generates an obedience response to Christ’s call. What generates that? It’s because of a supreme love for him. Given to us by him, by his Spirit.
It’s because of a supreme love for God in Christ, it’s a total abandonment to his love, to his care. That kind of love is generated only and exclusively by the Holy Spirit. I’m guessing as a Christian, you can probably look back in your own life and see the times when your love was tested, when you had to make a choice between two loves, or three or four or eight.
I can think back to several times in my life God has tested me on this. He’s exposed that tension in my heart of competing loves. And by his Spirit, by his Word, God clarified for me what it is I really want. Who it is that I really want. First, my salvation involved a direct confrontation with my idolatry, with another love.
I’d set my heart on a certain profession, certain career path. And I was stubbornly reluctant to give it up. And for me, this profession, this career path, was not about making a boatload of money. It had nothing to do with money. But to me, it was wealth.
It was wealth, and it had a hold of my heart in a deep, deep way. But by God’s kindness and grace, he set me free from that foolishness. He set me free from the hold that that idolatry had on my heart, and he replaced all my idols with Jesus Christ. I can tell you I’ve never lamented the trade.
Second, my call to vocational ministry involved a direct confrontation with a similar kind of idolatry. Same kind of idolatry, it crept right back into my heart. Once again, I was pining for a career or a profession I thought would satisfy the kind of person that I really am. The disposition and the nature that I thought defined me.
Once again, God was so kind to pry open my stubby little baby fingers, take the dead corrupting idol out of my hands, and give me what I had never deserved. A lifetime of serving Christ, serving his words, serving his flock. I’ve never regretted that. Not once.
Third, my call to this particular ministry. To accept a call to come and be a pastor at Grace Church. Externally, outwardly, it could appear to some that I’d obtained a certain level in my former life, had a stewardship of influence, had a bright future in the place that I was living and serving. Well provided for, well provisioned God want me to leave that behind and set out on what seemed, maybe too many, as an uncertain future.
However, by this point in my life, when I made that decision, a decision was a whole lot easier. He’d helped me to see that what he calls me to, though I can’t see it in the immediate foreground. He’s got blessing, rich and free, and joy and satisfaction. That decision was a whole lot easier. My heart was soft, easily persuadable, pliable at that time.
I found once again that loving Christ supremely, following him with what may have seemed to some to be reckless abandonment and stupidity, but what really was a well reasoned, reasonable faith. And I have once again joy and satisfaction in loving him supremely. And it doesn’t have to do with circumstances, surroundings, place, geography. It doesn’t have to do with income or lack of income. It doesn’t have to do with prominence or lack of. It doesn’t have to do with influence, doesn’t have to do with any of that stuff.
It has to do with knowing and loving Christ, wherever you are. Paul and Silas knew that in a Philippian jail. Hearts were filled with song. As a Christian, I know that you have had similar experiences in one form or another. Maybe it hasn’t been dramatic, but it’s got to be there.
In order to come to Christ, you have to confront what is it that you truly love? Will you kill it? Let it go for Christ. Because if you can’t do that, you haven’t been regenerated. If you can do that, it’s only because you have been regenerated and born again.
When Jesus said, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. He wasn’t prescribing some great work that you do and generate from yourself. He was calling to all those and only those who’ve been born again. The point has to be pressed to every conscience. Because he will countenance no rivals to his love.
Have you forsaken other ambitions and career aspirations, life goals, things like that, to follow Christ? Have the things of this world, its ambitions, its measures of success, it’s voices of approval, and they lost their grip on you, having no hold on you? Do you really only care about one performance eval in your life? His.
If so, Jesus’ command has become attractive to you when he said sell your possessions and give to the needy. Luke 12, “Provide yourselves with money bags that don’t grow old with treasure in the heavens, that doesn’t fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Beloved, what do you treasure?
And I know for you who are Christians, who you have been born again, you treasure Christ. He is your all in all. He is your supreme joy, supreme love. Everything else is a potential rival. Have you counted the family of God as more important than your flesh and blood family? It’s a tough one, isn’t it? Is the church that Jesus Christ died for, are the members of his body and bride, are they closer to you than the family that you were born into? Or do you keep them at a distance?
Because listen, this is how Jesus thought about his family. His flesh and blood family, Luke 8:19 and 21. “His mother and his brothers came to him, but they couldn’t reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, ‘Your mother and your brothers are standing outside desiring to see you.’ But he answered them [remember what he said] ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the Word of God and do it.’”
Do we Christians think the way Jesus did? Because we should. Every believer who hears the Word of God and obeys it is closer to us than any blood relation who doesn’t. It’s, it’s with those kinds of people that Jesus calls closer to him than his mother and his brothers. It’s with those kind of people that we will live forever as brothers and sisters in the same family, as fellow citizens in the same Kingdom, the Kingdom of God.
So have you forsaken all? To gain entrance into the Kingdom of God, to enter through the narrow gate and walk the narrow path of eternal life. Because I’m telling you the, the gate and the way is so small you cannot squeeze through with anything else. If your answer to those questions is yes and amen, then you are finding reasons in yourself, coming out from within yourself, evidences coming out from your heart of assurance of your salvation. Because no one says those things unless God has done it in them. It’s evidence you possess eternal life.
So we hope and nothing but Christ. We love nothing more than Christ. And now Christ answers Peter and verses 29-30 and he gives another reason for assurance. This is a third point, number three. We trust in nothing but Christ. We trust in nothing but Christ.
Back in verse 22 when Jesus called the rich young ruler to discipleship, remember the promise that accompanied the call. What was that promise? You’ll have treasure in heaven, right? Jesus was calling the rich young ruler to let go of what’s temporal, what’s comparatively inglorious, in order to bless him with what is eternal and what is all glorious.
Well, the rich young ruler didn’t make the trade, did he? But we do. We make that trade. We’ll make it any day of the week. Why? What marks the difference? The difference is the absence of the presence of true saving faith.
In Jesus’ answer to Peter, verse 29, he’s speaking to those who believe. He said to them, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the Kingdom of God who will not receive many times more in this time and in the age to come, eternal life.” The way that Jesus has structured his answer, the way Luke has recorded this, you can see it in there in the English, can’t you? That double negative, it kind of comes across as awkward.
But that’s intentional. No one who will not receive, double negative. It’s strongly worded. It’s, it’s strangely worded. Because it’s emphatic. Any one of them, if he has left anything, whether it’s a house or a wife or brothers or parents or children or whatever it is, if it is for the sake of God’s Kingdom, there is no reality that exists in which that person will fail to receive what God has promised.
Emphatic negation there denies the possibility, it denies even the potentiality of leaving promises unfulfilled. This is an ironclad guarantee. The way he began his answer, look at verse 29, He began it with an amen. “Truly I say to you.” That’s Jesus’ signature statement, and you’ve heard it before. Truly, truly I say to you, amen, amen, I say to you. It’s an emphatic affirmation that he begins the statement with he pronounces an amen.
He declares a “so be it,” even before he says it. It’s just the strongest positive form of expressing assurance that Jesus can give. Namely, what is that form of assurance? The promise of his word. Here’s your gear, your ironclad guarantee, Jesus says, I said it. Period, end of paragraph, end of chapter, and a book.
So there’s this emphatic, positive affirmation. “Truly, I say to you,” followed that by this emphatic double negation. It’s a bomb proof ironclad affirmation of salvation for us. You can go back to verse 17. Jesus said the same thing about receiving children into the Kingdom. “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
Remember it, there’s another double, double negation there. So think about it. Those who truly receive the Kingdom of God, they’re, they’re not like the rich young ruler, right? He came with his wealth, his strength, his influence, his authority. That’s not the promise here. Those who truly receive the Kingdom, they come to Christ, they come to God, they come to the Kingdom like Peter and all these other disciples. Coming like an infant, having forsaken all, they come with infants with nothing to commend to, commend them.
They’re stripped bare of anything that might commend them. Nothing in their pockets, nothing on their backs, nothing. And they do that in order to follow the Jesus as Lord. Why did they do that? Because by God’s grace they have come to see that only Christ is trustworthy. Only his Word matters. They’ve come to trust, trust only in Christ and what he’s taught to them about the Kingdom.
Notice the phrase of the end of verse 29. They do this why? “For the sake of the Kingdom.” “For the sake of” is one word in the Greek, it’s henneka. It’s also translated “by reason of.” Has to do with thoughtfulness on their part. They’re reasoning this out. They’re making a rational, well reasoned decision. Okay, house and stuff and property, family, everything I love have, hold, have influence over, ambition, on this side. Over here, what Jesus said. And they say goodbye and hello. And they embrace him.
By God’s grace they take him at his word. They reason from faith. They forsake all to follow Christ because it makes perfect sense to them. It makes the only sense to them. Because they believe him. They believe him above all else. Believe him above every other word. Every other authority that vies for their attention, every other command on their hearts.
They believe him over everything else. Take him at his word. They’ve heard what he’s been preaching about the Kingdom, and as they listen to him, their hearts are burning and bursting with joy as they believe his words. They trust in his promises. They long for what he describes, and they will follow him wherever he goes.
That’s, that’s the same with all of us, isn’t it? We have the same experience as Peter and his fellow disciples. Consider the amazing promise that we, just have a brief time to do this, promise that Jesus gives to Peter and these disciples in verse 30.
Jesus says that those who left behind what they once counted precious. Those who did it by faith for the sake of the Kingdom of God, reasoning that out, they will receive many times more in this time and in the age to come eternal life. Jesus speaks there of two periods, two eras, two epochs. And they’re set apart by different words for time.
In the first, it’s in this time, the word is kairos there. And kairos refers to a temporal segment. It refers to a fixed period. It’s marked by a particular characteristic of particular event, a particular era. It’s got a characteristic to it. Jesus calls it this time. So he’s talking about the time in which they’re living, right then, starting with the first advent of the Messiah. So what would we call this time? It’s the Messiah’s time. It’s his time.
This time it’s the kairos of the Messiah. It’s the Messianic age started with his incarnation and it’s gonna end as Paul says first Corinthians 15:24 when he delivers the Kingdom of to God the Father after destroying all rule and every authority and power. So after the millennial Kingdom, for he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet, the last of which is death itself. It’s after this time, immediately following the millennial Kingdom, when he delivers the Kingdom to God the Father. This will end the Messianic age, and it will usher in a new era. And that’s the second expression, the word aion.
Aion being a very long period of time, a segment of extended time. Translated era, age, you could even put in the word eternity, that is the word aion or aionos for eternity. It’s the age to come. It’s the age that is future to the Messianic age they just described. So we got two periods of time here, Messianic age followed by the age of Eternity, the age of everlasting life.
Believers. All believers will have their part in both ages. Any so called sacrifice that you or I have made in this life, anything that we have forsaken, anything we’ve let go of, anything we’ve turned away from. I could tell you, read the promises, read the Scripture. It is nothing compared with what we will receive as citizens of God’s Kingdom in Christ.
Mark and Luke are closely parallel and really abbreviating this section, but in Matthew’s account, again, Matthew is written with primarily Jewish readers in mind. He gives a fuller account of what Jesus said that day to his disciples. In answer to Peter’s question, Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne.”
By the way, the new world there, it’s the word regeneration, in the regeneration. There’s a spiritual regeneration. There’s also a physical regeneration and regeneration of the world. So that’s why the ESV translated in the new world. “In the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Sitting on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel, that promise applies specifically to the twelve apostles. Mathias, obviously appointed to replace Judas Iscariot, Acts 1:15 to 26. Everyone else, though, continuing in Matthew 19, “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for my namesake [very parallel to our text] will receive one hundred fold and will inherit eternal life.”
All of us, all those believers who have forsaken anything, whatever it is for my name’s sake, or as Luke records it, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, one and the same. Everyone who believes in the Son has eternal life, and he will see to it that they are rewarded, well, many times as much. Matthew says hundredfold in this time.
Earlier, I described several of my own ambitions that I’d given up at my salvation, my call into vocational ministry, my call to this particular ministry. I just want to tell you a very honestly that I have never given up anything. Really, I’ve not giving up anything.
I’ve really sacrificed nothing in my life. Whatever, I supposedly gave up was actually holding me back. It was preventing me from God’s good, from God’s blessing, from the profound joys that God had planned and charted out for me, the good works, Ephesians 2:10, that “he planned beforehand that I should walk in them.” It’s the same for you.
We have to let go, don’t we? In order to receive what he has intended to give us. Following Christ is always a bed of roses. No, of course not. Forward for Christ from this point, for him meant very literally the cross, didn’t it? Pain, suffering. Ignominy. Embarrassment. Shame. Humiliation. Death. We see that coming in versus 31 to 34 right in this text Jesus reminds his disciple of that fact.
Humiliation comes before the glory, the cross comes before the crown. Should we not expect that following after him that’s not going to involve suffering for us. May it never be. Paul saw suffering as communion with Christ. He saw suffering with Christ and for the sake of Christ as privilege. Not as something to be denied, shunned, turned away from.
Colossians 1:24, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake. And in my flesh I’m filling up what’s lacking in Christ afflictions for the sake of his body, that is the church.” He counted suffering for the sake of Christ, in Christ’s name, for his, for his purposes, he saw it as a fellowship, as a partnership. He saw that as true Christianity. I know that you do too. You do too, because that’s how Christ in his word has taught you.
We can do it all by his grace. When we’re fully assured by faith in his promises, when we’re wholly devoted to him in love, when we set our hope fully in God, in Christ, and on the grace to be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ by him, we can do it. The real tragedy in the story, obviously, is the rich young ruler. And the tragedy is what he held onto.
Because it was an all an illusion. It was like a mirage in the desert. He thought it was water. He thought it was going to give him refreshment. He thought he was going to be able to bathe in the desert oasis underneath the palm tree, eating his own dates, eating his own coconuts and all that stuff. Nothing there. Gets there, it’s just more desert. It’s just more burden. It’s just more enslavement.
He forfeited absolutely everything. He was promised treasure in Heaven. He forfeited that in exchange for absolutely nothing. Such a foolish, tragic decision, one that is haunting him even now and will do so for all of eternity. Remember, stories not a parable. It’s real life. He’s no longer with us.
What he failed to realize, is the truth that we all need to be intentional to remember. The most important things in life are not tangible. They’re not physical. The most important things in life are intangible spiritual realities. We look, Paul writes, not to the things that are seen. But to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient. But the things that are unseen, they’re eternal.
So the lesson for us? For those who have forsaken all for his sake, for those who have followed after Christ. We who hope in Christ. We who love nothing more than Christ. We who trust wholly in Christ. He is both the source and the object of our faith, hope and love.
Those virtues, when they are effectual in our lives, they give our hearts full rest and assurance. We have great confidence. We have complete security and assurance in him that we have eternal life. By his grace we are those who have obeyed, and have the privilege of obeying, Luke 9:23, when Jesus said “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would lose his life for my sake will find it,” right? We’re gonna see where that takes us. Next time, get into verse 31. Let’s pray.
Our Father, we count all things as loss for the sake of knowing Jesus Christ our Lord. And so we share the testimony of all of Scripture. The beloved apostle Paul and all those who have taught us that it is worth it to exchange all, even the world itself, for salvation in you. We count our discipleship and this call, that you’ve made to us is to for discipleship, we count that to be such a privilege that we have heard that call, that you have brought us to a direct confrontation with anything that would rival your love.
We thank you so much for breaking any hold that this world and any other love and any other affection has on us. And then you have lashed us to the mast with Christ as the captain of the ship. And he is steering us into our heavenly home. We pray that you would keep us faithful to the end and proclaiming our great salvation with a loud voice to this world. They so desperately need to hear this message. May you be pleased to grant salvation to many more. In the name of Jesus Christ and for your glory, Amen.