Terry R. Baughman
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth (Matthew 19:21–22 NIV).
The call to discipleship was always the same: “Come follow me.” Regardless of occupation, past experience, or personal accomplishments, the path of discipleship passes the gate of obedience, a positive response to the invitation of Christ.
A wealthy young man came to inquire of Jesus. Respectfully he addressed him as a good teacher. Jesus declined the label saying, “No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17).
The revealed Word of God takes priority in all questions of theology. Jesus came to fulfill the Law and He spoke truth based on that Word. The young man was confident when it came to the observance of the Ten Commandments, declaring that he had always kept them. Yet he was aware that something was missing and he felt that Jesus held the answer. Perhaps he had observed others who were frequently seen with Jesus and were respected as His disciples. He discerned there was something more he needed to do. “What do I still lack?” the young man asked (Matthew 19:20).
Jesus knows the heart and our motives. He knows why we seek acclaim and notoriety. He knows why we keep the rules and seek recognition. He also sees the deficit at the heart of our relationship. The required criteria Jesus expressed came as a surprise to the young man, “If you want to be perfect, divest your wealth, bless those in poverty, and transfer treasures to the life to come … then come, follow me.” It was simple and straightforward, “Give it all up and follow Jesus!”
However, the cost was too great for the rich young man. When he weighed the sacrifice of his wealth the insecurity left him fearful and sorrowful. He could not commit to the simple call of discipleship. The sacrifice of security and the commitment to totally trust in Jesus was more than he could do. He rejected the call and sadly turned away to retreat into the superficial security of material means.
The rich young man’s choice stands in stark contrast to those who responded favorably to the invitation of Jesus. Andrew, Peter, James and John forsook their fishing and chose to follow. Matthew left his tax collections to become a Christ follower. Philip responded to the call and began to follow Jesus. All disciples must make the same choice.
Simply stated, “His disciples followed Him” (Matthew 8:23). The positive response to the call of Jesus prepares the way for discipleship to develop. While the rich man walked the other way, and another offered excuses, “I’ll follow after my parents are dead and buried,” others immediately responded with grateful acceptance. Peter said, “We have left all and followed You” (Mark 10:28). Jesus assured him that none have sacrificed to follow Christ that will not experience an abundant reward in this life and also in the life to come! (See Mark 10:29–30.)
The call of discipleship is clear: Follow Him.
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).