A key verse of this text is the question of the astonished disciples,
“Who then can be saved?” (vs. 26). If a devout and diligent seeker of
salvation can’t find salvation, who can?
I. No one has eternal life who trusts in his own works (vv. 19-20).
He was a morally clean young man. He was diligent to run to Jesus and
humble enough to fall on his knees. He wanted guidance to guarantee
eternal life. Jesus cited some of the ten commandments related to
moral and ethical behavior, and the seeker claimed to be a keeper of
these laws since childhood. It was not enough to save him, though.
Actually it was a barrier blocking his way to the Savior.
“All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is
written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything
written in the Book of the Law.’ Clearly no one is justified before
God by the law, because, ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Gal.
3:10-12 NIV; See also Rom. 3:20). You may be as religious as this
young man, but you will have no salvation as long as you trust in
what you do to earn favor with God.
II. No one gains eternal life who denies his sin (v. 20).
The young man claimed he had never committed murder or adultery or
theft or perjury. He had always honored his father and mother and
loved his neighbor. “All these I have kept . . . ” Interestingly,
Jesus omitted the whole first table of the Law which deals with one’s
relationship with God. No rivals, no idols, never misusing the holy
name or failing to keep his Sabbaths.
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is
not in us” (1 Jn. 1:8 NIV). Remember the story Jesus told about two
men who went to the Temple to pray? One bragged to God about his
merit. The other prayed “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke
18:9-14). Guess which one went home justified before God.
III. No one has treasure in heaven who is caught here in the money trap (vv. 22-23).
The man in this story turned away from the savior’s invitation
“because he had great wealth” (vs 22 NIV). His great wealth trapped
him. He could not get away from it to follow Jesus. Money is a subtle
trap. It ensnare those who have lots of it and those who have little
but lust for more.
Money is such a barrier to salvation for several reasons. First, it
tends to make one greedy and selfish. Second, it tends to keep one’s
focus on earthly and material things instead of spiritual and eternal
values. Third, money tends to encourage a false sense of
independence. And fourth, money tends to possess the possessor. You
cannot love money and God at the same time. “If anyone loves the world,
the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15b).
IV. No one can be saved who rejects Christ the Savior (v. 22).
The crucial thing about the young man in our text is that “he went
away” from Jesus. “He went away sad,” but when he turned his back on
the Savior, he turned away from the only source of salvation. Jesus
did not instruct the man to follow his example or to follow his
teachings. He invited him to come after the Savior himself. Most of
the world admires the ethic of Jesus – love, non-retaliation,
self-giving service. But the scandal of the cross is despised
worldwide by all who do not accept the claim of Christ.
He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to
the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NIV). Peter preached it on
the day of Pentecost: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there
is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved”
The question is “Who then can be saved?” (vs. 26b). And the answer
Jesus gives is this: anyone who repents of his sin and turns to the
Savior can be saved. You can be saved if you admit that you are a
helpless and hopeless sinner in need of the grace of God in Christ.
“With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are
possible with God” (vs 27).
Sermon brief provided by: Austin B. Tucker, a teacher and
writer living in Shreveport, LA