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Matthew 19:16-30 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” (17) “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
In response to the man’s question about getting eternal life, Jesus simply said, “keep the commandments.” In his answer so far, Jesus said nothing about having faith in him as Lord and Savior. Rather it was simply to obey the Ten Commandments. There is no mention of grace as taught by the apostle Paul.
(18) “Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, (19) honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'” (20) “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
Jesus specifically listed six of the commandments, all of which the man had faithfully obeyed since he was a boy (Mark 10:20). He was a God-fearing man since his youth.
(21) 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.” (22) When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. (23) Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. (24) Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
Seeing that the man had already fulfilled the conditions for receiving eternal life, Jesus challenged him “to be perfect.” It appears to be possible to get eternal life without being “perfect.” If we want to go all the way with the Lord Jesus and become perfect, we should consider giving up our possessions—thus storing our treasure in heaven. Then we follow Jesus. We see that Jesus actually told the man not simply to believe on him, but to follow him just like the other disciples had done by leaving everything—not simply in a spiritual sense, but also in a physical sense—to follow Jesus. This was the path to “perfection.”
How can we know if we are really following Jesus as he advised the man above? We can know it by examining where our treasure really is: is it on earth, or in heaven? (Wouldn’t it be great if we could have our treasure in both places—to have our cake and eat it too?) We can know where our treasure is by truthfully examining where our heart is.
Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. (20) But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. (21) For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Truthfully, where is your heart: in heaven, or on earth?
Now let’s return to Matthew 19.
Matthew 19:25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” (26) Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (27) Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
The disciples had literally given up everything and then physically followed Jesus. What would be their reward?
(28) Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (29) And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much [in the present age] and will inherit eternal life [in the next age].
The reward for literally giving up everything to follow and serve Jesus in this age will be authority to reign with Christ in the next age. Moreover in this age we will receive a hundred times what we have left behind. On top of that, we will receive eternal life.
We see two possibilities here. The first possibility is receiving eternal life by grace through faith and then becoming a “good” person by obeying the Ten Commandments. The second possibility is being perfect by leaving everything behind to follow Jesus. What will be the difference between these two in terms of outcome?
The difference will be in the determination of our eternal reward in the next age.