Jesus Carries Us On the Stretcher

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.”

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.” Matthew 19:23-26

Many wealthy people think all the good they’ve done with their wealth will earn them a seat at The Banqueting Table.

The super intelligent believe that they know more than the Almighty God and that there will be no consequences for their sins here on earth. In fact, they don’t believe in sin the way we might, unless it affects them.

The common Joe too thinks that if he does enough good he will go to heaven.

They all define good in different ways. For some it’s giving money. For others it’s helping others. Still others believe that “doing the golden rule” will earn them a spot.

People in other religions believe that their works will help them get to heaven.

They are all using faulty standards. They have no measuring stick to gauge whether they’ve done enough good or given enough money to earn their salvation.

But the standard is so far above us, that’s impossible to attain. The standard is perfection, and since we’ve all sinned, we can’t get to heaven on our own.

(To those who say Christianity is a crutch. It’s actually worse than that. It’s more like a stretcher. We absolutely can’t get to heaven hobbling in).

In verse 26, Jesus acknowledges the truth and alludes to the answer, God.

Elsewhere, He’ll be more specific.

I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No man comes to the Father but through me.  John 14:6

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The Main Thing

16 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.”

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,'[c] and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'”

20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

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. Matthew 19:16-22

This is actually a question many people in the West ask, what must I do to get to Heaven?

The answer to the rich man shocked him because it wasn’t what he expected.

Jesus knew it would be the man’s stumbling block. He wanted wealth more than eternity. We laugh at the comparison because there really is none, but many have had greater causes than wealth ahead of God: environmental causes, humanitarian causes, and even noble spiritual causes.

None of them are as important as faith in Christ.

Yes, the rich man wanted to know what he could do but didn’t like the answer at all.

Starting back in the early 1900s, many preachers and public speakers have said it, so it’s important to repeat its truth, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

The main thing for the wealthy, the poor, President, the Congress, the Supreme Court, the atheist, the agnostic, the Muslim, the Buddhist, the dictator, the middle class, the outcast, the wanderer, the aimless, the hopeless, the children, the adults, and everyone in between is Jesus Christ.

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Blessing the Children

13 Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.

14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there. Matthew 19:13-15

Jesus’ love for children was obvious. The disciples had their own agenda but it didn’t include the children. After this rebuke, the disciples were starting to get the picture about Jesus’ appreciation and care for vulnerable children. He used them as object lessons to teach His followers about the need to learn from children.

As discussed a few days ago, children are vulnerable around the world. Even in the U.S., it is estimated that 300,000 children are sex trafficked each year. Because they are the most vulnerable in our society, they are easy targets for disreputable people who would abuse and sell them to others for their own perverted ways.

I understand the subject matter for this devotional is heavy and dark.

I also know that the nightmares and existence these kids face are significantly worse than the words on this page. Their pain is real.

Those who have hindered them from coming to Jesus will be punished severely. Our only hope is that we can snatch many more from the jaws of evil before it takes place.

Recently, President Trump authorized more than $100 million to help stop this trafficking. It’s certainly a great start, but these kids need us to pray for them. No, we don’t know them by name nor will we ever, but we can still pray.

Pray for one as you would pray for your children or grandchildren.

God knows your heart (despite you not knowing their names), and will hear your cries on their behalf.

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He Was the Book, the Word of God

3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” Matthew 19:3-12

The religious leaders showed up once again to test Jesus. As usual, they wanted to ask “gotcha!” questions. They had little desire to hear what He had to say because He wasn’t one of them, in so many senses of the word. Today the issue was marriage and divorce; tomorrow it would be the Sabbath.

Notice in verse 10, Jesus didn’t say “Moses permitted us to divorce…” If they had been paying attention, they would’ve noted that He really hadn’t lumped Himself in with leaders or lay people. That could have sent them in the atmosphere.

He was one of us but He was also distinct. He knew what they were trying to do and how to counter them. He knew their hearts all too well. They thought they were going to catch him, but remember, He wrote the Book.

He was the Book, the Word of God.

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Teaching Us Along the Way

When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. 2 Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. Matthew 19:1-2

Again, we see Jesus being followed by the masses wherever he went. This was the social media word of mouth 2000 years ago. It was quite effective.

Not at all diminishing Jesus’ “drawing” power, but I suppose some in the throngs had no idea what was going on so they followed just to follow the masses. For the vast majority, though, they knew exactly who they were following.

On the way and in Judea he healed. He healed where He prior to this and He healed afterwards. Healing seemed to be the physical expression of what He desired to do spiritually. He had their undivided attention after He healed.

As He walked, he taught His disciples, and the teaching had to filter down to the people as well. They weren’t following Him just to watch Him heal but because He had important, life-changing things to say.

As we read Scripture, we don’t absorb everything at once.

We understand little by little and it’s different depending on where you are in life when you read it.

We’re not following Him just because He heals and saves others. No, we continue to follow Him because He saved us and He can teach us everything we need to lead a godly life in Christ (2 Timothy 3:12).

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