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The Secret Codes in Matthew: Examining Israel’s Messiah, Part 15: Matthew 18:21-20:34, by Kevin M. Williams

And behold, one came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:16-17).

Yeshua’s answer, “If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments,” may set some Christians on edge. Most of us have been taught that the commandments of the Pentateuch have nothing to do with salvation. Yet here Yeshua seems to say that they promise eternal life!

But his answer is a clever ploy. The young man seeks to know which commandment is more important than another that he might excel in the best. Yeshua’s answer is again the Torah, right out of the Ten Commandments, and the young man says that he does all these things.

And here is where the point is made. Despite doing all these wonderful things, the young man still recognizes that his life is incomplete. The Torah never promises eternal life, and neither does the rabbi from Galilee make any such promise. He engages the young man’s mind and spirit in a dialogue to show not only the young man, but the disciples as well that the Torah does not satisfy the inner craving for salvation.

The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieved; for he was one who owned much property (Matthew 19:20-22).

Yeshua encourages him to sell and give all, but most importantly, to follow him. Time and again Yeshua talks about the kingdom of God and in Matthew 6:33, calls upon us to “seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.” Yeshua was the presence of the kingdom of God on earth, the very Prince of Peace. What the young man sought was there in front of him!

This exchange, and Yeshua’s teaching that it is difficult for a wealthy person to come to faith was a trouble for the disciples. Here was someone who appeared to have reached the pinnacle, at least by earthly standards. Not only was he wealthy, he was what most people would deem a “good and holy person.” The text says this astonished them and they asked, “Then who can be saved?” (Matthew 19:25).

Yeshua gain speaks to the heart of the matter. “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). Here was a man who proved that a person could live a completely godly life and still be ungodly! Here was a man who could live by the letter of the Law and still miss its spirit. Here was a man reliant upon his own strength and wisdom to achieve what only God could achieve for him. When the text says that he “went away grieved,” we shouldn’t wonder at the severity of that grief!

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Category: Biblical Studies, Fall 2004, Pneuma Review

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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