Jesus answers a question about divorce by explaining God’s design for marriage. He also highlights the importance of children and points out the flaw in the rich young man’s religion.
Our lives belong to you. Help us to trust you completely as obedient children.
If there is anything standing in the way of our complete commitment, we ask you to reveal it to us so that we can serve you with all that we have and all that we are.
We admit that we have ignored your instructions for marriage as you intended it. We have made marriage more about our personal wishes than your perfect will. Again, since we belong to you, help us to serve you, whether married or single, with contentment and with willing hearts.
In the end we see that eternal life is nothing more, nothing less and nothing other than life given to us as a gift from you and to be lived completely for you. Make us people whose lives reveal that to the world.
30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
This verse does wonders to correct our outlook on life. First, it discourages the bigger, better, faster, more mentality that we so often engage in. If only … and everything would be all right. And so we strive with all our might for whatever “…” is, on the assumption that if we achieve it, we would be happy, or finally attain our rightful position in life. Sometimes this is really about seeking to be first. If so, we can be pretty sure God is not pleased with it. The verse come right after a verse on self-sacrifice or self-denial.
29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.
If self-sacrifice or self-denial involves putting ourselves last for the sake of Jesus, then we can do so happily, trusting that we lose nothing in the process. It will likely even lead to long-term gain.
Second, we sometimes feel “last” unintentionally. Despite our best efforts, things just have not gone our way. This may be a blessing in disguise. If we had our way, we might have succeeded and been able to put ourselves first, and then what? In the Great Future Reversal of Status (a term I just made up), we would lose. Honestly, we would rather be last now. There is little advantage to the attainment of visible status at the present time. So says Jesus.
Our goal must be to put Jesus first no matter what. There may be an “opportunity” to give something or someone up for him, though it may be disappointing in the present moment. Then, of course, we can often give priority to others. Let their needs be met, even if we do without, for Jesus’ sake. That’s often hard and doesn’t feel right or enjoyable most of the time. The point is we should not live for the present, but for eternity. Going last is the way to do it.
Teach us to exercise the faith of a child toward you. Help us to be innocent, trusting and not afraid to ask you for what we need.
Help us to take sin very seriously, so that we will carefully avoid temptation. Further please prevent us from tempting others through our words and actions. On the contrary, let us join with you in going out to seek the one lost sheep of your flock who is going astray.
When we feel that someone has sinned against us, or has need of some form of correction, give us the power to not respond out of anger or frustration. Help us rather to correct that person with the goal of restoration in mind. And remind us to follow your instructions as to the best way to make that restoration a reality. And then, most of all, help us to be forgiving people, always aware of how much we have been forgiven by you.
You truly have released us from a debt we could never pay, by having Jesus Christ pay for our sins on the cross. May our lives reflect your grace, your goodness and your compassion.
Jesus was never light on sin. While infinitely gracious, compassionate and kind toward flawed and fallen people like ourselves, he understood the depth of our affliction. He absolutely refused to minimize it. As he saw it, both the tempter and the tempted put themselves at the most serious risk of judgment.
7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!8 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire (ESV).
No solution for sin and its effects is too radical for Jesus. Cut off the guilty body part and throw it away. But here the depth of the problem is revealed. We might imagine ourselves amputating till there was almost nothing left and still struggling against sin. The source of our guilt cannot be found in the hand or the eye, or anything else that is removable. Sin thrives in the lowest recesses of the heart.
David grasped this when he prayed in Psalm 51:10,
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
And this is what God promises in Ezekiel 36:26-27,
26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
This is what we need – a heart that desires to please God. We don’t need one less limb or useful organ. We need to become new people. Receiving new life in Christ accomplishes this. If we don’t have it, then that is what we need. If we do have it, we need to learn to walk in it. This is clearly summed up in the words of Paul.
17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Sin is severe – and probably more awful than we can understand, since our very perception of it is distorted by, well, sin! Jesus took it so seriously he paid for it on the cross. A new heart, a whole new self, is now available to us in Christ.