It is said that Ponce de Leon searched all over Florida looking for the mystical Fountain of Youth. It’s most likely a legend, but what this legend reveals is a deep-seated desire within all of us is to evade death and live forever. Those of us who believe in Jesus the Messiah are promised that we will, indeed, inherit eternal life (John 3). But, what is eternal life? Is it just living forever? Here’s what the Scripture has to say:
“Now behold, one came and said to Him, ‘Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?’ So He said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ He said to Him, ‘Which ones?’ Jesus said, ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The young man said to Him, ‘All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’”
Exactly, what was Messiah telling the young man? It would seem that He told him that, by keeping the commandments of God we somehow obtain eternal life. On another occasion and to another group of people, Jesus said, “You’re searching the Scriptures,” (we should understand that to be the Torah and the Prophets), because they believed they would find eternal life. Messiah doesn’t dispute that notion but makes it clear that the Scriptures they were searching were all about Him (Jn. 5:39).
The point is this: we know that, in order to obtain eternal life, we must first be forgiven of our sins, and be reconciled to Father through the Son. Yet, we also know that, according to Scripture, God’s Word and His instructions pertaining to how we live life is how we enter into abundant life. God gave us instructions for our benefit, so that our lives on this earth would be peaceful and prosperous and so that we could stand before Him as obedient servants. Our willingness to obey Him is the fruit and evidence of our devotion to Him.
Messiah made it clear to the young man that he was missing something. What was it? When he walked away, he was despondent because Christ had challenged in a way that strict obedience to the commandments had not, at least not as it had previously been presented to him. Likewise, Messiah made it clear to those who were searching for eternal life within the Scriptures, that it was possible, but that they were overlooking the key that would open the door to that which they searched for.
In telling the young man to sell all that he had and to follow Him, Jesus was revealing to him that there were things that this young man was not willing to die to. To follow the Messiah requires each of us to take up our cross and do as He commands. To follow Him is to embrace a life of self-denial and one of total obedience to His Will. The young man was willing to obey most of what God required of him, but not all. To those who search the Scriptures, if they do not see that they point us to the Messiah and His example of selflessness, (because He is the One of whom Moses wrote), then they’ve missed the point and, consequently, the key to eternal life. Jesus also said this:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” (John 12:24-26)
The point is this: to follow Messiah is to deny yourself and to die to yourself – that is the way that leads to eternal life. We must come to Him, and approach the Father through Him and give what is due Him – our very lives. To put it another way, in order to live, you must be willing to die. Consider this definition of the life we’re called to as given by Christ:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:1-3).
That is the definition of eternal life. Knowing Him is to love Him and serve Him. Life is not just about breathing because there are many people who are breathing, but aren’t living. Life is about doing what the Father has placed us on this earth to do – to function in our purpose. I would argue that, without the Messiah, functioning in our purpose will prove to be impossible.
The rich man kept the commandments that are descriptive of an abundant life, and yet, he was missing something, and as far as we know, he never found it. I do believe that we are to keep the commandments of God, but it should always be directing us to follow the Messiah who taught us that, to live, we must be willing to die.