The Rich Young Ruler

January 30, 2024

A compilation

Audio length: 15:01
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In looking at what Jesus said about believing and living His teachings as a disciple, it becomes evident that true belief in Him calls for modifying our priorities. Believers are called to give their primary allegiance to Him, which includes giving Him priority over our material possessions, as His encounter with a wealthy young man highlighted.

As [Jesus] was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17)

Mark tells us that this man was rich. In the Gospel of Matthew, he is described as being young, while Luke calls him a ruler (Matthew 19:20; Luke 18:18). So, traditionally he is referred to as “the rich young ruler.” It is unlikely that he was a synagogue leader, as he would have needed to be older for that, but he may have been an influential wealthy civic leader.

Knowing that the man was familiar with the Law, Jesus went on to quote from the Ten Commandments, which reflected God’s will for His people. The man replied that he had kept them since he was young. He was a Torah-observant Jew, who probably lived a good life and wanted to be certain that he would inherit eternal life.

Even though he kept the commandments, he sensed that something was missing, that just keeping the commandments hadn’t fulfilled his quest to sincerely know and serve God. He asked Jesus what that something was.

“Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me’” (Mark 10:21).

The young man was challenged to realign his priorities. While he kept most of the commandments, he wasn’t willing to keep a key one: You shall have no other gods before me (Deuteronomy 5:7). He couldn’t shift his allegiance to God. His wealth on earth was more important to him than treasure in heaven. His wealth stood between him and God. Jesus’ call was to remove that obstruction.

This wasn’t a universal demand for all believers to sell everything they owned and follow Jesus, but rather served to highlight what the young man was putting before God. There were followers of Jesus who had wealth, but they had their wealth in the right priority; they put God first. This can be seen in the examples of Joseph of Arimathea, Joanna, Susanna, and others who shared their wealth with other disciples. In the book of Acts we read of faithful disciples like Barnabas, who owned property, and Lydia, who owned a business.

As Jesus stated in the Sermon on the Mount: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24). This man, whom Jesus looked upon with love, was unwilling to put his love for God and his desire “to inherit eternal life” above the love of his possessions. “Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:22).

We are then told that “Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ And the disciples were amazed at his words” (Mark 10:23–24). While Jesus said it was difficult for the wealthy to enter God’s kingdom, He didn’t say it was impossible. Nevertheless, He went on, using hyperbole: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:25).

Jesus’ statement was meant to portray something which is impossible. The rich man, through his own efforts, cannot enter the kingdom of God.

“They were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, ‘Then who can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God’” (Mark 10:26–27).

What was true of the rich young man is actually true of everyone—no one, rich or poor, can be saved through their own efforts. It’s impossible. But what is impossible for people is possible with God. Salvation requires God’s gracious action.

Jesus then assured His disciples that those who follow His call, who sacrifice the things that are important to them to follow Him, will be greatly rewarded—both in this life and eternally (Mark 10:28–30). Those who believe and follow Jesus, who put Him first, above other loves and above the riches of this world, are promised life everlasting.

The account of the rich young ruler teaches us that loyalty to other things can keep us from following Jesus. Through this encounter, Jesus showed that putting God first is a requisite for true discipleship.—Peter Amsterdam

What must I do?

Scripture tells us that this man ran to Jesus and—most probably panting for breath—knelt at Jesus’ feet and said, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”…

I can imagine that this rich religious leader was dressed “to the nines,” his clothes having come from the local Neiman Marcus. Jesus, on the other hand, looked more like He’d purchased His clothes at a local thrift store. The visual must have been something to see, especially given the fact that Jesus had just been entertained by and had blessed children. From the “least of these” to the “most highly respected.”

And yet the man called Jesus good, which is tantamount to calling Him God. Then, as a religious leader, he asked for a direct map to eternity. …

He answered the man’s question by saying that he must observe the commandments. … Jesus’ answer to the rich man went like this, “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.” Nothing about God and man—this is about man and man.

We can almost hear the rich man mentally going, “Check. Check. Check,” because he quickly told Jesus that he had kept these commandments since boyhood. …

And then next comes the scripture verse that gets me every time I read it: Jesus looked at him and loved him (Mark 10:21). Do you wonder why? (I do.) We know that Jesus loves everyone, right? So, what transpired in that moment that connected these two in such a way? Could it be that Jesus, who owns the whole of the universe, whose riches go so far above and beyond anything we can possibly imagine or possess, had left all to live as a poor, traveling teacher before making His way to the cross?

Could it be that there lay within this similarity such a connection between the two? And that Jesus, knowing what His next line would be—and the rich man’s answer—brought tender heartache. Ah, because there was one thing—one more thing—that the man had to do: sell it all, leave it all behind, follow Him. And there we have those first four commandments, really. God above all. God and God alone. God, not only on the throne of Heaven, but on the throne of our hearts.

The man turned, his face downcast, and walked away. What he possessed on earth was worth more to him than eternal life.

What would you do? Would you sell it all for Him? … What if He pointed to anything in your life that you enjoy and said, “Put that down and follow me”?

What would you do? Why do you call Him good? Now it is our turn to answer.—Eva Marie Everson1

Who then can be saved?

“Who then can be saved?” the spectators inquired. At the point when Jesus replied, he inferred that nobody can be saved by his own accomplishments, yet only God can do what man cannot do. No one can earn salvation. It is a gift from God. …

In this passage of Scripture, Jesus is speaking to a rich young man (Luke 18:18–30). … This young religious leader looked for consolation, some approach to knowing without a doubt that he had everlasting life. He needed Jesus to gauge and grade his capabilities, or to give him some errand that he could do to guarantee his own eternality. So, Jesus gave him an assignment, the one thing that the religious leader felt that he was unable to do.

“Who then can be saved?” the spectators inquired. At the point when Jesus replied, he inferred that nobody can be saved by his own accomplishments, yet only God can do what man cannot do. No one can earn salvation. It is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8–10). …

To this man looking for confirmation of everlasting life, Jesus called attention to the fact that salvation does not come from great deeds unaccompanied by the adoration for God. The man required a different beginning stage. Rather than adding one more precept to keep or a decent deed to perform, he needed to submit unassumingly to the lordship of Christ.

This present man’s abundance smoothed his life and gave him importance and power. At the point when Jesus advised him to sell all that he possessed, he was contacting the man’s very reason for distinctiveness and refuge. The man did not comprehend that he would be significantly safer assuming he followed Jesus than he was with his riches. This showed the man’s shortcoming.

In essence, his abundance was his god. His wealth had become his graven image, and he would not surrender it. Along these lines, he abused the first and most noteworthy of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3; Matthew 22:36–40).

Unexpectedly, the man’s demeanor made him incapable of keeping the first commandment. He was unable to meet the one prerequisite that Jesus gave, to give his entire heart and life to God. The man came to Jesus asking what it was that he could do, yet he left seeing what it was that he could not do.

Jesus does not request that all Christians sell all that they have, albeit this might be his will for certain individuals. In any case, he requests that all of us dispose of whatever has become more vital to us than God. Assuming our reason for security has moved from God to that of what we own, it would be better for us to dispose of those belongings.

Faith and confidence in God, not in self or wealth, is what counts. … As Christians, our actual award is the presence of God and the Holy Spirit’s power. Later on, during the forever, we will be compensated for our Christian service and faith.—Chris Swanson2

Published on Anchor January 2024. Read by Reuben Ruchevsky. Music by Michael Dooley.



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