15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there. 16 Now 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, obey the commandments.” 18 “Which ones?” the man inquired. Jesus replied, ” ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ 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.
Rich, Young, Powerful and Foolish
If we put all the gospel accounts of the rich, young ruler together that is how we get a broader description of him than ‘a man’ which we have above. He has everything that our culture promotes: riches, youth, and power. We don’t know if he was ‘sexy’, but for many women wealth is ‘sexy’. Unlike our times, when these things have been associated with sin and things that God is ‘against’, in Jesus’ time all these things were markers of God’s blessing. If God showed favour upon you he lavished you with, riches, power, and eternal youth. However, in the Old Testament we see that the heart of Solomon was corrupted because of riches and power. He became ‘too sexy’ and his many women led him astray.
The problem is that we think Jesus is meant to aid us in our idea of success. We are meant to gain influence, accumulate possessions and money,and we are meant to remain healthy and virile. However, Jesus sees life as being a journey into a deeper relationship with God. The purpose of life is not for God to exist for me, but I exist for God. We still tend to uphold those like the rich, young ruler who are moral and generous with their wealth. The rich young ruler was moral toward his fellow human beings, but he lacked the most important thing. All his ‘goodness’, greatness, and gold were getting in the way of God. He didn’t depend upon God, and he came to Jesus, I believe, for a cheap affirmation that he was doing okay. If we synthesize the words of the ruler from the different passages, we get, “Good Teacher! What good thing must I do to inherit eternal life?” His behaviour can’t buy eternal life, his morality stands in the way. He can’t demand eternal life, he lacks jurisdiction. He can’t buy it. If he wants eternal life he must remove all the things that are stopping him from following Jesus. Then his focus must be to walk with Jesus and that path is eternal life.
- What does the man ask Jesus?
- What does Jesus reply? Why doesn’t he immediately answer the question?
- Why does the rich, young ruler walk away sad?
- What sometimes stand between you and following Jesus?
- Why are some people today who want eternal life walking away from following Jesus?