Jesus was in the district of Judea answering the ensnaring questions of the Pharisees when a young man came to see Him. In the Gospel of Luke, this man is described as a rich young ruler (Luke – 18:18). He had great wealth and power yet when he came before Jesus he fell on his knees (Mark – 10:17). He presented himself with great humbleness and asked Jesus, “Good teacher what must I do to receive eternal life?” He calls Jesus Good Teacher as did everyone else in those days. Jesus never corrected anyone else but to him He said that no one is good except God. The young man does not comprehend what Jesus was insinuating but continues to listen keenly. Jesus gives him a generic answer, listing down the commandments. The young man promptly responded saying that he followed the commandments since his childhood. Jesus looked at him lovingly (as he does with all of us when we also go wrong) for he knew that no one can lead a life without sinning as the flesh is weak. Surely the young man did not know who he was talking to otherwise he would have known that lying to the Son of God would be pointless.
The young man wanted to know what he could DO to INHERIT eternal life. He was deluded thinking that his good deeds could earn him his Salvation. There are times when we think that our good works have earned us the right to be called the children of God. But Salvation is given to all mankind by the Grace of God in spite of our sinful ways. There are similarities between this young man and the parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector where the Pharisee had a holier-than-thou attitude. Jesus knew what the young man’s greatest hindrance was, his love for his wealth. Jesus tells the young man to sell all his possessions and distribute the proceeds to the poor and then come and follow Him. Hearing Jesus’s instruction the man felt Jesus was asking too much of him and he left never to be seen again. The young man said that he followed all the commandments but his reaction proved that he had forgotten the most important commandment.
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” – Deuteronomy 6:5
The rich man had great wealth and could not bear the thought of parting with his possessions. In contrast when Jesus healed Bartimaeus he immediately followed Jesus. It can be said that the rich man had a lot to lose and the Blind beggar had very little (if any) possessions that he gave up. Seeing the young man return, Jesus turned to his disciples and said “How hard it is for rich people to enter God’s kingdom!” (Mark – 10:23). He continued saying that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. What is Jesus implying here? Is Jesus saying that there is no hope for the rich? Is Jesus asking us to sell off all our possessions and follow Him? Jesus always emphasized on giving God first priority. God tested Abraham’s priorities when he asked him to sacrifice his son. We must put God before our families, our careers and our possessions. Our love for God must dwarf our love for the things of this world. Jesus said if our right hand causes us to sin we must chop it off. If there is anything that causes us not to keep God as our first priority we must remove it from our lives. Jesus knew that the young ruler loved wealth more than he loved ‘obeying the commandments’ because of which he failed to apply the answer Jesus gave him.
The disciples did not understand what Jesus was teaching through the actions of the rich young ruler. They asked each other, who then can be saved? They could not comprehend anyone rich or poor giving up all their possession for the kingdom of God. Jesus looked at them and said, “With people, this is impossible. But not with God. All things are possible with God.” Then peter spoke up saying, “We have left everything to follow you”. Peter wanted recognition for his decision to leave his loved ones to follow Jesus. John and James wanted to sit on the left and right of Jesus for their decision to follow Jesus. Jesus gathered His disciples and assured them that everyone who has left their loved ones to follow Him will surely get their reward but corrected their attitude for asking recognition and positions of power saying,
But many who are first will be last, and the last first. – Mark 10:31
How do we apply this in our lives? We must not be like the rich young man who had a holier-than-thou attitude and thought that his good deeds had earned him eternal life. Neither should we become complacent like the disciples and think that our sacrifices for the Gospel has earned us an honorary position. We must remember that the sacrifices we think we made would not have been possible without God standing beside us and supporting us.