Mark tells us that the man who came to Jesus was rich. Luke adds that he was a ruler, Matthew that he was young. The story is familiar to many of us, and also rather disturbing. The young man seemed so full of promise, yet it all came to nothing. Was it just because he was rich? Does Jesus expect the same of us?
Notice the following:
v.17 The man was determined – he ran and fell on his knees, forcing Jesus to stop. His question was urgent – how could he make sure of eternal life?
v.18 Jesus questions him about calling him good. Only God is truly good – did the man mean to describe Jesus in the same way as God?
v.19 Jesus omits the first three commandments (to do with loving God) and the last (do not covet). If he knew the man had not kept them, he didn’t challenge him about them.
v 20 The man can say that he has kept these commandments since coming of age.
v.21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. He does the same for us. But that does not stop him saying what needed to be said. “Only one thing is missing” – I’m sure his friends and family could have added many more – “get true riches by giving all you have to the poor, and follow me.” The important part was the last two words, “follow me”. Anything that prevented the man from following Jesus needed to be dealt with drastically. In this man’s case, his wealth would have distracted him, and Jesus’ remedy was to tell him how to get truly rich. Jesus did not say the same to other rich people such as Matthew or Zacchaeus or Nicodemus.
v.22 Jesus loved the man, yet he did not try to persuade him to stay. In his love he honours our choices.
vs.23-26 The more focused we are on the things of this life the less likely we are to choose the things that have eternal value, and the less likely we are to become part of the new creation. The disciples assumed people were rich by God’s blessing; Jesus says riches are a handicap. The ‘eye of a needle’ was exactly that. No wonder the disciples felt salvation was impossible.
v.27 Salvation is possible – but only by God’s doing. Eternal life cannot be gained by our own efforts.
vs.28-31 Peter thinks that his efforts to follow Jesus must be worth something. Jesus assures him that his efforts will be rewarded far better than they are worth. Salvation and all that goes with it is by God’s grace alone. However, it won’t be plain sailing, and there will be some surprises!
1) What would you want to ask Jesus?
2) What might Jesus say to you?