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WHO IS "GOOD" REALLY?

August 23, 2011

Whatever Happened to the ‘Rich Young Ruler’?  We all know the story… The rich young ruler comes to Jesus to ask what is required for eternal life.  Jesus quickly complies and lays it down for him.

 

Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”  So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good?"  No one is good but One, that is, God.  You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’  And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”  But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.~Mark 10:17-31

 

Well, this may not have gone as well as the young ruler may have hoped.  Eternal life should come easy for a guy like him, simply the next step in acquiring everything he needs for his life. Maybe after he got home that day, his response was something like this… “It’s not fair” – “Zacheaus was only required to give half of his wealth…”  “Sure, it’s easy for the poor, broke fishermen to forsake all and follow Jesus — there was nothing to sell — nothing to forsake … but me?  Well there is a lot more to consider…”

 

Let’s take a closer look at this man’s encounter with Jesus Christ.  One thing is for certain, his questions reflect his thoughts as do ours!

 

His Question…

Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” ~Mark 10:17

 

His mentality betrays him.  He thought that eternal life was inherited.  This story is the first time both Mark and Matthew use the term “eternal life.”  Luke uses it one time before this.  This term was not commonly understood outside a spiritual application and undoubtedly, this rich young ruler thought eternal life was inherited and to be received at a later time, most likely at the onset of death.

 

"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” ~John 5:24

 

Jesus’ Response…
[Why are you calling me good?  What do you know about me?  If you know and believe that I am God, then I can receive your worship… But because you are saying this in an attempt to flatter me so that you may find favor in my sight and a favorable answer to your question, then that I do not receive!]

 

The rich young ruler clearly didn’t acknowledge Jesus as God.  He thought for certain there was something he could DO to inherit eternal life.  He attributed benevolence to Jesus by calling Him a “good” teacher.  But even a good teacher cannot save sinners.  Only God can, which is the meaning behind Jesus’ rebuke, “there is none good but one, that is God…”  It is popular today to appreciate the teaching of Christianity, but not the need for God to save.  Many appreciate the “good teacher” but deny the divine nature that can truly save them!  To the rich young ruler — Jesus is settling definitions and terms.  “Good teacher?  Oh, why do you call me good?  What do you think good is?  Are you good?"

 

You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’  And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” ~Mark 10:19-20

 

Don’t overestimate your spirituality!

The rich young ruler says, “All these things I have kept from my youth.”  Really?  ALL THESE THINGS?  Did he really keep all these things since he was young?  Do you think anyone could’ve kept 100% pure when they’re young?  Surely he must’ve at least been disobedient ONCE towards his father and mother.  Let’s be honest.  It seems obvious that his perception of good was too shallow.  Like ours, it is flawed and overrated.  He thought he was good – he thought since he’s never technically broken the law before, he deduced he’d never done wrong.  He was self-righteous and self-satisfied.  In his mind, he didn’t need a savior.

 

WHAT IS GOOD TO YOU?

Jesus is about to define the standard of what is good.  A challenge from God.  “One thing you lack…” (Or at the very least, this one thing) “…sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” (Vs. 21)  Jesus’ challenge was not only about money, although wealth was the very thing the Rich Young Ruler depended on – and that was his mistake.  Jesus loved him enough to know his problem; self-righteous, self-sufficient and self-assured – and challenged him on that very issue.

 

"Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.” ~John 5:25

 

Whatever happened to the rich young ruler?  There is hope you know!  Jesus LOVED HIM.  Do you think it’s possible that the rich young ruler eventually found eternal life?  This is an awesome story about how impossible it is for this one man to enter the kingdom of God by his own efforts and how he now finds himself face to face with the reality of his own eternal state.

 

There are many, however, who identify with the rich young ruler, not because they’re rich, not because they’re from a family of prominence, but because they too believe that they had “done all these things” since their youth – that they have grown up basically “good people” with “sincere” and “pure hearts”… only to find themselves lacking in one small aspect or another.  For some people, grace is just a “get me through the gate” thing after they’ve given it their best shot. For others, it is the thing that drives them to try to do all the right things.  Or, grace is that open thread of this story where we are left to our imaginations about whatever happened to the ‘Rich Young Ruler’…

 

Does it really have to end there?

 

“…then Jesus beholding him loved him…” ~Mark 10:21

 

I saw this portion of scripture and for the first time — I began to see how this one statement is the thread that holds hope in the entire story… There is something about this man — this rich, young ruler — that Jesus loved.  Something in his character, his eagerness or spirit that captured Jesus’ heart and induced his compassion.  So much so, that the essence of it in his face or in his voice was captured by the writer.

 

Adam Clarke Commentary says: “Looking earnestly ([Gr] emblepsas), or affectionately upon him, loved him, because of his youth, his earnestness and his sincerity."

 

“…Then Jesus beholding him loved him…”

All my life, I’ve heard the permissive, perhaps legalistic extrapolated ENDING to this story of the rich young ruler walking away from Jesus and meeting his eternal fate without Christ.  I’ve heard the sermons —and I’ve even preached it a time or two… “He missed his moment of grace” … “He walked away from Jesus and was lost for all eternity” … “He made the fatal mistake of loving something else more than he loved Jesus.” … “Jesus never lowered the price and never pursued him” … all true statements on face value and even possible endings to the rich young ruler’s destiny, but isn’t it possible too that Jesus DID pursue him?  Jesus has pursued my life relentlessly through the years or I would not be here!  Is it possible he pursued also this man?

 

Consider this…
Legalism always ends the story with OUR failures, doesn’t it?  But for grace, that’s the beginning of the story… Jesus loved him.  We need to know that Jesus loves us.  No matter how messed up we are, how self-righteous or stubborn we are, He loves us.  His love is the true love that always challenges our next move, isn’t it?  Jesus, I suspect, pursues us far more relentlessly than we ever realize and is not deterred by our stupid and stubborn choices — and maybe never really rests until somehow He has drawn that stubborn one into His arms.

 

“For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” ~Hebrews 12:6

 

Jesus chastises those whom he loves and I am convinced that Jesus didn’t have to pursue this man physically to nonetheless pursue him the rest of his life… As we should know — those of us who have been pursued by the Lord in the area of conscience and conviction — having in us the heart that never sleeps until it finally settles on doing what is right and with sorrow, seeks a resolve to that internal dilemma…

 

Our Scripture text says, “He was sad and went away sorrowful…”  That is the beginning of his repentance*.  Jesus challenges the rich young ruler out of love and love changes things.  The only thing left now is for him to believe and he would be set on the path of redemption — of being the person God really intended him to be.

 

*Repentance contains four (4) essential elements:

  1. And the first one is ‘a moving of one’s heart; a genuine sorrow toward God on account of sin…’

    "Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance.  For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing.  For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” ~2 Corinthians 7:9-10

    "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” ~Matthew 5:3

  2. Confession (Romans 10:9).

  3. An inward hatred of sin necessarily followed by the forsaking of it (Matt 3:8; Acts 26:20; Hebrew 6:1).

  4. Humble self-surrender and turning to the will and service of God (see Acts 9:6).

    "For I will declare my iniquity; I will be in anguish over my sin.” ~Psalms 38:18

"Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.” ~Isaiah 55:7

 

"Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance.  For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing.” ~2 Corinthians 7:9

 

This gives new meaning to the requirement to “sell all that you have…" 'Walking away sorrowfully’ has the real and tangible possibility of developing into a full-blown repentance!

 

Repentance also has three (3) different stages of development:

  1. Repentance may arise from FEAR OF the consequences or penalty of sin.  If it goes no farther than this it is simply remorse and must end in despair.

  2. Repentance may develop with the RECOGNITION OF the wickedness of sin itself.  But here again it is merely a burden of soul from which man may seek to free himself in vain till he recognizes the great hope before him in the gospel.

  3. Repentance may develop in those who have experienced the saving grace of God and so realize completely the enormity of sin and the depths of God’s compassion that has been the reason for their salvation.  This is the most complete (and mature) form of repentance.

Jesus went on to say… “Yes, it is hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God”, but also, “With God All Things Are Possible”

 

Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were astonished at His words… saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” (Read more, Mark 10:23-30)

 

Perhaps Jesus is giving us a glimpse at the rich young ruler’s future.  It is hard for a rich man to see his need and to enter the Kingdom of God, but it is not impossible.  After all, there is another rich young ruler we read about quite often in Scripture.  The love of Jesus Christ pursued this man through many years of disobedience and fighting against the conviction of the Lord.  He was pursued relentlessly by a God who loved him and that “pursuit” reaches a climax on the road to Damascus where he declares his need for the Savior after all.  His name was Paul.

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