Thursday, September 2, 2010

Mark 10:17-22 Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler

17 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?” 18 So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. 19 “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.’ ” 20 And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” 21 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.” 22 But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Jesus having already said that unless one has child like faith or trust in Him they cannot enter the Kingdom of God, now is approached by a man who by outward appearances appears both eager and humble to do just that, as he comes running to Jesus and kneels before Him. Yet by his brief conversation with Jesus he will reveal a fundamental error in seeking to enter the Kingdom of God when he says to Jesus: …“Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” vs. 17
Now his greeting of Jesus and question to Him seems harmless enough, yet it reveals a fundamental error in his view of himself, and the human condition, as Jesus rejects his calling Him Good Teacher by immediately responding back to him, saying: “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.” Vs. 18 For if people are fundamentally good as the man asserted that Jesus was (which of course Jesus is) but judging by Jesus’ response to him, that was how that man saw himself, as a fundamentally good person, then there would be no need for Jesus Christ to be crucified. The whole human race would not need both atonement for their sins and their sin nature, which makes us all corrupted in the eyes of God, but we all would not then need regeneration by God's Spirit to transform our persons and thus make us fit for the Kingdom of heaven. We would simply need to be taught how to be "good people" and all the evil, violence, immorality, wickedness, greed, maliciousness and on it goes would simply end. People would simply love one another and do unto others as they would have done to them, as Jesus commands of us all. And the world would be a peaceful and happy place. Yet as we know even so called "good people" have within themselves both the means and will to do evil, to be manipulative, greedy, hateful, unforgiving, unloving, unkind, selfish, rude, arrogant etc. and thus manifest the fruits of such through their own so called "good" lives. Therefore the man’s basic premise that he or anyone else was fundamentally good was fundamentally flawed. For as Jesus would retort back to him, "No one is Good but God alone."
And so when we compare ourselves to other people (in this case to a good person) that we think is like person, we can easily justify ourselves. And that is what the rich young ruler was essentially doing when he greeted Jesus in that manner. He was putting himself on a plane of righteousness which belongs to God alone. Now in response to the rich young ruler's inquiry about what he must do to enter the Kingdom of heaven, he by inquiring as much also revealed that he himself did not yet see that through the Law, and by ones own obedience to it, no one can inherit eternal life. For as the Law reveals, both through the nation of Israel, as well as the individuals who were charged with keeping it, (if not our own lives as well) “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” Rom. 3:23 Therefore no one has ever kept God's commandments in such a way as to stand justified in His sight by their obedience to them. For that is what is required to have eternal life to be justified by God who alone is Good. And so from the greatest of the Old Testament saints to least of them, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And so this young rulers wrong perception of himself Jesus will now tactfully expose, by first giving him opportunity to justify himself, which he had already done when he approached Jesus in that manner, (not in childlike faith, but rather in his own self-assurance that he could do something to earn salvation for himself), than Jesus will challenge him to follow in such a way so as to reveal what was really the "god" of his heart and life. Therefore having stated the exclusive Goodness of God, Jesus goes on to answer the man’s initial question, “…what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” Not so that the man will think to gain eternal life by his own efforts, but rather so that he might see his own sinfulness and thus his need to be justified by God through faith (i.e. trust) in His Person. And so Jesus begins by stating six of God’s Ten Commandments which were to keep His people in a covenant relationship with Himself. Notice the ones Jesus cites, all have to do with one's relationship towards one's fellow person. ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ ” In the Laws table the first four Commandments have to do with one’s relationship to God. While the next six have to do with one’s relationship to their fellow person. It seems than Jesus intentionally did not cite those having to do with one’s relationship with God, since as we will see the man had an idol in his life which was keeping his heart from God. And thus having cited our duty towards our fellow persons, the man responds to Jesus by saying: “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” Vs. 20 No doubt the man was a moral and principled person in that he tried to live in such a way so as not to do any intentional harm to his fellow person/s, by committing adultery, or murder, or stealing, or bearing false witness, or defrauding anyone., even honoring his parents, the man was sound in his life. Just as there are people today who though not having eternal life conduct themselves in an upright manner before God, and thus have His approval for doing so.
And so it is when the man declared these things to Jesus, the Scripture states: “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.” Vs. 22 Notice first that Jesus having heard his response looks at him and He loves him. Loves him for his obedience to God, yes, but loves him for who he is, a person who is honestly seeking eternal life. And so it is that with the mans declaration of having kept God's commands, Jesus will now say 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.” Vs. 21 Now I want to be quite specific on what Jesus said here that His Word was spoken to this man in the context of this man asking Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Therefore Jesus’ response to him is not a formula for buying eternal life for oneself by selling all their possessions and giving the proceeds to the poor. Eternal life is a gift from God which cannot be purchased either by money or by our own self sacrifices (Eph 2:8-9). Instead by saying as much to Him Jesus was showing him just how much his wealth and privileges as a rich young ruler had come to mean to him. For God is not opposed to our having possessions, just their possessing us. Yet when Jesus asked him to forgo his possessions, to sell them and give the proceeds to the poor, promising him treasures in heaven if he did, and then come and take up the cross and follow Him, the man at Christ’s Word went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. For it appears he had made them his “god.” And thus his life was being lived in their service, not God’s. For though he kept several commandments of God his trust was not in God, but in his riches, which as the Jesus warns elsewhere cannot be held in parallel with God (Matt 6:19-24). Therefore Jesus knowing that these were keeping him from God, told him to sell whatever he had and give the proceeds to the poor; assuring him he would have treasures in heaven if he did; and then come, take up the cross, and follow Me. In other words God wants our hearts wide and unconditionally open to Him. He doesn't just want us to do a “good thing” for Him, He wants us to surrender our lives to Him. Therefore whatever is a hindrance to our following the Lord Jesus Christ we must forsake. For the man thought eternal life was something which one earned for himself, and then simply added it to his life along with all of his other possessions and pursuits. Therefore the man did not understand the fundamental nature of it, nor of himself, that he was utterly incapable of self redemption, of earning salvation through his own efforts. Yet when Jesus asked him to surrender the one thing that was keeping him from eternal life. Though he had been moved towards Jesus when he saw the way Jesus loved the children and blessed them. He would not forsake his riches for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake and the gospel. His love of his possessions outweighed His desire for eternal life (consider Jesus' warnings in the Parable of the Sower about this, see Matt. 13:22; Mark 4:19). And so it is that his love of his possessions would keep him from having the love of God, forever.
And so it is when the rich young ruler came to Jesus wanting to justify himself, putting himself on an equal plane with God by his own self righteous assertion of having kept God's commandments, Jesus allowed him his own righteousness. Yet in doing so he never got to the grace of God. Instead he just went away from Jesus, sad, because he treasured the things of this life that he had acquired for himself more than eternal life. For again unless we forsake all that we have Jesus says we cannot be His disciple (Luke 14:33). Now in regards to this consider what the Apostle Paul wrote of himself regarding  the things he formerly "treasured", that he thought commend him to God or commended him in the sight of others: 7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Phil. 3:7-11

Have you then come to place of wanting eternal life more than whatever? Are you willing to follow Jesus no matter what the cost? Don't trade your soul for what will not last (Mark 8:36-39). The Lord Jesus Christ 's invitation to eternal life is right here and now for you. But you have to make a personal decision to pick up the cross and to daily follow Him. Which begins by first inviting Him into your heart and life. For following Jesus always begins with first seeing one’s own sin and need to be redeemed from it, and so begin by acknowledging your own brokenness to God, that you need Jesus Christ to save you because you cannot save, nor change yourself. Therefore if you believe and see your need for Christ, and want Him to be your Lord and Savior, then please pray something like this: Dear Lord Jesus I believe you died on the cross and rose from the dead for my sins forgiveness, so that I could have new and everlasting life the moment I believe in You. Lord Jesus I do believe in You and by faith I accept You as My Lord and Savior, in Your Name Lord Jesus Christ, amen.

Now if you have made that wonderful decision to believe in God’s love for you and trust His Son Jesus Christ’s death on the cross to save you, than you are saved (John 3:16). For the Scripture says we are sealed with the Holy Spirit the moment we believe (Eph. 1:13-14). Now it is the Holy Spirit who not only brings us into a relationship with God the Father through our faith in Jesus Christ His Son but it is He who also transforms our person to be more and more like Jesus Christ's, which is God’s plan for us all who believe to be His image bearers. For in bearing His image we also find our own. Therefore I encourage you to seek out God’s Word and learn what Jesus Christ not only commands of us, but also has laid up for us with Himself. Since He is always with us and is always Advocating for us as we move through this life on our journey’s home. May God bless you and yours, and may His love, Jesus Christ’s eternal love, richly fill you all, amen.

Scripture Quotations
The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

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