He came to Jesus; he saw Jesus as “good” and he wanted something he thought Jesus had to offer.
“What must I do to inherit eternal life,” he asked the Lord.
On the surface, this man had everything. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke refer to him as rich, young and a ruler. Wealth, vitality, and power– these things were his already. He also thought himself to be right with God for he had, by his account, kept the commandments “from his youth.”
A sense of need, however, brought him to Jesus. He did not find himself easy to live with; he was good, but not good enough. So he came to the “good” One in search of the fix; he sought some way to quell the longing in his heart. He took a knee before Christ and posed his question. “What am I missing? Tell me what to do?”
Jesus gave him an answer, but it wasn’t the one he was looking for.
“You lack one thing; go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
The words of Christ stung.
This man’s possessions were great, so great it seems, that they got in the way of his view of God. He found that what he wanted was beyond his reach, for the life of God cannot be grabbed; it must be received with an open heart and open hands. The young man went away stricken – devastated that what he sought could not be simply fitted into the life he had already carved out on his own.
He lacked “one thing,” Jesus said. The young ruler was so close in one sense, but so very far in the most essential way. The real issue was this: his heart and hands were too full. And, Jesus cared enough about him to confront this reality.
Loved Beyond Measure
Mark 10 tells us that Jesus beheld the man and “loved” him. The Savior saw beneath the surface to the young ruler’s emptiness.
Jesus Himself, in essence, was rich and young and a ruler. He came from above, from His Father, to give His life for the sins of the world. His possessions were of another kind. He invited this young man to be a part of Him and to enjoy true treasure.
Just before we read of the rich ruler and his encounter with Jesus in Mark 10, there is the story of Jesus and the children. Mothers were bringing their little ones to Him “that He might touch them.” The disciples threw up a roadblock, thinking they were doing Jesus a favor.
How wrong they were!
“Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belong the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it,” (Mark 10:14-15).
The Kingdom belongs to the kids – they are the true citizens of Jesus’ realm. Child-likeness involves wonder and wildness. Children dance and sing, laugh and play. They do fall down from time to time, but when they do, they know enough to run home, to where Mom and Dad wait with hugs, kisses, and band-aids, if necessary.
Jesus, in Mark 10, took the children in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.
The young ruler must have missed this scene. Or, worse, he chose to ignore it and the significant message it speaks.The kids ran to Jesus and got His blessing; they asked for nothing and got everything. Click To Tweet
The kids ran to Jesus and got His blessing; they asked for nothing and got everything. This young man asked for something and refused to take what Jesus offered.
Maybe we should stop referring to this man as a “young ruler.” He seems somehow old to me; he’s a man weighted with his stuff and his cares. He wants relief – on his terms. He’s rigid and right, but not all right, and he knows it.
Love, Life and Liberty
Jesus stood ready to embrace him and show him a better way — a way of life, liberty, and love. Instead, the rich ruler walked away. Christ watched him go and lamented to the disciples about the terrible grip wealth and privilege can have on people.
Did this man think better of things later on and become a disciple of Christ? The Bible doesn’t give us the rest of his story. Some have conjectured that this ruler was John Mark, who labored with Paul and Peter and wrote what appears to be a gospel based on Peter’s recollections.
As believers, we can come to Jesus like the young ruler, with requests to bless what our own hands have made. And, He loves us and, by His Spirit, chides us and bids us to come to Him like the kids. His open rebuke is evidence that His love is not so secret. He moves to help us run to His open arms and receive His touch – the touch of love and life and liberty.
For more on this passage in Mark 10, check out “Love and the Law of Liberty,” a message from Pastor Thomas Schaller of Greater Grace Church in Baltimore.