Summary: This young man was not satisfied with his spiritual life. He knew something was missing but he did not know what it was. This brought him to Jesus.
A GOOD MAN WHO MADE A BAD DECISION
Now behold, one came and said to Him, "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" 17 So He said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments." 18 He said to Him, "Which ones?" Jesus said, " ’You shall not murder,’ ’You shall not commit adultery,’ ’You shall not steal,’ ’You shall not bear false witness,’ 19 ’Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ’You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ “20 The young man said to Him, "All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?" 21 Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Matthew 19:16-22
The synoptic account is found in Mark 10:17-22. In the passage in Mark we find some important facts not included in Matthew’s account. Mark wrote that the young man came running to Jesus and knelt before Him. Mark also states “Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him…” There, indeed, was something special about this rich young ruler.
By any humanistic standard, this was a good young man. But now it is two thousand years later and we do not even know this young man’s name. But if he had accepted the invitation of the Lord Jesus and followed Him, the likelihood is that many parents would be naming their new-born sons after him. His rejection of the Lord’s call was sad for the young man himself, and very likely for the early church as well. Let us consider the tragedy of this young man’s life.
I. THERE WAS MUCH TO COMMEND THIS YOUNG MAN:
1. He was perceptive: he went to Jesus with his inquiry. He obviously was a religious young man and sought to follow the Scriptures. That likely being so, he could have taken his question to his own rabbi but instead he sought out counsel from Jesus.
2. He was humble and reverent: he referred to Jesus as “Good Teacher” to which Jesus responded: “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.” Notice: the young man did not retract his salutation. He recognized Jesus as the Son of God.
3. He possessed outstanding moral character. Jesus named only the six Commandments that relate to man’s relationship to man. When he answered: “All these things I have kept from my youth”, Jesus did not dispute his statement.
II. YET HE REALIZED HE WAS LACKING SOMETHING: “What do I still lack?” This young man was not satisfied with his spiritual life. He knew something was missing but he did not know what it was. He knew his good morals alone were not bringing his soul peace and satisfaction. He knew that religion, education and wealth could not fill the void in his life. Oh, consider how close this young man was to eternal life
III. THE ONE COMMANDMENT HE DID NOT KEEP! “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:2):
The god he put ahead of the LORD was worldly possessions and riches. At another time and on another occasion, Jesus asked, “For what will it profit a man is he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Mark 8:36-37.
For others it might be the god of worldly pleasure. John reminded us of this facet of sin’s allurement. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—-the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (I John 2:15-17 ESV.)
For yet others, it might be the god of worldly popularity, even to the point of moral compromise. James writes, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4 ESV)
IV. THE TRAGIC DECISION THE YOUNG MAN MADE:
“But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”
Consider what he retained:
1. His riches which he could enjoy as long as he lived.