Summary: The Rich Young Ruler illustrates that when one turns away from Christ he sacrifices that which he really needs to keep that which he only wants.
“Jesus – The Answer to Our Soul’s Discontentment”
Steve Hanchett, pastor
Berry Road Baptist Church
May 6, 2001
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 mother.”
And he answered Him and said, “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 it 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.
John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress, wrote his spiritual autobiography in Grace Abounding. For a long time Bunyan had a deep sense of his own sinfulness and guilt before God, but he just couldn’t seem to turn loose of some of the sins that ruled in his heart. He had tried to reform and become more religious and had succeeded in some ways. But one of the things he was most convicted about was the way he would spend the Lord’s day playing games.
He said that one particular day he was playing a game called “cat,” which involved hitting a ball into a hole. He said he had struck the ball once and was close to the hole and was about to drive it in to the hole when he heard a voice from heaven saying, “Will you leave your sin and gain heaven, or keep your sin and go to hell?”
Bunyan said he stood there contemplating the words that he had heard and the choice that lay before him. None of his companions knew what he was doing, and why he didn’t continue playing. But he saw before himself that a choice was to be made.
A battle rages for the heart of every person. Deep within the human soul there is a chamber, a throne room, designed by God for His occupancy. There is within each of us a place where only God should dwell. There are rivals to the throne that belongs to Christ. They fight for our allegiance. But Jesus Christ calls us to surrender our all to Him. This struggle of the heart is the story of the “rich young ruler.”
If it could ever be said of someone that they “had it all,” it could be said of this young man. Everything people strive for in our day this young man had. We know quite a bit about him since his story is told in each of the Synoptic Gospels, and each writer adds a few details to the account. We know that he was young. What many people wouldn’t do (and what a lot of people are trying to do) to be young again. He had his whole life in front of him. For him, the days ahead offered nothing but possibilities of prosperity and success.
But I want you to notice that in spite of the youthful vigor of his life there was still a deep discontentment and dissatisfaction in his heart. He had a deep sense in his spirit that all was not well between him and God.
But this fellow had more going for him than just his age. He was also a very influential young man. He is described as a ruler in Luke’s gospel. In all probability this meant that he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high court. In this position he was a young man with considerable influence and power among the Jewish people.
But still, in spite of his influential position he lacked inner peace with God.
This fellow was not only young and influential; he also was a very moral young man. When Jesus recites the commandments to him he is able to say (and I think he did so as honestly as he knew how) that he had been faithful to keep the commandments from the time of his childhood. I believe he was perfectly truthful in suggesting that he hadn’t ever killed anyone, committed adultery, stolen anything, and he had never been one to harm others with false statements. He probably had a great relationship with his parents and treated them with respect and love.
But we should also note that he had not considered very deeply the full spirit of the law. Jesus is about to confront him with that. No doubt he had broken the law in his heart, thought and attitudes. These commandments that Jesus gives him all deal with the part of the law that is formed on the principle that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. The young man sincerely believes he has kept this part of the law.