Summary: An attractive young prospect for the Kingdom of God was told that he valued his earthly possessions too much and had to discard them.
THE RICH YOUNG RULER
Jesus loved meeting people. One of the fascinating features of the Gospels is to listen in to the interviews that Jesus had with a variety of people. He was always ready to listen to their problems, to answer their questions as he walked the highways of Palestine. Jesus longed to point men and women towards the Kingdom of God, but one thing he never did was to compromise his standards. If they didn’t want to follow his way, that was their choice – and their responsibility. He was very sorry, often visibly grieved, if they couldn’t find it in their hearts to accept his terms for entry into his Kingdom, but inevitably they exclude themselves.
The word “Christian” has come to mean a multitude of things to many people, but after all is said and done, there’s only one kind of Christianity that’s valid – and that’s God’s kind! We don’t have the freedom to pick and choose the aspects of God’s revelation that we find attractive, and disregard or ignore the parts that we don’t like, and still call it “Christian”. It may have a religious veneer, but it’s not authentic Christianity and ultimately God will reject it.
Suppose I want to fly to Gatwick but find the cost is too great and I hit upon the great idea of creating my own ticket. It may look quite like the real thing, have the correct airline, flight number and departure time on it, but if I should be so foolish to present it to the check-in desk, it would be rejected as invalid. No amount of persuading would get me through the barrier. The terms of entry in God’s kingdom are not up for debate or for negotiation. It’s God’s terms or not at all. The rich, young ruler we heard about in the Gospel reading (Matt 19:16-22; Mark 10:17-27; Luke 18:18-25) is a clear illustration of this. We see him as a:
CANDIDATE PRESENTED FOR THE KINGDOM
What an attractive candidate he was! “A rich, young ruler”. This was someone not to be missed! A young, rich professional person! What’s more, he was keen; we’re told “he came running” and even more impressive, he was apparently humble, for we’re told, he threw himself “kneeling” before Jesus. You don’t get applicants like this every day! You can imagine how the church council would feel on getting an application from this candidate. He’d be welcomed with open arms! Of course, Jesus welcomed him, but not more warmly than he received anyone else, because all humanity is regarded on equal terms. Whether we are rich or poor, sophisticated in the eyes of the world or members of the rank and file, young or old, we’re the same category of persons – all in need of a Saviour.
Let’s take a closer look at the candidate. We know little about him except for three things. He was rich. He was young. He had some official position in the community. It all adds up to something attractive. A good bank balance is desirable. To have youth on one’s side is an asset. We don’t know what this wealthy young man ruled, but to be in a position to tell other people what to do was rather satisfying. However, it’s more than likely that as he thoughtfully reviewed his life, he came to the conclusion that he had a problem. Although he enjoyed being rich, being young, and being a influential, he realised that one day, sooner or later, it would all have to end. One day he would die. When he died, he knew he wouldn’t be rich any more - he couldn’t take his money with him in the next life. Shrouds don’t have pockets! Youth, alas, passes all too quickly – the older you get, take it from me, the years seem shorter than they used to be! He knew that his official position would one day come to an end.
As our friend thought about these facts of life he probably said to himself, “There’s only one solution to my problem and that would be to have a life that would never end.” Someone may have said to him, “Have you ever heard of Jesus of Nazareth?” “No, who is he?” “He’s this new preacher who goes on about the Kingdom of God and offering eternal life to anyone who follows him.” This struck a chord. “Eternal life? That’s the very thing I need. If only I could be sure of eternal life my basic fears and needs would be met. I’ll go and see him.” And he did. He ran, broke through the crowd, threw himself on his knees before Jesus and said in effect, “I have a need, and you have the answer. What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The answer that Jesus gave him sent him away as empty as he had come. Why, O why? He seemed an ideal candidate for the Kingdom. To discover this we must look at the: