Summary: Jesus' conversation with the rich ruler teaches us what is required to receive eternal life.
Ruth Burke of Columbus, Ohio overheard at a restaurant two women at the next table telling about a little girl who had gone to the zoo with her Sunday school class. There, she had spent an excessive amount of time at the camels’ enclosure. She apparently wanted to see some really small camels. Her teacher finally made sense of her fascination when the little girl asked, “Where do they keep the ones who can go through the eye of a needle?”
She was, of course, referring to one of Jesus’ famous comments in a conversation he had with a rich ruler. This well-known conversation is in fact recorded in all three synoptic Gospels (Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-30).
Let’s read about Jesus and the rich ruler in Luke 18:18-30:
18 And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’ ” 21 And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24 Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” 28 And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.” 29 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18:18-30)
The theme of Luke 18, which we have been studying for several weeks, has to do with entrance into the kingdom of God. Jesus has been teaching what is required to enter into the kingdom of God.
Earlier, Jesus told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18:9-14. In that parable Jesus illustrated two approaches to God and entrance into his kingdom. One was the right approach, and the other was the wrong approach.
Then, in Luke 18:15-17, Jesus went on to teach that humble dependence, as illustrated in the lives of young children, was a prerequisite for entrance into the kingdom of God.
It was at this point that a rich ruler asked Jesus one of the greatest questions ever asked in the entire Bible. He asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life.
The analysis of Jesus and the rich ruler in Luke 18:18-30 teaches us what is required to receive eternal life.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. The Question of the Ruler (18:18)
2. The Response of Jesus (18:19-20)
3. The Claim of the Ruler (18:21)
4. The Command of Jesus (18:22)
5. The Sorrow of the Ruler (18:23)
6. The Comment of Jesus (18:24-25)
7. The Question of the Listeners (18:26)
8. The Answer of Jesus (18:27)
9. The Statement of Peter (18:28)
10. The Promise of Jesus (18:29-30)
I. The Question of the Ruler (18:18)
First, look at the question of the ruler.
While Jesus was teaching about the kingdom of God, and the requirement for entrance into the kingdom of God, a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (18:18).
Luke noted that this man was a ruler. Commentators are divided about whether he was a ruler in the synagogue or a ruler in the civil sphere. Since the Scripture does not clarify what kind of ruler he was, I don’t think it matters, except to note that he was a man of influence, authority, and position. Moreover, we also know that he was “extremely rich,” because Luke tells us so in verse 23. And finally, we know from Matthew’s Gospel that he was young (Matthew 19:20). So, this man is often called “the rich, young ruler.”
Now, I want you to notice two things about the question of the ruler. First, he went to the right person. Everyone has a question about eternal life because God has “put eternity into man’s heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). But, far too often people go to the wrong religion, the wrong church, or the wrong teacher to find an answer to their question. But not this ruler. He went to Jesus. He went to the source of all truth to get an answer.