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The Lesson of the Rich Young Ruler

How good are you? Does Christianity teach as other religions do to improve ones self to be accepted by God? You can’t be accepted by God by any religious work you do no matter how great it is, what God accepts is to have faith in the Gospel. This is what the Bible teaches us. One day the Pharisees who prided themselves on their works and devotion to God came to Jesus and asked what must we do to do the work of God. Jesus replied: “believe on him who sent.”  This destroys any notion of using ones own righteousness for acceptance before God. Isa. 64:6: “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” In other words nothing we can do on our own has God approve of us.

In Mk.10:17-22 We find a rich man running to Jesus and kneels asking him, “Good teacher (Rabbi) what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

 He recognizes that he does not have eternal life, who better to ask then Jesus. What must I do to have it. He has a works related idea for salvation. 

To call Jesus good meant a moral perfection in Judaism, not just being a caring kindhearted person. So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. 

The emphasis is on THE good teacher which no rabbi was called. Jesus explains that “One there is who is good,” only God who is good in the absolute sense.

In Exodus 33:18-19 Moses requested God “Please, show me Your glory.” " Then He said, ‘I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

Paul says “there is none who does good, no, not one” (Rom 3:12). We are not good by nature, only God is- (the Bible does teach we can do good when we obey Him      (Ps. 37:23; Prov. 13:22; Eccl. 2:26; Mt. 12:35; Luke 6:9; 2 Thess. 3:13). This is why Jesus said there is only one that can be called good-- God. Goodness is part of God's essential nature. Many use this text to try to prove that Jesus was actually saying He was not God. But instead of denying that He was God, He was actually asserting it. He was posing the question do you say I'm good -like God is good?

 When the Pharisees questioned Jesus’ authority to do as he sees fit, he responded 'Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?' (Matt 20:15). So Jesus claimed to be good. If Jesus is not good then Jesus is a sinner. But the Bible makes it clear he was WITHOUT sin. John 8:45-47: “But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. “Which of you convicts Me of sin?   They religious leaders tried over and over to find sin in him, but they could not. Jesus is being facetious, can a sinner find fault with one without sin?

The Bible teaches that He “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). “And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin” (I Jn. 3:5). Only one who has NO sin can take away our sins. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I Jn. 1:8-9). Only a non sinner can forgive ALL of us and cleanse ALL of us from all our unrighteousness.

John 8:34-36 Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.“ And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” Here Jesus makes the comparison of a son who does what is right and a slave who does what is wrong. He asserts Himself as the one who can free a person from being a slave to sin because he abides with God forever. 

 As humans we are not intrinsically good. Our hearts are deceitful, wicked, we are slaves to sin until we are set free by the Son. Jesus is saying to this young rich man seeking an answer, if you recognize me as good, will you confess me for who I really am? His intrinsic goodness proved his deity, which separated Him from every other person who ever lived. Rom. 3:23: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” If you have the glory of God as your nature then you are God.

 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Jesus had God’s glory, and He revealed what was inside him on the Mount of Transfiguration to his three closest disciples as he allowed what was inside to be seen on the outside. “ He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.” (Matt. 17:2). In the aftermath of his crucifixion, Paul says: “for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory”(1 Cor. 2:8). James, the Lords brother calls Lord Jesus Christ, “the Lord of glory” (2:1).

Mk.10:19-20 Jesus says to the man “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 your mother.” (the account in Matthew 19 adds- you shall love your neighbor as yourself) And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth.”

Jesus then points this man who was seeking to do the commandments; which are relational to man. Not that he would earn his salvation but trying to reprove his heart, to show the man his sin that is actually there within him. But instead the man replies that he has kept them since he was young.  

 Jesus sees he is sincere in his pursuit and it says he loved him. He loved him enough to tell him what he needed to hear, pointing to the one thing hindering him. The ruler said to Jesus what he thought he kept, Jesus told him what he did not. He probably thought he kept it all and would be commended, that there would be nothing to hinder him. However, Jesus puts his finger on just one thing--“Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” Notice that Jesus pointed to a requirement of the law for the poor, that was not part of the 10 commandments but in the law of Moses. He also told the man to deny himself and follow Him. The Bible states that possession of wealth involves responsibility - to be compassionate to the poor.

He knew that this man was looking for a way to earn his salvation on his own terms. He may have thought that the teacher would give him a specific task or work to carry out once, and that would confirm to him eternal life. But Jesus gave him something that required him to humble himself and bring his life under the authority of Christ. Instead, Jesus drove him to the law, he gave him a requirement that went to the heart of the issue: his MONEY and the rich young man’s desire to retain control of his life. You shall not covet was the part that he did not keep, this because evident from his reaction to what Jesus said that he must do.

Even if the rich young ruler would have given away his riches he wouldn’t have earned his salvation. Jesus wasn’t implying that salvation can actually be earned by one good deed (or many) of helping the poor.  However, if he had surrendered his life and followed, his desire for money would have faded in light of the grace and knowledge of Christ. Prov.13:7 “there is one who makes himself rich and has nothing, there is one who has become poor and yet has great riches.

V.22 “But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. How many have heard the gospel and left Jesus instead of leaving their possessions that stop them from following him.  

 Why did Jesus give this man a harder task than others? He knew what was in his heart and what was the block to surrendering his life to follow him. Its one thing to know the law it is another to do it. This man could not do what was necessary. 

Jesus did not give him a different requirement than what is asked of others, only what this man had to give up was different. Jesus declares to us, “unless you pick up the cross you cannot follow me, nor are you worthy of Me. Mark 8:34-36: “When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, ‘Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?’” Money often gets in the way of sound judgment, what Jesus is saying is --  forsake what keeps you from following Him.


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