Matthew 19:16–22 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments." "Which ones?" he inquired. Jesus replied, "'You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'" "All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?" Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Mark 10:17–27 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 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.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
Luke 18:18–23 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.” All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy.
The Rich Young Ruler Encounters Jesus
Followed by large crowds, Jesus departed Galilee and came into Judea where He healed and was questioned; he graciously responded and continued to bless others. After much ministry, He was approached by a young man with a burning question (Matthew 19:2–16).
One Good Thing
Luke called the young man a ruler (Luke 18:18) implying he was likely a member of an official council or court, a respected member of his community, a man of wealth. Though we know he possessed much (Mark 10:22), when he encountered Jesus, he knew he lacked the “good thing” he needed to do to acquire eternal life, and he was eager to obtain it. “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” he asked (Matthew 19:16). All legalistic systems promote the idea that there must be some act so outstanding as to ensure eternal life (Luke 10:25). Surely there was something this man could do to gain the one thing he did not possess.
But Jesus responded with a question, and then told the man to focus on Him, not a good thing to do or a good principle to follow. Jesus reiterated that He was, in fact, the only Good One, that all good things come from, and that through him, the man should obey the commandments (Matthew 19:17). Clearly not one to shy away from clarifying questions, the man asked Jesus to break it down for him, and assured the promised Savior that he had in fact kept all of the commands, even since he was a boy. He wanted to know what he could still lack to gain eternal life (Mark 10:18–20). Recognizing the man’s earnestness, Jesus looked at him through the eyes of love (v. 21). That love compelled Jesus to speak to the inner obedience of the young man’s heart, not the outer conformity he had proven through the law.
Self or Surrender
In love, Jesus extolled the young man to leave the things he had held on to, the things he had gained on his own merit, and follow Him. But instead of surrendering all to follow Jesus, the young man chose to turn away. He refused to let his encounter with Jesus penetrate and change his heart. He departed “grieved” because at the end of the day, he desired his possessions, his earnings, more than he desired eternal life (v. 22).
Eternal life is not something to be obtained; rather the Bible always teaches that salvation is a gift of God’s grace, received through faith (Ephesians 2:8–9). In a culture that often thrives on a do-it-yourself hustle, how do you find it difficult to humbly trust God’s great grace?
When we encounter Jesus, and He asks us to surrender all and follow Him, we have a choice to make. Will we surrender the self-striving, the hustle, the wealth, maybe even the most precious things we possess, or will we turn away saddened by our decision?