“Why would Jesus say that to the man? It seems a bit unreasonable doesn’t it? Why is Jesus making it so tough on the guy?”
That’s what I honestly find myself thinking every time I read the story of the Rich Young Ruler – found in Mark 10:17-22.
The guy came to Jesus and asked a very reasonable and well intentioned question – “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
His request wasn’t bad. I’d love for more young people to be asking the same question. He wasn’t asking how to get rich or how to be famous or how to marry a supermodel. He wasn’t asking for anything material or earthly at all. He asking how to inherit eternal life – which seems like a question that would make Jesus really happy.
So why then did Jesus eventually answer the man this way?
“One thing you lack: 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.” (Mark 10:21)
That’s a pretty tall order for a young man isn’t it? What would you say if Jesus said that to you right now? We’re pretty quick to condemn this guy for not being committed, but in fairness to him, you and I haven’t done what he was asked to do, have we? Have you had an “everything-must-go” yard sale for Jesus’ sake?
So why do this to the POOR guy (pun intended, get it? poor guy… rich young ruler… ha ha, I crack myself up). Why set the bar so high? Why not ask him to start slowly and work his way up to selling all he had? In other words, why does Jesus ask for so much?
The response of the young man shows just how difficult this command was.
“But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” (Mark 10:22)
I can’t help feeling sorry for this guy. Here you have a good guy who wants to go to heaven… who wants to obey the commandments… and who wants to live righteously. But because Jesus asked for so much, the guy left sorrowful and never became a committed follower of Jesus.
Why? Why such a hard command? Why such a high bar? Why why why?
Before I get to the answer, let me ask you this: why did Jesus come to earth? Why did God the Father send His only begotten Son into the world? (not a trick question). He did so to save us from condemnation. To reconcile man to his Maker. To restore our relationship so that we could live with Him forever. If it weren’t for His Incarnation, we would forever be separated from Him and we’d have to spend eternity apart from His Presence.
But thanks be to God that He didn’t leave us in that state. He came down to earth to save us and reconcile us and restore our relationship which had been broken. He came down to us so that we could go up to Him and live with Him forever.
Now let me ask you another question: what cost did He pay in order to accomplish that? What did He give up or let go of in order to achieve that?
EVERYTHING HE HAD.
His comfort. His glory. His majesty. His riches. His dignity. All of it! He gave it all up for us. He let go of everything and came down to a manger – a stinky, smelly, dirty manger – and was born there. He who dwells in the highest glory came down and dwelt in the filth of sin on earth. He freely let go of everything He had.
Why again? So that we could be united with Him.
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)
You see, when the Lord asked the rich young ruler to sell everything, He wasn’t asking him to do anything that He Himself (Jesus) hadn’t already done. Jesus gave up everything so that we could live together and that is why He was so hurt when the rich young ruler refused to make the same sacrifice to be with Him.
In other words, Jesus didn’t care about the man’s money; He cared about the man’s heart. He gave up everything for the man and now He was asking the man to give up everything for Him. It was about love, not money.
Take another look at what Jesus said to the man: “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.”
He wasn’t saying it in a “commanding” way: You do this now or else. He was saying it in an “inviting” way:
Let go of this and we can be together forever. I let go of everything for your sake and even though it was tough, it was worth it. Why? Because I love you so much and I am willing to do whatever it takes to live with you forever. FOREVER! But are you willing to let go of everything to live with Me? I showed you how important you are to Me – but now I want to know how important I am to you.”
The words of Jesus to the rich young ruler remind us that Christianity isn’t about rules. It’s about a relationship. It’s about our Creator telling/showing us how important we are to Him and what sacrifice He is willing to make for us.
Now, it’s your turn to respond.
For discussion: as we approach Christmas and the great sacrifice made for us, what sacrifices are you willing to make for God?