And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.
Good man vs bad man. Clearly, as we discussed in an earlier post, Zacchaeus was a “bad” man. Zacc the Weasel! By any standard of then or now, Zacchaeus was the very dregs of humanity, and not deserving of mercy from God or man.
Now, we have the “Cream of the crop.” Just as clearly, the rich young ruler was “good.” He was the best of the best. He was a ruler, likely a very important man in the local Jewish congregation. Like Saul of Tarsus, he was “a jew of the jews, ” most likely. A good, good man.
I have read and read on this passage and discovered an amazing thing; theologians really like to over complicate things. I have read writings and debates on works righteousness, Lordship salvation, and so many other things my head hurts. I plan to keep this simple, as I think it is actually….simple. What can we determine quickly and simply from this story?
The rich young ruler was a good person. He certainly thought so, at any rate. When Jesus told him what he had to do to enter Heaven, he was pretty quick to respond that he had those things nailed.
Clearly, those things were never going to be sufficient to save the rich young ruler. Some folks read this passage as a list of requirements that, if met, would earn one a place with God eternally. Jesus’ quick response to the man, laying out exactly what one had to do, negate that. It’s as if the young ruler said, “Look at what I did Jesus! Now let me in the Kingdom.” I don’t see Jesus’ response as continuing the salvation laundry list at all. In effect, Jesus told this man, “No, no…your list is not enough, and it will never be enough.” See those words….”follow me?” Those words matter. What do we see elsewhere in God’s Word? We see…believe….believe on me…faith. Follow me.
The rich young ruler left lost. He was “sorrowful.” This matters. Despite the impressive list of credentials the fellow brought to the table, he left “sorrowful.” He remained just as lost and outside the Kingdom as when he arrived.
The rich young ruler rejected Jesus for the same reasons we reject him today.
He wanted salvation his way. Like so many, this man wanted to work his way to heaven on terms he found personally satisfactory to himself. He, like so many today, created a god of his own liking.
He refused to give up himself. Not only did he want his achievements to earn him a place in Heaven, buy he wanted to hold on to his “stuff.” He was sorrowful because he was very rich. This man was not sad because he was rich; he was sad because he knew he had to give up himself. He was sad because he could not have his cake and eat it too.
And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.
Who can be saved? Can a rich man be saved? Of course. The rich young ruler was not denied salvation over his wealth. Read the last verse up above. “The things which are impossible with men.” That is very important. Salvation through men, or the efforts of men, is impossible. No person can secure their own salvation; no person can secure the salvation of another. Again, read the verse; “The things which are impossible with men…….. are possible with God.”
Now, let’s move back to Zaccheus, and see just what God can make possible even among the worst of us…that’s coming Monday.