He packed a few things, slipped on his sandals, and set off on another journey. He stepped out into the busy street and let the sunlight hit his face. He was instantly recognized. A wealthy young man ran up to him and fell at his feet. Panting, he asked, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Indeed. What must one “do”?
Jesus responded. “Why do you call me good? Do you know what ‘good’ is, son? I appreciate your enthusiasm, but do you have any idea the weight of “good?” Only God is good.”
Sensing the eyes of the gathering crowds on him, the man’s mind raced to see how he might redeem himself in light of his obvious ignorance. A bead of sweat dripped down his temple. He awkwardly rose to his feet brushing the dust off his tunic.
Jesus broke the silence, “You know the commandments, don’t you? Don’t lie, cheat, steal…etc” Sensing an in, the man blurted out, “Yes, yes, I’ve kept all the commandments – ever since I was a kid! Every single one! I’ve done great! I mean, look at me. I’ve got money, clothes, looks, the whole package! I just need to figure out how to keep it all forever! I mean, that’s the point, right?”
Sighing, Jesus dropped his head and kicked at the dust. With profound compassion, he said, “There’s one thing you’re missing.” The young man felt a glimmer of hope – only one thing – no big deal. “What is it teacher? Tell me!” he pleaded. Jesus looked him directly in the eye and said, “Sell all that stuff of yours and give it to the poor. Then, come follow me. You’ll have treasure in heaven.”
The man’s jaw dropped. All his hopes were dashed. He looked around in bewilderment. He felt ill. He wondered if Jesus was joking. Maybe this was a prank Jesus pulled just to freak people out. He was hoping someone would yell out – “Psyche! Jesus is just messing with you, man.” No one did.
As the crowds swarmed in on Jesus, the young man drifted away, grumbling, “Sell all my stuff and follow him, what the…? – I’ve worked way too hard. I’m not giving up all my stuff – no way!”
Jesus’ disciples huddled. “What the heck just happened!? No one has ever walked away from Jesus sorrowful before! Bloodthirsty, confused, indignant, sure – but not sad – not dejected. Should we go say something to the guy?”
Jesus stopped them, “Guys, it’s tough for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God. Their priorities are all mixed up – their hearts are not right. That poor kid thinks he’s kept all the commandments for crying out loud. He has no clue he doesn’t even keep the first one – ‘You shall have no other gods before me.’ His ‘stuff’ comes before God. I tell you the truth, it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom.”
The disciples panicked. They cried out, “What the heck! If a wealthy man can’t get in, how can we?” He’s got resources, money, girls, probably a really cool chariot to boot. What do we have to do to inherit eternal life?
“Do? You guys can’t ‘do’ this. But God can. And through me you’ll have Life.”
Some time later Peter called another huddle. “Hey guys, remember when Jesus was going on and on about ‘Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me?’ And remember all that stuff about ‘letting the dead bury their own dead?’ Well – stay with me for a minute here – remember when he changed our names, and we were able to get all those demons to submit? Remember how awesome that was!? But Jesus told us not to rejoice about that. He also added something that I dismissed at the time. He said that we should rejoice that our names are written in heaven. Remember that?”
The disciples looked at one another trying to figure out where Peter was going with all this.
Peter continued. “Guys, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus – we can’t look back or make anything more important than him. It’s all starting to make sense. Johnny, remember, up on the mountain when God yelled at us, “Listen to my son!”? James you were there. Guys, Jesus is King! We need to take up our cross like he said. We need to live for God’s will, not ours. We need to build on Christ. Otherwise, we’re building our lives on sand. We can’t build a name on our abilities, or status, or possessions, or worldly praise. If we do, we’ll be just like that kid. Remember him? The one who had everything – the rich young ruler? What was his name?”
Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson
The above is adapted from the Gospel of Mark chapter 10:17-31 (among other passages) (ESV, NIV, MSG)