Young Rich Man

To follow Jesus is to surrender one’s entire life, past, present, and future - To walk wherever he leads, no questions asked – Mark 10:17-31

Rich Man - Photo by Mathieu Stern on Unsplash
One day, a young rich man approached Jesus to ask what he should do to inherit everlasting life.  In the account, the reader is confronted with the 
cost of discipleship. In the story version in Matthew, the man is labeled “young.” In Luke, he is a “ruler,” presumably, in the local synagogue. While his haste to kneel before Christ was unusual, this act points to his sincerity - [Rich Man - Photo by Mathieu Stern on Unsplash].

SELL ALL THAT YOU HAVE. In Mark, this is the first instance where Jesus is said to have loved someone. His reaction suggests strongly that the young man was quite sincere in his desire. And this is the first recorded case of anyone asking Christ how to inherit everlasting life.
  • (Mark 10:17-22) – “And as he was going forth into a road, one running and kneeling before him was questioning him: Good Teacher! What shall I do that life everlasting I may inherit? And Jesus said to him: Why do you call me, good? None is good, save one, God. The commandments you know; do not commit 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 things have I kept from my youth. And Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him: One thing is wanting. Withdraw! Whatsoever you have, sell and give to the destitute, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come! Be following me. And he, becoming gloomy because of the word, departed sorrowing, for he was holding many possessions.
In the Greek sentence, the pronoun “me” is emphatic - (“Me, why do you call me good?”). According to his own words, the young man kept the commandments of the Mosaic Law diligently. But despite his faithful obedience, something was deficient in his standing before God.

Jesus directed him to the one God who alone is good. The second half of his response can be translated - “No one is good except the one God.” Life’s ultimate purpose is to love Him. In his response, Jesus demonstrated how one does this very thing – By forsaking all and following His anointed one.

Jesus did not dispute the man’s claim that he had kept the Law faithfully. But something deeper than simply keeping the regulations and rituals of the Torah was required for him to gain everlasting life.

The commandments that Jesus listed were from the “second” half of the Decalogue - The ones from the first half dealt with man’s relationship to God; the second half dealt with relations between men - (e.g., - Do not steal). Each of the last five was a negative prohibition - Do NOT kill. Do NOT covet.
By requiring the rich man to give all his possessions to the poor, Jesus demonstrated the positive and ultimate way to fulfill the commandments – In acts of kindness and mercy to others.

Jesus used the phrase “do not defraud,” not the more original, “do not covet.” As a man already rich, perhaps coveting was not much of a temptation. However, defrauding the poor was the common practice among the rich of Judean society. In this case, the one essential thing needed to “inherit everlasting life” was for this man to forsake all, and to follow Jesus.

The rich and the poor alike are called to the same walk; to follow Jesus whatever the cost and wherever he leads. In this case, this meant the surrender of all material goods. The rich man had kept the Law; however, by itself, that was insufficient. What he lacked was total commitment to Jesus. His failure to do what the Messiah asked demonstrated his real deficiency.

TO FOLLOW JESUS. “How hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom.” Noteworthy is that he did not say it is “impossible.” The young man had assumed that receiving “everlasting life” required great human effort and deeds of righteousness. Note that “inherit everlasting life” and “enter the kingdom” are used almost interchangeably in the passage.
  • (Mark 10:23-31) – “And looking around, Jesus says to his disciples: With what difficulty shall they who have money enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were in amazement because of the words. But Jesus, again answering, says to them: Children! How difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel through the eye of a needle to pass than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. And they were being exceedingly struck with astonishment, saying to him: Who, then, can be saved? Looking at them, Jesus says: With men, impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God. Peter began to say to him: Lo! We have left all and followed you! Jesus said: Verily, I say to you, there is no one who has left house, or brethren, or sisters, or mother, or father, or children, or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel, who shall not receive a hundredfold, now, in this season, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions, and in the age that is coming, everlasting life. But many shall be first-last, and the last-first.
For effect, in his analogy, Jesus used hyperbole. The idea of a camel passing through a needle’s eye stresses the insufficiency of human effort to inherit life in the kingdom.

He did not categorically condemn wealth or possessions. In the gospel accounts, not every wealthy individual was required to sell everything and give all the proceeds to the poor. Jesus focused on the man’s real problem: Material wealth. His riches prevented him from doing the one thing necessary for him to enter the kingdom - To follow Jesus no matter the cost.

He promised that those who gave up everything to follow him would receive “a hundredfold” back in this life. Often overlooked is the inclusion of one “negative” item in his list – and “persecutions.” Neither the gospel message nor this promise is a guarantee that disciples will not experience hardship, including persecution, for the sake of the Kingdom.

Previously, Jesus had made clear that to gain his life a disciple must first lose it in service to the kingdom. “Greatness” in his domain is measured by service to others:
  • (Mark 8:34-37) - “If anyone wills to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and be following me. For whoever wills to save his own life shall lose it, but whoever shall lose his life for my sake and that of the gospel, shall save it; for what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in exchange for his life?”
The final declaration - “Many who are first will be last, and last, first” - Is the classic Gospel description of the final Reversal of Fortune. At the Judgment, many will be surprised when they discover who receives the greatest reward, as well as who will lose the most. On the last day, human expectations will be reversed in surprising ways - (Matthew 7:21-27).


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