Mark 10:17-27 17 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?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 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.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 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.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
23 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!” 24 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! 25 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.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
At this point in Jesus’ public ministry He had told His disciples that He would soon formally establish His Kingdom but that He would die and rise again. They could not understand this and fell back in their thinking that Jesus, as the Christ, would rule over the nation of Israel and they became excited that they would be soon given authority and power to rule beside Him. There was still so much about the spiritual Kingdom of God that Jesus was establishing that they did not understand. They were not yet ready to rule with Him even though the disciples in their own minds believed that they were ready. They were proud and needed correction.
A rich young ruler appears before Jesus and begins to question Him. In every respect this was an admirable man. He was probably not unlike Saul who became the first king over Israel. He was likely tall, handsome, strong, wealthy, smart and well respected by the people. He would have been highly regarded by the Jews as a man of God who strictly followed the Old Testament law. In every way this man would have been recognized as a great leader and only greater things could await him. Based upon outward appearance he was the perfect man- the perfect Jew. This man would have made the disciples think to themselves, “Could I rule in Jesus’ kingdom like this ruler?” And yet this rich young ruler was not born again. He had not yet even entered into the Kingdom of God that Jesus was establishing. He was still on the outside and yet he was highly regarded and respected by all of the people. He was a great man and yet lost and would be lost forever unless he came to a place of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
Of course Jesus could see the spiritual condition of this rich young ruler. He could see the wicked state of his heart in spite of the external greatness that was hiding his lost soul. But how shocking that this man was outside the Kingdom of God! For even when he approaches Jesus he knelt before Him in what appears to be humility and asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Whatever motivation was for the ruler to ask Jesus this question we know that it was impure because of how Jesus responds. He says, “No one is good except God alone.” Based upon Jesus’ response it is obvious that the rich young ruler did not recognize Jesus as the Christ- the Son of God in the flesh. The ruler had knelt before Jesus in all likelihood looking to be praised for his actions but he was unwilling to bow his heart before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Deep down the ruler was ruling his own kingdom apart from Jesus Christ and was unwilling to give up his authority to the authority of God.
As Jesus reviews the Ten Commandments relating to loving your neighbor as yourself, the ruler confirms his belief that he is innocent before God. He cannot see the condition of his corrupt heart. Jesus tells him to sell all that he has and to follow Him but he is unwilling to do so. The ruler leaves Jesus’ presence in great sorrow. How shocking and confusing for the disciples to see what had transpired. Why did Jesus make it so difficult for this man? This great man left in disappointment whom the disciples would have expected to be a great asset to Jesus. This ruler could have opened great doors for Jesus and provided an “in” to the leaders in Jerusalem. But Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world. He does not rule with anyone but is ruler over all. He does not need the help of any great man to establish His Kingdom. His Kingdom is above all.
The reality is that every single person who is a true follower of Jesus must be willing to surrender everything they have, including their very life, to Jesus Christ. If we are not willing to give up everything we cannot be in His Kingdom. He does not necessarily expect us to sell all that we have and become physically poor to become a Christian. But we must be willing to become spiritually poor and naked before Him. We must bow our heart before Him and not just in a form of external show as the rich young ruler. We must truly be sad over our sin and our sin nature to the point where we genuinely repent and not just become sad that it is difficult to follow Jesus and leave His presence disheartened. We will never experience the joy of being in the Kingdom of God if we do not first taste the sadness and difficulty of genuine repentance.
Jesus taught the disciples at this point that they could not recognize the true spiritual condition of a human soul. They said to Jesus, “Then who can be saved?” They were not ready to rule. Jesus humbled them through His dealings with the rich young ruler. He once again shook the foundations of what they thought they believed. In order to prepare them to rule within His Kingdom which was spiritual in nature they still needed correction and preparation.
Are you still like the rich young ruler? Are you trying to fit a camel through the eye of a needle? Are you trying to do the impossible in ruling your own kingdom and yet thinking you can still be in the Kingdom of God? There can only be one ruler and that is Jesus Christ. Submit to Him. Surrender to Him. Or, are you like the disciples at this point? Are you a born again Christian but you still look at the world around primarily through your physical eyes? Do you think that the Kingdom of God is primarily about material wealth and status and honor and recognition among men? Do you wrongly assess the spiritual condition of those around you? Let Jesus humble you as He humbled the disciples here. Without this change you will not see clearly.
Pastor Murray Hack