I love the Gospel of Luke. It’s an incredible telling of the life and ministry of Jesus. In particular, Luke 9-19 are compelling chapters, and reveal many of the profound and life-altering teachings of Jesus. The parable of the Prodigal Son, the Cost of Discipleship, and Jesus’ interaction with Zacchaeus. These are just some of the great teachings found here.
The story of The Rich Ruler is one that consistently intrigues me, and forces me to re-evaluate my life. If you’re not familiar, read it HERE. Actually, just take the time to read it real quick.
A Rich, Young, Male, Ruler comes to Jesus with a simple question, one that we all want the answer to as well. But let me explain something first: these adjectives are important because of cultural status and the perception of being “blessed.” This guy was WEALTHY – a cultural & religious sign of God’s Blessing. This guy was YOUNG and wealthy – a sign of God’s Blessing. This guy was a RULER over much – a sign of God’s Blessing. Being a guy, he had favor in the community. He actually said that he kept all of God’s law, and interestingly, Jesus didn’t correct him on that.
He was an all around good guy, blessed guy, nice guy, probably a hero in the community. Sort of like the sporty handsome quarterback who went undefeated last year, was valedictorian, bags groceries at the locally owned mom & pop store, sings in the church choir, volunteers at the seniors center, mentors a few troubled kids, and rescues cats out of trees in his free time.
Then the deep question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Really, that’s the question we all ask, right? But this guy was “blessed,” he kept the law, he was a “good” person. But he still longed for what’s more. He still desired deeper truth than “be a good person.” His real desire was to know how to be saved, how to be with God forever, how to have eternal life and connection with God. Obviously he was missing that REAL truth. He was missing the deeper life, the good life, the eternal life.
Then Jesus’ response is incredible: “One thing you lack. Get rid of all of your stuff, give it away, and COME FOLLOW ME.”
This is EARTH SHATTERING for the young man, and truth be told, it is for us too! It was so tough for this Rich, Young, Ruling, Man, that he hung his head and walked away because he had a lot of money and a lot of stuff (Matt.19.22). Sad ending to a cool encounter with the God of the Universe!
Let me just share a few observations.
1. Great Question.
This young man’s question is actually the same question everyone wants an answer to. Deep within us all is a desire to have eternal life, deeper meaning to our existence, a connection to our Creator. And I believe we all have a life-long quest to find the answer.
Fortunately, God offers the answer in Jesus. Actually, God flips the script on us though! Hear the guy’s question again: “What must I DO to inherit life?” Our tendency is to toil with our OWN HANDS for our salvation. To work our OWN way to God. But Jesus gives a new option: “Leave all of your toils and simply follow me.” In that, Jesus offers to do the work, we just follow.
2. Jesus can’t count.
HA! (Hold on.) He said, “ONE THING you must do.” Then he listed multiple things – sell your stuff, give away proceeds to poor, FOLLOW ME. You’d think the God of Creation could count to one, right? haha. Don’t judge me as insolent, yet… There’s a reason he said it that way. The ONE THING was “Come Follow Me,” (I’ll explain that in point 3). But he had to deal with his possessions first. WHY? Because that stood in the way of the ONE THING. For this young man, money, power, possessions were his god. Even his ability to be a “good person” was an idol. And Jesus acknowledged those things, not because he couldn’t count, but because they stood in the way of the ONE THING.
3. Simple Answers Are the Best.
Jesus answered the young man’s question. Remember it? “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” It’s our question too! The answer is easy: “Come Follow Jesus.” That is THE LIFE of a Christ follower. That is THE ANSWER to becoming a part of the family of God. Notice Jesus didn’t say “Believe in me” but said “FOLLOW ME.” That is a HUGE distinction. To follow him completely.
Move where HE leads. Live like HE teaches. Believe what HE teaches. Participate in HIS body (The Church). Following Jesus is an ALL-IN endeavor. It was always what Jesus expects. If you want to have eternal life, stop working yourself and COME FOLLOW JESUS!
4. Stuff Gets in the Way.
The One Thing seems simple, but it isn’t. Why? Because true devotion to Jesus requires leaving behind all that stands in the way. And all of us have the propensity to allow stuff to get in the way. Money, job titles, our kids, talent, our selves, our identity, sin, more good works, stuff, money, sin, family, people, idols, false religion, propensities, jobs, power, habits, sin, money, etc. etc. etc. It’s a repeating and vicious cycle of keeping idols in the way of truly following Jesus with full devotion. And the question stays in front of us doesn’t it: “How do I have eternal life?”
The answer remains: “Lay down any idol, any hindrance, anything that stands in the way, and COME FOLLOW JESUS.” My prayer is that we evaluate this question and consider what stands in the way of OUR devotion and followership (it’s a real word) of Jesus. Eternal life is in following him. Don’t let anything get in the way.
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