Encounters with Jesus: Rich Young Ruler

Read: Mark 10:17-29

Almost everyone who encountered Jesus in his ministry among us left that encounter encouraged, healed, happy or in some way uplifted. Almost everyone. Today’s encounter is an exception. Mark tells us that the man we know today as the rich young ruler “went away sad”. Mark 10:22  Why was this?

Many of us are familiar with his story. It leaves some of us a little uncomfortable. It made an impact on the gospel writers: all three synoptic gospels record this encounter. (Matthew tells us the man was young; Luke tells us he was a ruler – possibly a member of the Sanhedrin – all three note that he “had great wealth”.)

In spite of his position of privilege in society, this wealthy young man was conscious that something was missing. “Good teacher,” he asked (Jesus), “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Mark 10:17 When Jesus pointed him to the commandments – specifically to those relating to his conduct with others – the young man claimed to have kept them all. “What do I still lack?”  Matthew 19:20

Mark tells us, “Jesus looked at him and loved him.”  Mark 10:21 Here was a young man with a heart after God, a potentially useful addition to his Kingdom. He was well on the way… just one more step was required.

“One thing you lack,” (Jesus) said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. “At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. – Mark 10:21, 22

We’re sad for him! And I reckon Jesus must have been sad, too. So much potential! So close to the Kingdom!  Jesus’ disciples – maybe dazzled by this young man’s wealth and social status – were amazed to hear Jesus say, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”  10:24

How easily we become accustomed to the materialism around us and the lifestyle it sustains! “Great wealth” is relative; and the sin of self-sufficiency can be so subtle. Jesus insists that we let go everything in order to follow him as disciples. What he graciously returns to us is entirely his prerogative. Am I ready to take him at his word; to let go everything so there is no impediment to my following him? As the years roll by, have I started to claim back stuff I once gave away – cheerfully – in order to serve him?

I sometimes wish the gospel writers had not recorded this encounter with Jesus!  They did… for a reason!  How will I respond to its challenge?

PRAYER:  Let the message of this encounter guide you as you pray.

(Written by Alan Akers)

SONG:  All to Jesus I Surrender (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtuRB4VhN_A)