21st Sunday after Pentecost | The Rich Young Ruler | Mark 10.17-22

The rich young ruler is not a Scribe or a Pharisee.

He’s not trying to trick Jesus.

He has no false motives or presumptions.

 

He kneels before Jesus.

He calls Him “Good Teacher,” and he means it.

His question is sincere as it is important.

 

“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

 

Jesus’ initial reply, however, is just the first step in a lesson.

It is a prompt, a lure, and a drawing in.

He reminds the man of the second table of the Law,

A summary of commandments 4-10.

And so, it was as if Jesus said,

“What about this… What if you just kept the Law?”

 

But the rich young ruler has already considered this.

Readily he replies,

“All these I have kept from my youth.”

 

The young man didn’t necessarily mean that he was perfect and utterly blameless.

The right to such a claim was taking away by Jesus’ words:

“No one is good except God alone.”

 

But since Jesus doesn’t correct the young man,

We can guess that, outwardly speaking,

He probably did keep the Law much of the time.

 

After all, he was rich, and so he would not have much cause to steal or to covet.

Being a ruler, and being a young ruler at that,

He had no need to defame others or lie about them, or murder them.

They were of little consequence to him.

 

As a leader and public figure in a very conservative culture,

The man probably did live a sexually pure and decent life as well.

Like he said: all these things I’ve kept from my youth.

 

So, he’s a stand up guy, but he doesn’t consider himself righteous for that.

 

After all, if he was really trusting in his works for his salvation,

He wouldn’t be chasing Jesus down in the street,

Looking for a resolution to his anxieties about eternal life.

 

Moses didn’t teach that, and neither did the prophets.

There is far more to eternal life than obedience,

And the rich young ruler knows it.

He just wants to be certain what that “far more” is.

 

“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.”

 

The answer was simple.

But at the invitation to be disciple #13, the man walked away sad.

 

Jesus’ love is a very welcome thing most of the time.

 

When Jesus loves you by providing you with the things you need in abundance,

As He did for the rich young ruler, you rejoice in Jesus’ love.

 

When Jesus loves you by blessing you and using you well, even to serve others,

As He did for the rich young ruler, you rejoice in Jesus’ love.

 

But other times, you would prefer for Jesus to keep His love to Himself.

 

When Jesus looks at you, and out of pure love for you says,

“Come. Follow Me. And whatever gets in the way of that has to go.”

It doesn’t feel like love at all.

 

For the rich young ruler, it was money and possessions.

He loved his stuff more than he loved Jesus.

And so for that man’s own good, that stuff had to go.

Sell everything. And when you’ve got nothing, come follow me.

 

Jesus looked into the rich young ruler’s heart;

He knew what that man loved,

So He bid him to leave it behind.

And He meant it – word for word, Jesus meant exactly what He said.

 

I don’t have that same power.

I can’t look into your heart.

So I’m not going to tell you must sell all your stuff to follow Jesus,

But ONLY because I don’t know if stuff is your problem.

 

If it is, if you really truly love your stuff to the point of sin,

To the point that you can’t follow Jesus, then get rid of it.

Sell it all, and give the money away.

It’s not good for you.

It’s not worth it.

It’s weighing you down.

Leave it behind, and follow Jesus.

We’ll work out the details of food, clothing, and address later.

Maybe we’ll send you to seminary.

 

There’s every chance, however,

That stuff isn’t getting in the way of discipleship at all for you.

There are plenty of other things that get between you and Jesus just as effectively.

 

So put yourself in the rich young ruler’s shoes.

In love, Jesus looks at you, sees into your heart,

And says:

“Leave it behind.”

 

Your love affair: leave it behind.

Your compulsion to gossip: leave it behind.

Your sharp tongue: leave it behind.

Every sin and every idol comes between you and Jesus.

Leave them behind.

They need to go.

 

The road is long, and Jesus’ disciples need to travel lite.

 

The Church isn’t interested in having more members.

Jesus is looking for disciples.

And there’s a cost to discipleship:

The cost being whatever is in the way,

Whatever sin gets in the way of you and Jesus, has to go.

 

At this invitation, the rich young ruler walked away sad.

But, then again, the rich young ruler didn’t know where Jesus was going.

 

Here’s why you’re not going to walk away sad.

 

The journey that this young man briefly interrupted was to the cross.

There Jesus has paid the cost of discipleship.

Jesus has paid for everything that would get between you and Him.

 

From that first terrible moment in the garden,

When sin came between God and His children,

Christ resolved to leave everything behind and follow you.

You gave no invitation, and offered no promise.

And yet, out of pure love, which is the fulfillment of the Law,

Christ followed you to this broken, hurting, wounded world.

 

He laid aside His power and His glory,

He laid aside everything that He possessed by right,

And followed you.

 

He sought you out.

And in love for you, paid the cost of discipleship, and the cost of redemption.

 

Jesus bought you back –

Not with gold or silver,

But with His holy precious Blood, and with His innocent suffering and death.

 

That you would be His own, and live under Him in His Kingdom,

And serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness,

Just as He is risen from the dead,

Lives and reigns to all eternity.

 

This is most certainly true.

 

While you remain in the world,

While God is using you to share His invitation and His promise with others,

He provides you with so many good things:

 

Clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children,

Land, animals, and all you have.

 

Those things belong in your hand, just not in your heart, as Luther wrote.
Your heart is full up.

 

Full with the Holy Spirit,

Poured out on you at the font.

 

Full of Christ Himself,

Poured into you from the chalice.

 

Full and overflowing for others,

Something to give away to the poor,

The Kingdom is for them, too.

About Pastor Hopkins