As Jesus ministered on earth, an encounter occurred that is recorded in all three synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). A man (who is described in the gospels as young, rich and a ruler) approached Jesus with a question. He asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (v.18).
When the Bible refers to eternal life, it does not mean just life forever. It refers to a life worth living, full of meaning and purpose. This man who was young and had many years in front of him, who had all the money he could ever need, who had power with that money, this man realized that even with all that, he did not have a meaningful and purpose-filled life. Such a life comes from God, not stuff and power.
To answer this wealthy man’s question, Jesus referred to the commandments of the Bible, in which the young man replied, “all these I have kept since I was a boy” (v. 21). What this young man inadvertently confessed is that he had been religious and kept all the rules since he was a boy. But Jesus knew this man was not just wealthy; he was possessed by his wealth. His wealth was his god. So Jesus shocked him with truth in order to help him see the path of life.
A Journey that Requires the Right Path (Luke 18:22-23)
Truthfully, this man had been living a life of self-sufficiency and self-faith, and it had not led to the abundant life he was seeking. He was on the wrong path and had lost his way. Jesus told him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have” (v. 22a). The self-sufficiency that this man’s wealth yielded was the obstacle to discovering Jesus as the path of life. To find the eternal life this man was seeking, he first had to be willing to remove the obstacle in the way.
Next, Jesus said, “Then come, follow Me” (v. 22b). The word “come” refers to a purposeful choice to arrive in the presence of Christ. He had to be willing to take that initial step of faith toward Jesus. Once he had chosen this step, Jesus said, “follow Me.” This call to “follow” Jesus carries two important, life-changing implications: 1) it means to give Him control and trust His lead and 2) it refers to developing companionship with Jesus on the journey.
It was a difficult choice for this young, self-sufficient man who would have to give up control over his life to Jesus. Luke, the gospel writer points out: “When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth” (v.23). Some wealthy people did choose to follow Jesus. His possessions were not the problem. The true issue was that he was possessed by his possessions. This man desired the life Jesus offered, but was not willing to follow Jesus on the path of life, which would remove control and comforts in order to produce dependence on Him. He chose to stay with the status-quo, with what he had known and was comfortable with his whole life.What obstacles inhibit you from coming to and following Jesus? Our wealth or our stuff are certainly not the only things that can be an obstacle to discovering the abundant life Jesus leads to.
A Journey that Requires an All-In Commitment (Luke 18:24-27)
Jesus then pointed out to the crowd that allowing your wealth and your things to become too important can hinder you from what you desire the most — a life worth living. He makes it clear that no one (wealth/power or not) can achieve such a life on their own. Only God can lead you to the path of life. Jesus then finally states, “What is impossible with men is possible with God” (v.27). While you cannot lead a camel through the eye of a needle (v. 26), God can. He can accomplish what is impossible for us to accomplish on our own. You have to be all-in when following Christ. This man was essentially playing religious games. Jesus invited him instead into a life-transforming journey and relationship.
Are you willing to do what the rich, young ruler was not willing to do? Will
you first choose each new day to lay down what interferes with following the lead of Jesus? Will you truly give Him control? And second, will you choose to follow where He leads, even when it is to places you did not expect or prefer?
“When Jesus heard this, He said to him, ‘You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.’ When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ Those who heard this asked, ‘Who then can be saved?’ Jesus replied, ‘What is impossible with men is possible with God.'”