September 10, 2021
Smoky Mountain District
Mark 10:17-22 (NIV)17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’[a]”
20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
The Rich Young Man
Just before we meet the Rich Young Man, we see that Jesus had been teaching crowds of people in the region of Judea across the Jordan. People were bringing little children to him, and Jesus’ disciples wanted to push the children away so as not to “bother” their esteemed teacher. That caused Jesus to say, “Let the children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” And he told them that anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.
Perhaps that statement is what caused the young man to fall to his knees and ask for further instructions. “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, giving God all the honor, and saying “only God is good,” and then he listed a few of the commandments.
The young man must have puffed out his chest with pride as he shared with Jesus that he had kept them all, since he was a boy. We must not miss the important first phrase of Mark 10:21 – “Jesus looked at him and loved him.”
Then he gave the beloved young man a Next Step. “One thing you are missing,” Jesus said. I imagine this made the young man very excited! One thing! Just one thing! Cool! I’m almost in!
Jesus continued, “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this, the young man’s face fell, his excitement instantly left him. WHAT, he must have thought!! What?? This instruction is too hard! Without further words, he turned and went away.
We are not told what happened to the young man later. Did he perhaps become a generous giver; did he become a rich philanthropist? Did he grow and begin to follow Jesus, walking more closely in his likeness as time passed?
I hope he did, and I believe Jesus wanted that, too. After all, Jesus loved him enough to die for him. Jesus loves us too, and just like that young man, we have next steps to grow toward the Kingdom, to grow more like Jesus, and to follow him.
Perhaps some of us, like that young man, have kept all the commandments since we were children. Perhaps some of us have broken many of them – or at least a few. Perhaps some of us are faithful disciples, but like the well-meaning ones who tried to usher the children away from Jesus, we are missing a step and don’t even know it. Perhaps some of us, like the rich young man, have grown a bit complacent. Perhaps some of us are working so hard for the Kingdom that we don’t stop to listen quietly to Jesus. Perhaps some of us think we’ve already received all the answers.
Thank God that regardless of where we fall on our personal righteousness meter, Jesus has a next step for each of us. Like the rich young man, our next step may seem nearly impossible. That next step may require a great change in our behavior or our lifestyle or may take us out of our comfort zone. But whatever that step is, we need to reach for it. Like the rich young man, we need to fall on our knees and ask for further instructions, “What do I need to do to become more like Christ today than I was yesterday?”