Get Rid of It

Posted: April 7, 2014 in Mark

Mark 10:17-22, “Get Rid of It”

They call it deadweight when something is so heavy and useless that it weighs us down.  Ships often have a measurement of deadweight tonnage: the amount of weight that it can carry in cargo (or passengers) before it reaches an point of capsize or submersion.  If there’s too much weight, it needs to be unloaded.  The same thing can happen with motor vehicles.  The more weight that is carried, the harder it is to move, and the more unsafe things can be (hence the numerous weighing stations on the interstate).  Deadweight can keep us from our goals, and the best thing to do is to cast it off.  A ship in a raging storm at sea might throw cargo overboard – an athlete might shed a few pounds, etc.  If the weight keeps you from where you’re going, then it’s not worth it.  Get rid of it.

The young man that encounters Jesus in Mark 10 has his own deadweight.  Only it didn’t keep him from a physical destination, but an eternal one.  His deadweight was his pride, and by choosing to keep it, he was one of the only people in the Bible to walk away from an encounter with Jesus as sad, rather than overjoyed.  He chose to keep his weight, rather than get rid of it, and he made the wrong choice.

Remember that Jesus is on His way south, ultimately headed to the cross.  He had just rebuked His disciples for keeping little children from coming to Him.  He had fended off the test of the Pharisees by exposing their legalistic loopholes around the law.  Now comes this man, perhaps looking to justify himself where the others had failed.  We don’t know the precise chronology – it’s quite possible that several days had passed between this man and the previous events.  But no doubt Mark shows them in contrast.  The religious leaders had failed in their view of the Scriptures – the disciples of Jesus had failed in their compassion towards the humble – perhaps this nice young man, full of ambition could succeed where the others had not.  Or perhaps not.  He had his own stumbling block keeping him from Jesus, and he wouldn’t be willing to part with it.

Mark 10:17–22
17 Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”

  1. Who was this “one”?  He’s commonly known as the “rich young ruler,” though the Bible never officially uses that title all in one place.  All of the synoptics (Mt, Mk, Lk) note his wealth – Luke, his authority – Matthew, his age.  Put it all together, and we have a rich, young ruler.  What position of authority he had, we do not know.  It seems possible he had a position in the local synagogue, but there is no way to truly tell.
  2. What he did stands out like a sore thumb.  The man “came running” after Jesus.  There was a dire urgency to his action.  Whether or not it was earnest remains to be seen, but just the act of running was unusual.  People of importance did not run – it was not considered dignified (which is one of aspects of the parable of the prodigal son that sticks out so much: the father ran).  But this man ran after Jesus.  Jesus was “on the road,” seemingly leaving the area, and perhaps this man thought it was his last opportunity to talk to Jesus.
  3. Beyond the running, this local ruler “knelt before Him.”  This was not falling down on his face in worship, but it was still an act of reverence and respect.  Because Jesus was on the road, He was in a public place, and there’s a logical assumption that there were at least a few more people around than only the 12 disciples.  At the very least, the young man is not afraid of people seeing him kneel before Jesus, because he does it in the open & not in secret.
  4. Finally, he addresses Jesus in an unusual way: “Good Teacher.”  Commentaries note that this was overt over-the-top language.  Rabbis never called themselves “good” because they never thought it applied to them.  Technically, the word used by the man wasn’t “rabbi,” but “teacher,” though Mark seems to use the word interchangeably.  Of course, Jesus WAS (and IS) a “Good Teacher,” but just the use of the term would have gotten the attention of those who were listening.
  5. Two questions pop up with all of this: (1) Was the man sincere?  (2) Did he believe and/or understand what he was actually saying?
    1. Was he sincere?  There is so much here that is overt – almost ostentatious.  It’s possible that some of this is due to his youth.  It’s possible that he actually felt this kind of desperation in his desire to know the answer to his question.  But it is also possible that it was all part of a prideful show.  There is no question that the young man thought of himself as righteous – perhaps he wanted the affirmation from Jesus (the renown rabbi) that he was indeed righteous.  Perhaps he wanted others to know that he had the approval of God.  Obviously we cannot know any of his motives, as the Bible does not say.  He might have been entirely sincere.  The one thing this does emphasize is the young man’s focus on external things.  External things can be good (in the right heart), but they can never make us righteous – they can never save us.  If our hope is in external religious rituals or external works, then our hope is sorely misplaced!
    2. Did the man actually believe what he said?  He had used certain words; did he understand what he was saying?  IOW, did he actually believe Jesus was the “Good Teacher” that he said Jesus was?  There are many people who know all kinds of Christian words and phrases, but have no faith in Jesus.  They know all of the “right” words, but don’t believe them.  They can answer the right questions, walk through the ordinances of baptism and communion, etc., but without faith, it is all meaningless.  When you call Jesus “good,” do you mean it?  When you call Him “Christ,” do you understand that it is a title affirming Jesus as the Glorious King?  When you call Him “Lord,” do you believe that Jesus is YOUR Lord & God?  There are many words we can use…do we believe them?
  6. The actual question all of this introduces is a common one: “what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”  What shall I do to be sure that I am saved?  Depending on what one means by “do,” it is either the right question, or an upside-down question.  If we are looking at things we need to do to earn life, then it’s upside-down.  We cannot DO anything.  It is our DOING of sin that got us into trouble in the first place!  It’s this kind of doing that the young man seems to have in mind.  He is fixated on the works of the law, and he is looking for a final act that might seal forever his own justification and inheritance.  And in doing so, he’s got everything upside down.  However, if the “doing” is more along the lines of the words of the Jerusalem crowd on Pentecost upon hearing their own guilt in the crime of killing the Messiah, when they asked Peter “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37), that’s far different.  The people of Jerusalem that day understood their trouble and their desperation, and they knew they needed to receive God’s mercy – they just didn’t know how to get it.  That is a great question!  Eternal life is something that must be received; it can never be earned.  That’s what the man needed to learn, and that is exactly what Jesus is going to teach him as time goes on.  But before He does, Jesus addresses the first part of what the man said…

18 So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.

  1. Jesus calls him out on the superlative compliment.  Basically said, “This is the word you used…did you mean it?”  Why did the man call Jesus good?  Was it just another word – was it sincere – what was the man trying to accomplish? Objection: “What’s the big deal?  It’s just a nice word.” To paraphrase a former US president, it all depends on what the meaning is.  Words matter when we speak to anyone – they especially matter when we’re speaking to God, and asking about eternal life.  Is there any real faith behind our words?  Do we actually mean what it is that we are saying to Him in prayer?  Anyone can mutter their way through a sinner’s prayer at an altar call – anyone can repeat phrases in church – those kinds of words are meaningless.  What is needed is faith and understanding that backs up those words. 
  2. What is “good”?  What is the standard by which we can define good?  Does something need to be pretty-good, or does it need to be perfect?  And if perfection is the standard, how far away from the standard does something cease to be good, and become bad?  If something is “less good,” is it even good at all?  All of these questions pop up when we start to think about the meaning of the word & someone’s motive in using it.  To get to the meaning, we need a standard.  In fact, we need a truly objective standard: something that is truly good beyond question – something that can be used as a baseline by which all else can be judged.  That takes us again to perfection, and there is only one Being that fits the bill.  The only Person who is perfect, is God.  A mere teacher cannot be considered truly good, if God is the standard.  Neither a rabbi, nor a pastor, nor anyone else who would typically be thought of in that role.  If God is the standard, then only God can meet that standard.  And Jesus does.  Jesus IS God, thus Jesus can rightly be called “good.”
  3. Jesus doesn’t deny any of this as He speaks to the man; He simply tries to get the man to think it all the way through. “You called Me good – do you understand the implications?”  The terminology was absolutely accurate, but the man probably didn’t have a clue.  By saying “No one is good, but One…God,” Jesus is indirectly affirming that He IS God.  None  is good but God, and yes, Jesus is good because Jesus is God.  If the man believed it, THAT is what needed to happen for the man to be assured of inheriting eternal life.  Without it, the man would have nothing.
  4. All that said, what does it mean that God is good?  God IS good (all the time!).  God is just, virtuous, holy, righteous, merciful, compassionate, kind.  All of this and more is wrapped up in His infinite goodness.  This is part of God’s innate character.  He cannot be anything other than good.  The only way to know what goodness is, is by looking to God.  Critics have a problem with this.  Atheists and anti-theists try to accuse the Biblical God of evil all the time.  They say, along with Richard Dawkins and Bill Maher, that God is an immoral monster.  Why?  Because God does things they don’t like.  They presume to have a higher moral standard than God.  And of course, that’s not true.  They just want to be the one that sets the standard.  They don’t like the fact that God is God, and they are not.  They will (for example) claim that God is a murderous despot because He ordered the destruction of the Canaanites.  Yet they are also typically the ones that vehemently fight for the wanton murder of millions of babies every year through abortion.  God had shown His justice upon the Canaanites by pouring out His wrath, and yet He also showed His mercy by forbidding future generations to be born into that kind of unadulterated evil.  Not true with the abortionists…they just want to pick & choose who lives or dies.  Which is the monster?  To make mankind the ultimate moral agent (as the atheists and others want) is not choosing a higher morality; it’s choosing chaos.  If everyone gets to pick and choose what is right in his own eyes, then no one is right at all.  After all, what’s right for you may not be right for me.  We need a standard beyond us – we need a standard that is objective.  That is something that only God can provide.  And God DOES provide it, because He is good.
  5. So do you want to know what good looks like?  Go to God – go to what God has revealed.  How do we do that?  By going back to the Bible, God’s written word.  See vs. 19…

19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ ”

  1. Jesus takes the man back to the law – specifically the 10 Commandments that summarized the Mosaic covenant.  What was it that God gave to the Hebrews so that the Hebrews could know right from wrong?  How could they know what God expected of them?  It was written down on two tablets of stone by the finger of God on Mt. Sinai.  That’s what Jesus reminds the man.  Being who he was in the community, this young ruler was undoubtedly educated in the Scriptures.  He did not need to learn the 10 Commandments (so he thought).  This was basic Hebrew 101 – the first lessons any child would have learned in the synagogue.  The man had come to Jesus, asking for a secret – asking for some unknown key to eternal life, and Jesus takes him back to the very foundations.  God had already revealed everything that was necessary.  It was in the 10 Commandments.  (Of course, the problem was that although the man did know them, he just didn’t understand them.)
    1. People are always looking for some sort of extra-Biblical revelation.  They want some sign in the skies, or some secret code, or some other piece of knowledge discovered by a few & not seen by all.  And most of it (if not all of it) is just a waste of time.  God has revealed everything we need already in the pages of Scripture.  All we need to do is open up the book and read it!
    2. That’s not to say that God never speaks to His people through prayer or the gifts.  He does!  But what God says will never contradict or supersede what He has already revealed in His written word.  The Bible tells us to judge prophecy, and the way we do so is by comparing it with the standard of the Bible.  The word of God is our final authority in all things.
  2. What did Jesus specifically show in the 10 Commandments?  The second tablet.  The first half of the commandments deal with our relationship to God; the second half deals with our relationship with man.  Jesus points out the second.  Why?  We don’t know.  Perhaps because they deal more with outward actions rather than inward motives.  Perhaps Jesus knew the self-righteousness of the man, and knew that the first half was already assumed by him.  Perhaps as a ruler (likely within the synagogue), no one would have questioned the man’s loyalty to God.  We simply don’t know.  What we do know is that Jesus obviously thought that the second half was enough to bring attention to the man’s need for forgiveness, even if the man himself hadn’t realized it yet.
    1. Do not commit adultery.”  The 7th Commandment.  Far more than a physical violation of the marriage vow, Jesus had taught earlier that simply to look at another person with lust was to commit adultery (Mt 5:28).  Unfaithfulness is a matter of the heart; not merely a physical act.  It takes place in office break rooms and on computer screens far more often than it does in bedrooms.
    2. Do not murder.” The 6th Commandment.  As with adultery, Jesus had also taught of the heart component.  To hate someone and burn unjustly with anger against them is to commit murder (Mt 5:22).  We don’t have to pull a trigger to wish someone dead.  God knows our hearts, and He knows when we despise someone whom He made in His own image.
    3. Do not steal.”  The 8th Commandment.  Although theft ought to be self-explanatory, we need to keep in mind that theft is theft, regardless of value.  It might be a piece of candy or fruit – it might be time away from our employer – shady tax claims – even theft from God.  Even if no one ever misses the item, theft is always wrong.
    4. Do not bear false witness.”  The 9th Commandment. Considering that God is a God of truth, it makes sense that this is abhorrent to Him.  In fact, lying is one of the few things that God Himself cannot do (Titus 1:2).  As bad as this is, the original context of the commandment was in regards to lying about our neighbor.  Many people would hesitate to tell a lie to a judge in court, but yet not think twice about spreading a rumor about someone on Facebook.  Yet that is the very act of bearing false witness against our neighbor.
    5. Honor your father and your mother.” The 5th Commandment.  This is the only positive commandment that Jesus quotes from the 10, and it serves as a bridge between the two halves.  It relates to God because He is our Heavenly Father and parents are His representatives to children.  It relates to people because it is about our human parents.  Culturally for the Jews, there were all kinds of ways to be true to the letter of this law, while violating its spirit.  Honoring our parents is important to God, and we ought not try to find loopholes and ways to write it off.
    6. Do not defraud.”  This is the only statement Jesus makes here that is not quoted from the 10 Commandments, and it is unique to Mark.  Some believe that this is a reference to the 10th Commandment not to covet, thinking that a person might defraud someone as a way of getting their stuff.  Others believe this is an expansion or explanation of the commands not to steal or bear false witness.  Either way, fraud is the opposite of God’s nature of truth, and God’s people ought not to be known for it.
  3. With all of these commandments listed, this was still (obviously) just a partial listing.  Jesus could have gone through all ten of the 10 Commandments.  He could have gone through the entire Old Testament!  The point Jesus was making was not for the man to check each item off the list to see himself as righteous, but to help him see his guilt.  To break the law even in one point is to be guilty of breaking the whole thing (Jas 2:10).  Even if Jesus had only quoted one commandment, it ought to have been enough to bring conviction to the man’s heart.  That is what the law does – that is the whole point of its existence.  The law does not justify; it condemns.  The law does not show us our righteousness, but our lack of it.  The law awakens us to the reality fo our sin, and causes us to cry out for a Savior. Romans 7:7, "What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.”"  Galatians 3:24–25, "(24) Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (25) But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor." []  This is what the man missed.  He knew the letter of the law, but he had never understood its purpose.

20 And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.”

  1. All of a sudden, the man’s issue becomes crystal-clear.  He was self-righteous.  He lived what many would consider to be a good, moral life.  He thought that he was good enough, in light of the law of God.  According to the traditional Jewish understanding, he had “kept” the law.  He could say, along with the apostle Paul (prior to his conversion), that concerning the law, he was blameless (Phil 3:6).  According to the interpretation and standards of man, he was righteous.  And that was the problem: his view of righteousness was based on man’s standards; not God’s.  If God alone is good, how could any mere human ever conceive of him/herself as good?  God is perfect; we’re not…major problem!
  2. And that is what he was supposed to see in the law.  The law wasn’t given to justify him in his sins; it was supposed to point them out to him.  When he read the commandment about adultery, he wasn’t supposed to pat himself on the back & say, “Thank goodness I never slept around!”  He was supposed to examine his heart & see all the times had thought about sleeping around – all of the times he had let his gaze linger in lust – and in light of all of that, realize his own sinful fallen nature and cry out to God for mercy.  (And that was only one of the 6 that Jesus quoted!)  The law was supposed to awaken him to the fact that he was a man drowning at sea, and needed to be rescued.  It’s not that the man simply lacked one or two things for eternal life; he lacked everything!  (So do we!)
  3. Objection: “But what about all the good things he (or I) did in obedience to God’s word?  Surely that counts for something.”  That all presumes that somehow our good deeds can balance out our bad deeds.  There are two problems with that: logical & theological.
    1. Logically, it doesn’t make sense when we consider the standard.  If the standard was Man, then perhaps someone could make it work that his/her life is better overall than the life that served as the standard.  But Man isn’t the standard; God is.  God is perfect, and His standard is perfection (Mt 5:48).  Once we’ve deviated from the standard of perfection, there’s no earning it back.  Once perfection is tainted, then it’s always tainted, no matter what we do to clean it up.  For example, pure water that is infused with poison can never be 100% pure again (without a radical chemical change).  You can dilute it to 99.999% purity, but it will always have a trace of poison.  Something is either perfect, or it’s not…close doesn’t count.  Heaven requires perfection.  (And the good news of the gospel is that Jesus makes us perfect.  He gives us HIS perfection, when we go through the radical change of being born again!)
    2. Theologically, even our “good” deeds are tainted from the start.  No one even begins life perfectly pure, because we’ve inherited a nature of sin from Adam.  That’s all part of the curse that came as a result from the Fall.  Because Adam sinned and was doomed to die, all men and women who have followed have been born with that same sin and death.  Want proof?  Look at newborn babies.  What we commonly call “innocent babies” are anything but!  They may be innocent of the ways of the world, but no one has to teach them how to sin.  Straight from the womb, they are selfish, willful, and demanding…even if they look adorable while doing it. J  That’s the same selfishness and sin that is in all of us and all that we do.  And that all takes us back to perfection.  We couldn’t earn heaven if we wanted to, because all of our “good” deeds are infused with this same sin.  As Isaiah put it, all of our righteousnesses are like filty rags. (Isa 64:6)  Thus our good deeds don’t help, because our “good” is never perfect.
    3. If that sounds hopeless to you, then there is hope still!  That is exactly the conclusion that we (and the rich young ruler) are supposed to reach.  The law demands perfection, and we’re anything BUT perfect.  What can be done?  All that is left is to cry out to God for mercy and grace.  All that is left is to fall to the feet of Jesus who died for all of our sins and our imperfections.  Salvation is found in Him alone, and not in anything we can do.
  4. The man missed it.  He was arrogant – perhaps not in a spiteful way, but still unable to see his own sin.  He had a major obstacle in humbling himself before Christ, and Jesus was about to point it out to him.

21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, …

  1. Before we get to what Jesus said, look at what Jesus did.  Jesus looked at this man and “loved him.”  He did not glare at this man in disdain.  He did not condemn him in righteous wrath.  Jesus did not even scoff at him, dismissing him out of hand.  Jesus could have done any one or all of these things, sending the young man away forever doomed without hope of even knowing anything about eternal life.  Instead, Jesus looked upon him, and loved him.  He gazes upon this man who is ignorant of his utter depravity – who is clueless to the fact that he is totally lost – who just attempted to declare himself righteous in front of the only Person who ever WAS truly righteous…and Jesus loves him!  He has compassion upon this man.  In all of his clueless arrogance, this was still a man created in the image of God.  This was still man for whom Jesus would die (in only a few days’/weeks’ time).  This was a man totally undeserving of the love of God, yet was loved by Him anyway.  Just like all of us.  (Aren’t you glad Jesus loves the clueless? J)
  2. None of us deserve the love of Jesus, but that is exactly what He extends to us.  Before we ever love Him (IF we ever love Him), Jesus loves us.  He has loved us from before the foundation of the world.  He has loved us as His own special creation.  Before we ever existed, Jesus knew us – He knew how we would sin – He knew how we would rebel and claim our own self-righteousness – and Jesus loved us anyway.  The proof?  The cross.  Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." []
  3. Because Jesus loved the man, Jesus couldn’t leave him in that condition.  The man thought himself to be justified, though he obviously knew something was wrong.  After all, why else would he ask what he needed to do to inherit eternal life?  If he had already kept the law, why didn’t the man have the assurance that he desired?  His own conscience witnessed against him even when his pride kept him blinded.  So Jesus takes the man’s blinders off.  The man couldn’t see his sin because he misused the perfect law of God, so Jesus shows him exactly what the problem is.  There was a giant obstacle between the man and the kingdom: himself.

…“One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”

  1. There are two parts to Jesus’ statement.  The first half addresses the obstacle to life.  The second half addresses life itself.
  2. There was an obstacle to eternal life: himself, as manifested through his love of wealth.  As vs. 22 makes clear, this was a rich man.  He had many possessions, and Jesus tells him to get rid of them.  Sell everything off and give the proceeds to the poor.  Did the man want to be rich?  Then be rich where it counts: in heaven.  And the way for this man to do it was to sell off what he had here on earth.  Some have thought that Jesus was laying down a test of his lordship.  Would this man be obedient to Jesus as Lord, and get rid of his belongings?  If so, then he shows himself to be a disciple.  The problem with that interpretation is that it is no different than the other law-based attempts at righteousness.  It just adds one more command to those which were already quoted by Jesus. … Others have thought that Jesus was showing the man what could be done to ensure eternal life.  Because money is the root of all kinds of evil, all the man needed to do was to get rid of his wealth, and he’d be good to go.  And again, the problem is that this is a work-based, law-based solution.  The man’s whole problem is that he couldn’t keep the law, even when he thought he did.  Jesus is not adding on to all of that. … What Jesus IS doing is showing the man what was in the way of his receipt of eternal life.  There was a giant stumbling stone in the man’s path to heaven: himself and his own self-sufficiency.  His riches built up his pride – they stopped him from humbling himself, and they got in the way of receiving the riches of God.  The solution?  Get rid of them!  Nothing was worth missing out on eternal life.  This wasn’t about bribing God – it wasn’t a way to purchase entry – it wasn’t a condemnation of wealthy people nor an exaltation of the poor.  It was an exhortation to get rid of anything that had gotten between the man and God.  Whatever that thing was, it wasn’t worth it!
    1. Salvation is a gift of God, given through His grace.  Has anything gotten in the way of receiving the gift?  Has anything become an obstacle?  Get rid of it!  Maybe you haven’t wanted to give up certain habits, though they stumble you…get rid of them.  Maybe certain relationships have come between you and Jesus – change them.  Maybe like this young man, your wealth and possessions have become idolatrous and have gotten in the way of your worship – get rid of the idol.  Whatever it is, it’s not worth eternity!
  3. The second half of Jesus’ answer actually states how the man could receive life: “come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”  THAT is the way to life!  Heaven cannot be purchased through either money or obedience, but it CAN be received when we go through the cross of Christ!
    1. Come”: You have to go through Jesus!  You have to respond.  This is the one thing the man did right.  Whatever his original motivation may have been, he had actually come to Jesus.  That is what all of us must do.  Heaven is not received by osmosis; someone isn’t saved simply because they hang around other people who are.  We each individually have to make the choice to come to Jesus, and humbly respond to His invitation.
    2. Take up the cross.” You have to die to yourself.  Jesus died for you at His cross, taking your punishment on your behalf.  We have to take up our cross, not for punishment, but for death to self.  We die to our sins – we die to our lusts – we die to all those things that caused us to rebel against God, and we live for Jesus. …
    3. Follow Me.” Walk in the footsteps of Jesus.  Live life submitted to Him as a disciple, worshipping Him as God, and obeying His word.  Yes – obedience is necessary.  It never saves us, but it does come after salvation.  We obey God because we love God and have been saved by God, though we have no hope in it achieving our salvation.  That has been forever won by Christ Himself.  That fact makes all of the difference in the world when it comes to obedience!
  4. This was the invitation of Jesus.  This man had the opportunity to become the 13th disciple.  He had the chance to have his question answered, and to have the assurance of eternal life.  How would he respond?  See vs. 22…

22 But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

  1. He turned away.  He was grieved and stunned at the word given him by Jesus, and he turned down the very thing he had seemed to desperately desire.  Jesus told him how he could have the assurance of eternal life, and the man walked away.  Why?  He wasn’t willing to give up what he had.  His wealth was a giant obstacle, and his love of it tripped him up from following Jesus.  It came down to a matter of the will: the young man’s, or God’s.  The man was unwilling to pay the price to truly humble himself before God in faith.
  2. It was a sad illustration of what Jesus had taught earlier to His disciples: Mark 8:34–37, "(34) When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. (35) For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. (36) For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? (37) Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" []  This was the same thing that Jesus offered to the young man.  He could have had everything – and he lost it all.  The young man seemingly had the whole world at his fingertips, and still turned away from what was most important: his soul.  He chose poorly.

Don’t let anything get in the way of Jesus!  That’s what happened with the rich young ruler.  His pride and self-righteousness were stumbling blocks to him all along the way.  He had come to Jesus with all kinds of outward zeal, seemingly borne out of pride.  No doubt he had defended his keeping of the commandments in pride.  And when Jesus gave him the answer he needed, he turned away from his one offer of salvation due to his pride.  Pride kills – beware!  Beware the self-righteousness that would diminish the need for Jesus in your life.  If you don’t yet see Jesus as absolutely crucial to everything, then you don’t see Him as nearly important enough.

For the man, his pride (manifested through his self-righteousness and wealth) got in the way of Jesus.  Don’t let the same thing happen to you.

  1. See Jesus rightly.  He is indeed good, because He is the Good God.  We cannot go any further until we first knowingly believe that Jesus is God Himself.  It doesn’t matter what words we use if we don’t truly believe them in our hearts.
  2. See yourself rightly.  We are sinners in need of saving – we are drowning in need of rescue.  We might be better than others, but we can never truly call ourselves “good” outside of Jesus.  That’s exactly what the law is meant to show us.  Once we see how desperately we need to be saved is the moment we go running to the only Capable Savior.
  3. Lose everything for Jesus.  Get rid of everything that is an obstacle between you and salvation.  It doesn’t matter what comforts or things or ___ we have here on earth, if it’s the one thing that keeps you from Jesus.  Jesus’ other disciples had left everything behind (a fact that they will ask Jesus about later in Ch. 10), because that is what is needed for life.  If we want our life to be saved in eternity, we have to lose it now for Jesus’ sake – giving everything over to Him, trusting that He will give us everything we need.

That only makes sense, if we think about it.  If we are indeed drowning, we have to completely give ourselves over into the hands of the lifeguard/rescuer if we want to be saved.  Our flailing about doesn’t help; it only gets in the way of His work.  We have to see the lifeguard as being able to save us, know that we cannot save ourselves, and completely entrust ourselves to him to be saved.  That’s exactly what Jesus offers.

How will you respond?  Will you come, take up your cross, and follow Him?

BTW – that doesn’t stop the moment we’re born again.  Any of us can get off track and start holding ourselves up in pride again.  We can all pick up things that would distract us or stumble us away from Jesus.  We can all get to the point that we think we’re so mature in our faith that perhaps we’re not as desperately in need of Jesus as we once were.  Be careful!  Take heed, lest you fall!  If that’s you, NOW is the time to turn around.  Now is the time to recognize that prideful rebellion for what it is, and humble yourself in repentance.  Don’t resist the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in your heart.  Respond to Him today, and recommit yourself to Jesus in humility.

  1. John Warren Jr. says:

    “Nothing compares to the greatness of knowing You, Lord” — from “Nothing Compares” by Third Day.

  2. timburns says:

    Not a single thing compares! 🙂

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