In this passage, we see the ruler become sad because he doesn’t realise that the only true treasure, and the only real joy, is found in Jesus, and his invitation to take up your cross and follow him.
18 A certain ruler asked him, ‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’
19 ‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good – except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: “You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honour your father and mother.”
21 ‘All these I have kept since I was a boy,’ he said.
22 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.’
23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy.
Jesus has this beautiful way of cutting straight to the heart. He looked at this man, and knew his heart. He cared about him. I wonder if we tend to think of Jesus’ words as a test. In one way, they were. But they were also an invitation; a genuine invitation, to come. You want eternal life? COME. Follow me. Leave everything else behind, come with me, and find life.
This story reminds me of my favourite parable of Jesus’. It’s also one of his shortest; a single verse in Matthew 13:44:
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
IN HIS JOY. How beautiful is that. How much joy do you think you’d have selling everything you own? Your car, your phone, your family photo albums, your house? This man’s joy isn’t because he’s an ascetic or delights in misery. His joy springs from the treasure. Buying the field costs him everything, but to him it seems like nothing, because the treasure in the field is so much better.
This is what the kingdom of heaven is like.
And the treasure is Jesus.
But this rich ruler just doesn’t see it. It’s a tragedy. It seems all the more sobering to me, because in this man is sincerity and yet such blindness. He wants eternal life. His question isn’t an abstract one; it’s a personal one. And he’s spent his life diligently pursuing obedience to God’s commandments. All the while, not realising he has neglected the very first one. His money, his stuff, has become his god.
The parable ends kind of abruptly. It doesn’t tell you what he actually decides to do! But I think that’s because it doesn’t really matter – his sadness betrays his blindness. The Kingdom is here! And the King says, “Come.” It’s a time for great joy. But he is sad.
Because he can’t see that the true treasure is standing gently before him – willing to give up his own life so that he might live. He can’t see that Jesus is life, and his money is death.
What brings you joy? I hope there are many things – but as the redeemed children of the King, our deepest and realest joy is Jesus… that “I am his and he is mine.” Indeed, every good thing that we enjoy on earth points us to him. And he remains our treasure even in our griefs and losses.
Jesus is offering the same invitation to you today: Put down your burdensome idols. Put down that which brings death. Come, follow me.
Head: In verse 20, which commandments does the ruler focus on? Which are unmentioned? What do you think this says about the ruler?
Heart: Ponder this question: “If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there?” (John Piper)
Hands: What might be one practical way to “take up your cross” and follow Jesus in a costly way today?
Heavenly Father, you are my Creator, and the maker of every good thing, and I praise you for all your goodness and generosity. Lord, my heart longs for many things, please forgive my wayward heart. Please show me Jesus today. Put him before my eyes, and grant me joy that he is my treasure. Help me to love you and others in a costly and joyful way today, knowing that Jesus gave up his life that I might live. Amen.
A song to listen to: Joy (Worship Central)
Living Church – Springfield