The Rich Young Ruler
As we begin 2022, we feel refreshed and ready to start a new year with the goals and resolutions to improve ourselves going forward. One way that we do this is with a renewed focus on spiritual things. The Elders help us channel this refocus with a specific plan we can strive to reflect upon and grow throughout the year. This year, our plan is “The Gospel is for All,” and as the year moves along the Deacons will contribute articles in the bulletin using different characters in the New Testament to show the need that all need the Gospel.
So, what is this Gospel, this “Good News” that is for all people? It’s the news that Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, came to earth specifically to sacrifice Himself to bear the sins of all man and through baptism, our sins have been cancelled, the debt forgiven, because that debt was nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:9-14)
Today’s article will focus on the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-26. This man comes to Jesus and asks Him a question, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” Jesus then tells him to keep the commandments of the Law, to which the man responds, “Which ones?” This is a fascinating question; are some parts of the Law more important than others? Do we inadvertently ask this same question today what aspects of the new law that we follow? Do we choose to place more importance on not engaging in, say, adultery but overlook gossip and jealously? We need to be careful not to pick and choose, as he is suggesting here in vs 18. Jesus then lists several laws that the man states he has kept from his youth, to which the Lord responds, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven and come, follow Me” (vs 21). In the following verse the young man went away grieving for he had many possessions.
So why would this man need the Gospel? The first thing that comes to mind is that his focus between the spiritual things and the physical abundance he had was out of balance. He clearly had some form of spiritual focus because he asked Jesus a question about eternity. This is a good thing, however when he was tasked with putting his physical and spiritual focus in the proper balance, we see just how out of balance it was, for he was not up to the task. The gospel call is a message of how our Lord left heaven, having all authority and power, lacking nothing, to humble Himself to save those far below His status. This man needed this lesson; he needed to see the One with all power, authority, and might humble Himself. If Jesus could do it, then why not this man? Is that not every one of us? We have the gospel and yet from time to time, we struggle putting our spiritual and physical focus in the proper balance, and I think part of that is we are physically blessed as this man was. When the physical overtakes the spiritual, it lessens the importance and meaning of Jesus’ death. When we obey the Gospel and come up from the waters of baptism, we come out to deny ourselves, to serve our Lord because of that great gift of forgiveness He has given us. As we begin this year let us strive to put into focus just how important the sacrifice our Lord made for us, and let us not let the physical joys and abundance we have water down the importance of that great gift.
The second reason this rich young ruler would need the Gospel is because it provides a second chance. The Lord died for this man and nailed his sins to that cross, though this man clearly didn’t think he had any sins by his statement in vs 20, “All these things I have kept.” This man would have the opportunity to begin anew, putting the old man behind and being free from his sin through the blood of the Lamb. Why did this man need the gospel? Because it’s the only way to answer his question in vs 16, “how do I obtain eternal life?” Without having his sins washed away in baptism, the answer to the question is, you cannot. There is but one way to obtain this eternal life, and that is the Gospel.
Obviously, this man was still under the Old Law when he had this conversation with Jesus, but there was a time coming very shortly when he would have had the opportunity to hear the Good News, and maybe he was able to humble himself and commit the rest of his life in service to the Lord. How thankful we should be to have the revealed mystery at our fingertips, let us make sure that we are making the most of it.