A Gospel Cliffhanger
This is the story of the rich man. When you hear that, what comes to mind for you? Very often a passage or a story in the scriptures opens and we immediately exclude ourselves. We think, well, I'm not the rich man because we have some image of what rich is and we believe we don't fit that. And yet almost any person in the United States of America, compared to almost any person living in the Sudan, is wealthy beyond imagination, in the physical sense, in the material sense, in the financial sense. So very often we shrink our world to justify our interpretation of the scriptures, but the reality is every single person in the scriptures is a messenger just for you and just for me.
And so, as Jesus was setting out on his journey, a man ran up to him and knelt before him and asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" The first thing to keep in mind here is that Jesus didn't seek out the young man, the young man sought out Jesus. There was something burning in that young man. He knew that he was called to more. He knew he wasn't doing enough; he knew. And so, he came to Jesus, and he ran to Jesus. Think about the courage that that requires. He ran to Jesus. He said, "Good teacher, what must I do to earn eternal life?" Jesus says to him, "You know the commandments." Jesus's assumption was that he knew the commandments. I wonder how many people do today. I wonder how many people in our society could name the commandments, in our church even, because if you think about it, how different would the world be if people just tried to live the commandments? Not perfect, not always going to get it right, but if we place them at the center of our lives, at the center of our actions, if we were mindful of them, aware of them, how different would our society be? The young man says, "Jesus, I'm living the commandments," he says, "I have observed all these from my youth," and then there's a beautiful line here, so beautiful, and Jesus looking upon him, loved him. This is the beautiful humanity of Jesus, right, got this young man, he's yearning for more, thinks he sees it, but he doesn't see it. Jesus looks upon him and loves him. And he said to him, "You lack one thing. Go and sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and then come and follow me."
It's interesting because Jesus didn't seek out the young man. Jesus didn't say to the young man, you got to do more, you've got to do more, you've got to do more. There was something inside the young man telling him he needed to do more, telling him that he was called to more. He says to Jesus, "What do I need to do to earn eternal life." Jesus said, "Observe the commandments." If the young man wasn't called to more, he would have walked away at that point and said, "All right, I've got to focus on the commandments. I've got to live the commandments. I've got to live the commandments better than ever." But the young man knew he was called to more. He said, "Jesus, I've been doing that since I was a youth." Jesus looked at him with love. He said, "Then go away and sell everything, give it to the poor. Come and follow me." And what does Jesus then witness in the young man? At that saying, the young man's countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful. He was crestfallen, sorrowful. It something about what Jesus was calling him to now that he wasn't able to respond to.
You ever wonder what happened to these people? What happened to the rich young man, right? It's like you go to see a movie and halfway through the movie they stop and then you never know what happened, right? There's no resolution. We know the young man. He went away sad, but did he stay sad the rest of his life? I think not because we know so much about this young man, we know his heart was for good. His heart was listening to the call. His heart was seeking out Jesus. His heart was saying, "Jesus, what I've got to do? Just tell me what I've got to do? I'll do what you tell me." And then when Jesus tells him, he's like, "You're asking a lot, Jesus." And he went away crestfallen. He went away sad. Why? Because Jesus was calling him to give up something that he didn't want to give up, just like he's calling you and me to give up something we don't want to give up.
I wonder what happened to the rich young man. I don't think he just went off and indulged in his riches for the rest of his life, the character that he displays here doesn't suggest that. And so, the lesson for you and me is sometimes God calls us to something and we say no. We say no because we are selfish and attached to the wrong things and focused on the wrong things and prioritize things that matter least over things that matter most. And we say no to God, that's our humanity. But don't let your pride be the obstacle between you and your future. You may have said no to God around something in the past, doesn't mean you can't come back to him today and say yes.