Yesterday I was reading a story in Mark 10:17-24, about the encounter between a rich, young man and Jesus. I have to say, even though I’ve read about this encounter before and heard others speak about it, for the first time, I found myself drawn to it, and wanted to write to you about it.
Let’s see what we can assume about this young man. He was probably raised in a wealthy, highly respected, Jewish family, because He lets us know he had an excellent Jewish education and the Bible tells us he had many wealthy possessions. I assume he must have heard about Jesus by reputation, because when he greets Him, he addresses Jesus as ‘Teacher’ or in some translations, ‘Rabbi’. That in itself is not unusual, but those who knew Jesus usually called Him Lord. And He immediately tells Jesus He is ‘good’. In the original translation, the word good used here, refers to being morally perfect, as one who knows and flawlessly observes to do the law of Moses. I can’t help imagine that he said this to Jesus based on the stories he had heard of how Jesus, since a child, would spend hours in the synagogues, teaching and explaining the ancient scrolls of scripture to the leaders and Pharisees. The Bible says they were all amazed at His wisdom and understanding of the scriptures. And He grew in stature with man and God.
After he respectfully complimented Jesus on being ‘good’, he immediately asked if Jesus could tell him how he could have eternal life. There seemed to be a certain urgency in this young man’s question, especially since he fell on his knees before Jesus asking Him. You get the feeling he was imploring Him for an answer that he was certain, only a person with such a high reputation for the knowledge and understanding of the scriptures could answer.
Jesus responds by saying, “Why do you call Me [essentially and perfectly morally] good? There is no one [essentially and perfectly morally] good—except God alone...”. Now we know that Jesus was the Son of God, and that He was without sin. He also usually made no secret of Who He was whenever He taught the people. So why this statement? I’m sure there are other explanations different to mine, but I wonder if He was testing to see the true heart of this young man. It was obvious this was a conversation that meant a great deal to him. But somehow, I think Jesus was probing this young man to see if he perceived Jesus to be just a well known teacher of the scriptures, or the giver of salvation Himself - the Son of God.
In the next breath, Jesus addresses the young man on his passion, by saying, “You know the commandments: Do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.” To which the young man is confident to answer that he not only guards the law of Moses, but observes to do what it says and does everything in his power to not violate it. Something he proudly, and passionately admits doing since he was a boy. Ahaha! So now Jesus has brought the conversation to a pivotal point.
It’s obvious this young man has a deep seated, high regard for the scriptures, and he has been diligent to apply every law to his life as much as he humanly can. This seemed to give him a sense of confidence and self-righteousness, and he was so poised and ready to hear this renowned teacher, tell him his passageway to heaven was secured because of it. And for a brief moment, I’m sure it looked as if Jesus might just do that, because the Bible says He looked upon the young man and loved him.
But alas! The next four words Jesus spoke unravelled that young man, right there on the spot. He said, “You lack one thing...”.
And then he proceed to tell the young man to sell all he had and give the money away to the poor. Then to come and follow Him - to walk the same life Jesus walked. What on earth? Well, that young man went on his way completely distraught. And we see Jesus explaining to his equally confused disciples, “With what difficulty will those who possess wealth and keep on holding it enter the kingdom of God!...how hard it is for those who trust (place their confidence, their sense of safety) in riches to enter the kingdom of God!”
Could it be, that the riches Jesus was referring to here were more than just wealthy possessions, but the mere head knowledge of Him and the scriptures too? Do you suppose, that if the young man knew the person of Jesus, instead of just knowing about Him, things may have turned out differently? If he could just make the switch from an intellectual knowledge of the ‘Teacher’, to one that involved knowing Him with His heart, He would have understood that getting rid of all his possessions, really didn’t matter. Once he pledged His life to following the Son of God, He would never know lack or be without, ever again.
But this young man was not willing to shift his trust and confidence onto truly knowing the person of Jesus, and off his false sense of security based on his intellectual knowledge of the scriptures, and his material wealth. Even though his head was full of the Word of God, it had not reached the place of his heart; preventing him from having his life eternally enriched.
I wonder how many of us need reminding of the danger of our misplaced security and confidence?
Love you dearly,