Why Jesus Loved The Rich Young Ruler

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Looking at him, Jesus loved him… Mark 10:21

I’m changing my mind about the Rich Young Ruler and it’s pretty much Tim Keller’s (pastor and author of many books, two of my favorites being Prodigal God and Jesus The King) fault.

Backstory
In Mark 10, a rich, young ruler approaches Jesus and asked him what he must do to inherit eternal life. He is respectful. He is sincere. He is moral. Jesus informs him that he lacks one thing. If he sells all he owns, gives it to the poor and then comes follow Jesus – he will find what he is seeking for. The story ends with the young man walking away grieved because he had many possessions.

For years, I’ve walked away from this story with basically two conclusions.

First, Jesus is not necessarily anti-rich, he’s presenting the rich, young ruler with the one thing that has captured his heart and is his idol. Secondly, the man wasn’t a bad man or even a manipulative one. He genuinely wanted to be a part of what Jesus was doing, he was sincere in his quest.

I think these conclusions are true, I just don’t think that’s the whole story. And like I said earlier, it’s Tim Keller’s fault. Keller writes this in his book Jesus The King:

So Jesus is saying to the man in this passage, “You have put your faith and trust in your wealth and accomplishments. But the effort is alienating you from God. Right now God is your boss; but God is not your Savior, and here’s how you can see it: I want you to imagine life without money. I want you to imagine all of it gone. No inheritance, no inventory, no servants, no mansions—all of that is gone. All you have is me. Can you live like that?”

Why was this man chasing down Jesus? Why was he so insistent on getting an audience with Jesus? Because by his own admission, his life was not fulfilling. It was successful and more than likely every single person who knew him would trade places with him. But he knew that it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough. He KNEW something was off, incomplete, unfulfilling.

Jesus gives the man a moral checklist to complete the picture for him. Not only was he successful, but he did it the right way. He’s not a cheater or a liar or a thief. He’s not a slimy politician or a greedy tax collector. He’s what every Jew aspired to be. And all of this is good…

But it wasn’t enough. He found no life there. He was gambling that Jesus knew what the answer was. What he couldn’t get his head around is that Jesus IS the answer.

A couple of weeks ago, one of our leaders at church challenged us to imagine Heaven. Then she asked – “Where is Jesus in that picture?” The tension was palatable. She pressed in further by adding if our heaven didn’t have Jesus in it or if he was off to the side, then we probably really didn’t understand Heaven. In fact, it’s probable that we don’t understand Jesus at all.

Keller continues:

Jesus says. I am giving it all away. Why? For you. Now, you give away everything to follow me. If I gave away my “big all” to get to you, can you give your “little all” to follow me? I won’t ask you to do anything I haven’t already done. I’m the ultimate Rich Young Ruler who has given away the ultimate wealth to get you. Now, you need to give away yours to get me.”

That’s the deeper end of the story, isn’t it? Jesus never asks us to do anything he hasn’t already done. Because He IS love.

Whatever it is that wrapping around our hearts keeping us from fully following Jesus is what Jesus is going to call out of us. Because whatever it is – it pales in comparison to what He has for us – relationship with the Creator being the core of that.

I pray He continues to increase my faith to trust Him. I don’t ever want to walk away from Him grieved. Good news is – neither does He.

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