And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master…
Never did a more becoming question escape from human lips than when "there ran one" - "a certain ruler" - "to him," and, kneeling at his feet, "asked him, Good Master, what [what good thing] shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" With characteristic calmness Jesus drew him away from the thought of his ability to do any "good thing," and from his question concerning that which is good. Only the good can do good things, and "none is good save One, even God." Therefore thou art not good; therefore thou canst not do any - that is, every - good thing. But there is a way unto life, even that of the commandments. "If," therefore, "thou wouldest enter into life, keep the commandments." They lead unto eternal life. Along that path, he replied, I have ever walked. "All these things have I observed from my youth." And this was no vain boast, for" Jesus looking upon him loved him." But the thought of doing good things, and of establishing a claim to eternal life as to an inheritance, still fills the young ruler's thoughts, and the bold demand is pressed to the utmost - "What lack I yet ?" Alas! "one thing thou" - even thou - "lackest." Then, hesitatingly, knowing so well" what was in man," Jesus offers to this loved one the higher attainment: "If thou wouldest be perfect," if thou wouldest lack nothing - If! - ah, if! Jesus was neither unkind nor severe in his demand. The young man pressed him for a reply, and the prize was with his reach. Whether he could pay the price, whether he really was prepared to do any good thing, as the "what good thing" implied, whether he valued the eternal life so highly as his words seemed to indicate, must be proved. "Go, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me." Alas! "his countenance fell,... and he went away sorrowful: for he was one that had great possessions." He was not the only sorrowful one. A lowering cloud must have passed over the brow of the Rabbi himself. It is not out of place to inquire - What did Jesus offer him for his riches; and what did he lose by retaining them? The offer embraced -
I. PERFECTNESS OF CHARACTER - that which can be gained only by great sacrifice and effort, by withdrawment from the world, by such apprehension of the spiritual as to lead to the surrender of the material; that faith in God which lifts the trusting heart from its confidence in the "possessions" which the eye can see and the hands handle, and which promise "much goods" for "many years," to that "treasure in heaven "which fadeth not. For imperfect man there is a perfectness, to which he shall be led if he forsake all and follow Jesus. From that path the young ruler at this time turns away, perhaps to reflect, to repent, to turn again to the Master who was patient, and finally, afar earnest struggles to join the company of those who made the sacrifice of all things for the kingdom of heaven's sake. Again be it said that he who forsakes all for Christ's "sake and the gospel's" sake enters upon a path that leads to perfection.
II. A second part of the offer made to the young man was "TREASURE IN HEAVEN" - "in the world to come eternal life." It was this the young man desired; but he knew not that the heart could find its "treasure in heaven" only by consenting to have it there alone. He who would really have" eternal life" must be content to be freed from anything and erecting that withdraws the heart from that life. The living unto this present world does so withdraw the heart. Therefore the earthly possessions must be sacrificed. That many rich men enter, though "hardly," into the kingdom of heaven, and retain their place therein, is a sign of the prevalence of Christ's grace. Yet these cease to "trust in riches," or the "deceitfulness of riches" would choke in them the seeds of eternal life. For the present, at least, the rich, eager, honored young ruler cannot say his whole treasure is in heaven.
III. But Jesus further offered him A PLACE AMONGST THE MOST HONOURED BAND OF MEN THE WORLD HAS KNOWN, AND A SHARE IN THE MOST HONOURABLE WORK. "Come, follow me." Who can tell what might have been the effect of his sacrifice? His example might have saved Judas. He might have enriched the world with a fifth Gospel. He might have drawn many of the rulers to believe. But for the time he lost his chance, and the world is the worse for his decision, as it is the worse for every error of men. What did he gain? His "great possessions." But only for a time - it may have been a very brief time. And, when enjoying the fruits of his wealth, would the thought ever spring unbidden to his mind, "I purchased this with the price of eternal life; for this I gave up the hope of being perfect; this I chose rather than follow the good Master'"? He who forsakes all for Christ finds all in Christ; but he who has any possession which he would not forego, even for eternal life, loses both the life and the possession. Well may the hope be cherished that this one on whom the loving look, if not the loving kiss, of Christ rested, turned again, and laid all at his feet, yea, "and his own life also," or joined those who "were possessors of lands or houses," and who "sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles' feet." Gently did Jesus thus teach the rich ruler that with all his wealth he lacked at least "one thing." He that would have eternal life as an inheritance must establish his claim, and that claim must be faultless. One flaw is sufficient to invalidate that claim. Further, the Lord taught that eternal life is ours, not by this title of inheritance, but is a gift of God. - G.
Parallel VersesKJV: And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?