And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master…
Too often religious teachers have attempted to classify all who are mentioned in the Bible as being either definitely good or utterly bad. If the latter exhibit any excellency it is depreciated, or explained away; and if the former have faults, they are carefully concealed. But the Bible gives no such definite decision respecting them. It mentions the faults of the saints, and exhibits the excellences of those whose character and destiny are left doubtful. Here, for example, one is mentioned who was not what he ought to have been, of whom it is boldly said, "Jesus beholding him loved him." The feeling with which our Lord regarded him was not the result of regard for his social position, which led to a discreet hiding of his faults. Amongst us too often one of dubious character, because he has wealth or brilliant prospects, is admitted to circles from which he ought to be excluded; and a rich man is not told of his sins as a poorer man would be, so that it is the more hard for him to enter into the kingdom. But with our Lord esteem was won not by what a man had, but by what he was. Nor was our Lord influenced by the young man's religious knowledge, for he made small account of theological lore, such as was possessed by lawyers and Pharisees. And as knowledge would not win his love, neither did ignorance and error prevent it. There was evidently much in this young ruler that was commendable and lovable, all of which found its source in God; for even those who are not decided followers of Christ have in them gleams of heavenly light, and must beware of quenching the Spirit.
I. THE YOUNG RULER WAS GENUINE AND SIMPLE. Christ rebuked nothing so severely as unreality. He exposed the Pharisees mercilessly, because they pretended to be what they were not. He declared that if a man's eye was "single" his whole body would be full of light; that he who was of the truth (who was a true man) would hear his voice. Such was this man. He expressed his real want. He felt that he had obeyed the commandments, and frankly said so; and when told to go and sell all that he had, he made no fallacious promise to do so. We should cultivate the grace of truthfulness in all the relations of life. If we are engaged in a common occupation, we should be true enough not to be ashamed of it; if in Church relationships, we should never ignore them; if we have done a wrong, we should candidly confess it either to God or man. In proportion as we are true we are nearer to the kingdom of truth.
II. HE WAS SINGULARLY COURTEOUS. He kneeled before the peasant Teacher of Galilee, and addressed him reverently. Courtesy is a small thing if it be identical with outward mannerism, which observes a suitable deportment, and carefully discriminates between those in different social ranks. But true courtesy is consideration for others, thoughtfulness for their feelings, respect for their age and experience and character; and this was exhibited by the young ruler whom Jesus loved. There was no rudeness like that of the Sadducees and Herodians, nor any outburst of hot temper at the sacrifice demanded of him.
III. HE WAS OF IRREPROACHABLE LIFE. So far, at least, as human judgment could determine. A young man whose passions had not misled him; rich enough to indulge evil propensity, yet outwardly pure and without reproach. The morality of the noblest does not win heaven, but it is good in itself and in its source. The idea that a profligate is the happier after his conversion because of his sinful experience, is utterly false. His experience is more remarkable, but he is not so blessed, nor so strong for Christian service; for if evil thoughts stain the mind, and sinful habits are indulged, these have their effects.
IV. HE WAS NOT SELF-SATISFIED. Self-satisfaction is one of the greatest preventives of good: e.g. the lad who can do without his father's counsel; the girl who scorns her mother's advice; the children who drift away from Sunday schools, to live without God and without hope in the world. This is most perilous in spiritual things. No condemnation is more severe than that of the Church which says, "I have need of nothing;" no welcome is more loving than that given by our Lord to the children, who could give him nothing but love, or to the young ruler who wistfully asked, "What lack I yet?" "He fills the hungry with good things, but the rich he sends empty away." If your heart is hungry for the love of God, our heavenly Father is pleased, just as an earthly father is when he knows his child wants him. If your son had run away and been hidden for years, and at last was found abroad, what would you wish to hear? Not that he was doing well, and had lost all care for you; but that, although he had everything to make him happy, he was sad because he wished to see his father, and obtain the assurance of his forgiveness.
V. HE CAME TO CHRIST WITH AN EARNEST QUESTION. What shall I do, not to gain wealth or fame, but eternal life? In the New Testament life is not spoken of as equivalent to existence, but it means life coupled with conditions which make it blessed, and therefore desirable. Life and holiness are correlatives, as are death and sin. So a man may be dead in part, and alive in part. A person struck with paralysis may lie for months in a living death, unable to reason, to speak, or to move a limb. Sin does that to our moral being. It paralyzes sensitiveness to God's presence, the power of speaking to him with naturalness and the capacity for hearing his voice. It is an endless existence, with the full enjoyment of these attributes (the exercise of which constitute the joys of heaven). He which is involved in the phrase "eternal life."
VI. HE BROUGHT HIS EARNEST QUESTION TO THE LORD JESUS. It was a great thing for a man in his position to do. He faced the scorn of his friends when he ran eagerly to Christ and humbly knelt before him, beseeching him to teach and guide him. "And Jesus beholding him loved him," as he loves all who in this spirit fall at his feet. - A.R.
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?
WEB: As he was going out into the way, one ran to him, knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?"