By Stephen R. Clark
The story of the rich young ruler appears in all three of the Synoptic Gospels. The man’s encounter with Jesus occurred immediately after the Lord welcomed little children to his side and encouraged all believers to become as innocent children if we expect to enter the kingdom of heaven.
As Jesus started on his way, the rich young ruler confronted him. In Mark’s retelling—and I’m going to paraphrase a bit—the man ran up to Jesus and fell on his knees before him. He said, “Good teacher! What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17).
Jesus replied first with a rhetorical question: “Why do you call me good? Only God is good!” And then he told the man, “You know the commandments. Don’t murder, steal, or lie about others. Don’t commit adultery or fraud. Honor your father and mother” (vv. 18-19).
The man considered Jesus’ words and interrupted. “Sure. I’ve kept all these commandments since I was a little boy. And . . .” At this point, I imagine, the man looked at the children around Jesus and went silent.
And what the man didn’t say is what we often don’t say—“How can I know for sure?”
Only Mark described this next detail: “Jesus looked at him and loved him” (v. 21, emphasis mine).
Jesus saw him, and he loved him. Jesus was on this man’s side. Jesus was pulling for him. Just one thing was standing in the way of the man and eternal life. The man needed to love Jesus back fully.
Yes, Jesus told him to give away all he owned to the poor and then come and follow him. But the riches weren’t the problem. It was the idolatry in the man’s heart. He loved and trusted in his stuff more than Jesus. And so, the man walked away.
Today, as we come to this table, let us examine our hearts. What, if anything, do we love more, trust in more, depend on more than Jesus? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you become as innocent as children, letting go of these encumbrances so that you can fully enter the kingdom of God and the promise of eternal life.
Stephen R. Clark is a writer who lives in Lansdale, Pa., with his wife, BethAnn, and their two rescue cats, Watson and Sherlock.