Christianity is a doing religion. We are not saved in order to become statues in a museum; rather, we are saved to become active doers of God’s will in this world (ref. James 1:22). It should be no wonder then, that our Lord so often commanded those who would be His followers to “Go!” and do something.
So far we have considered four of our Lord’s “Go!” statements, “Go Be Reconciled,” “Go In Peace,” “Go And Tell” and “Go And Learn.” In today’s lesson we will explore the application of “Go And Surrender” from Jesus’ interaction with the Rich Young Ruler. While this account is recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke; for this lesson we will use Mark’s (10:17-31) account as our base text with references to both the Matthean and Lukan accounts peppered in.
As our Lord was making His way toward Jerusalem, a certain “man ran up and knelt before Him and asked Him, ‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’” (v. 17). This man is usually referred to as the Rich Young Ruler, which is a combination of the descriptions of him from the Synoptics. All three comment on his riches, but Matthew tells us his was “young man” (19:22) and Luke adds that he was “a ruler” (18:18).
I believe that we are to imagine this young man as having been present for Jesus’ instructions on receiving the kingdom as a little child (ref. Matthew 18:13-15; Luke 18:15-17). If the kingdom of God was supposed to be received like a child, then how might a ruler gain eternal life?
Responding to his inquiry, Jesus said to him, “‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone’” (v. 18). Jesus is not laying down a blanket rule against describing people “good” (cf. Luke 6:45; Acts 11:24). Rather than offering an immediate answer, our Lord’s first response challenged the Rich Young Ruler to think through the implications of ascribing such a title to Jesus. “No one is good except God alone” points the man in the direction of Jesus’ deistic nature and the authority that comes with His words.
Continuing, our Lord said, “You know the commandments: Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother’” (v. 19). In summary form, our Lord recounted the second table of the Ten Commandments which dealt with how covenant partners are to treat one another (ref. Exodus 20:12-17)[i]. These five commands form a checklist for one’s behavior, as indeed the young man will use them in his response.
Believing himself to be blameless before God (cf. Acts 23:1-2; Philippians 3:6) the young man responded, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth” (v. 20; Matthew 19:20). Steeped in the works-based mentality of his day, the young man naturally thought in the superficial, self-righteous terms of do’s and don’ts. However, he was acutely aware his spiritual life lacked any form of assurance. So, according to Matthew, the rich young ruler nervously added, “What do I still lack?” (19:20).
Recognizing the young man’s inner turmoil, “Jesus, lovingly look[ed] at him and said, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me’” (v. 21). Our Lord’s love did not lower the standards of Kingdom participation. His words were designed to draw the man in as a disciple, not repulse him.
But why tell the man to go and sell everything he had? The Savior knew this man’s priority was his riches. To be a disciple, one must surrender all earthly priorities to Christ and follow Him. In one sense, Jesus was calling for the Rich Young Ruler to move to the first table of the Ten Commandments and submit to God.
The young man had to choose whether to keep his material wealth, and the power and prestige that came with it, or surrender it all and follow Jesus as one of His disciples. It was Christ or money but it could not be both. Our Lord said, “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Luke 16:13).
Sadly, the Rich Young Ruler selected the latter. He trusted more in his earthly possessions to define who he was, than letting Jesus define who he was.
Disillusioned by what the Lord said, the young ruler “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (v. 22). Even though this young man had come to Jesus seeking “eternal life,” he would not bring himself to the point of surrender. So the “cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter[ed]” into his heart “and choked the word” and this promising young man, “prove[ed] unfruitful” (Mark 4:20).
But before the man departed, Jesus made one last statement to him, “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:24-25 NASB). In the eyes of Jesus, it was just as impossible for a wealthy person to enter the kingdom as it was for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.
While we may not be required to take Jesus’ command to “sell all” literally, we must take it seriously because every disciple is required to surrender.
“Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34-38)
We must, like the old hymn suggest, surrender all to Jesus.
“All to Jesus I surrender, Lord, I give myself to thee; Fill me with Thy love and power, Let thy blessing fall on me. I surrender all, I surrender all, All to Thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all.”
As always, I’m more than happy to help you in your quest to know more about Christ. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I’ll be happy to come alongside you on your spiritual journey.
[i] All three synoptic accounts contain these five commandments, but Matthew and Luke exclude Mark’s “do not defraud.” This best seen as a paraphrase for the command against coveting.