Jack Graham - Rich Man, Poor Man
"Tell me the story of Jesus," that's what we are doing. And in telling the story of Jesus we pray that this also will be your story. That what happened in the lives of people so long ago will happen in your life as well. The powerful work of Jesus Christ. Today's message is found in Mark chapter 10. It is a famous story really. You may know it as the story of the rich young ruler. I'm calling this sermon "Rich Man, Poor Man".
And you'll see why, as we read, beginning in verse 17, chapter 10 of Mark: "And he was setting out on his journey," or 17, "As he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, 'Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?' And Jesus said to him, 'Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 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.' And he said to him, 'Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.' And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, '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.' Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions".
Rich man, poor man. All three of the Gospel writers that recorded this story, Luke, Matthew and Mark, said that he was rich. He was fabulously wealthy. Matthew in talking about this encounter between Jesus and this man, said that he was a young man, so a young rich man. And Luke tells us that he was a ruler, mostly likely a religious ruler and leader in his community, and thus, the rich, young ruler. And what a contrast between these two men: the wealthy young aristocratic man who came and knelt at Jesus feet, and Jesus Himself, the carpenter from Nazareth; the one who didn't even have a place to lay His head; an itinerant preacher; the one they were saying is the Messiah, the Savior of the world. They may have been about the same age and yet so different in many ways.
Here is this young man who's in the prime of his life. Young manhood, and he's with gorgeous robe streaming behind him, running into the presence of Jesus, eager, anticipating, asking certain spiritual questions. And he asked the most important question of all. "What must I do to inherit eternal life"? To put it simply, he was asking how can I be saved? How can I know that I'm going to heaven? What is salvation? What does it take to inherit, to receive eternal life? He came at the right time-at young manhood. He came to the right person-Jesus. And he came with the right and the most important question: "What must I do to inherit eternal life"?
And there, Jesus, seeing him, and yet knowing his love for money and possessions and power and prestige and social acceptance, confronts him with the gospel of the cross, the gospel of self-denial. This young man in the presence of Jesus had everything seemingly that life could offer. He was successful, very successful. As noted, he was young. There's always something intriguing and interesting about people who are young. In fact in our culture we don't so much honor the old as we ought, as in the biblical days, but we honor youth, of course, and that's a good thing in that we see the potential and promise of youth, and many people are trying to stay younger. We're exercising and we're cosmeticizing and all of the rest to try to stay a little younger. But this guy, he is young and he was rich, which in that day in particular was a sign of the remembrance and the favor and blessing of God upon a person's life.
And even in our own culture, if a person has money, if a person is wealthy, they potentially have business power and social influence and all the rest. And so as a result of his young and as a result of his eagerness, the expectation, the possibilities of his life, the fact that he had the money to fund it, he is now a ruler. Josephus, the Jewish historian indicates that this word for ruler may suggest that he was a member of the Sanhedrin, that he was a ruler in the Jewish Sanhedrin which was the ruling class in court of the Jewish nation. So here we have this man. He has attained a place of political, social and domestic importance in his community, in his city, even in the nation. And so he is described as a rich young ruler. And he comes to Jesus with a spiritual desire.
The remarkable thing about this young man initially is how he came to Jesus. We're told that he came running to Jesus, running! It was like he was running down the aisle, had there been an aisle. And not only running, but kneeling at the feet of Jesus. Again, what a contrast! This aristocratic, sophisticated young man kneeling at the feet of the Galilean carpenter named Jesus. As for Jesus, He was on His last pilgrimage, His last trip to Jerusalem. He had set His face toward the cross and was on His way to die for the sins of world, your sins, and mine. Opposition was rising: resistance and antagonism, rejection, all of that was facing Jesus at this time. The tide was turning against the Lord.
So the fact that this young man came to Jesus at that time! Not early on. Not early in the life and the ministry and the work of Christ, but now late, when so many are turning away, this young man knows there's something about Jesus, that he must get the answer, that though he was a religious man and a rich man and a respected man, there was spiritual questions that he could not answer. He was spiritually seeking and searching to know the truth. He didn't know that he had eternal life! And I'm speaking to some right now that, though you were raised in religion, grown up in church, you've kept commandments, you're morally a good person, there is that fear in your life that you don't know that you're going to heaven.
Do you know for certain that if you were to die today that you would go to heaven? And if so, how do you know? That's the question that this young man brought in the broad daylight. Unlike Nicodemus who for whatever reason came to Jesus by night, or Joseph of Arimathea whose tomb the Lord was laid, who was a secret disciple of the Lord. Or others, who were faces in the crowd that we've never known or met. But this man came wide open, unashamed into the presence of Jesus. What a great story! Kneeling before the Lord! There's something about moral strength and spiritual courage and bravery that is so attractive. The young man addresses the Lord with these words on his quest, his sincere desire to know eternal life. He says to Jesus, "Good Master," and this is where the story turns because Jesus asked him, then, "Why do you call Me good? There is none good but God"!
Even the most famed rabbis of that generation were not called good. The term "good" remained for God, and God alone, because God is good. So Jesus says, "Why are you calling Me good? Why are you calling Me good Teacher? Why are saying I'm a good rabbi? Because only God is good". Now lest you think that Jesus is somehow diminishing or even denying His deity, He is in fact affirming His deity. He refuses to accept human adulation and applause as simply being good. And so Jesus challenges this young man with that thought, "Why are you calling Me good? Because if you're calling Me good, you better mean that I am God".
That brings us to the second act of this drama, which is a spiritual determination. Jesus is about to give this young man an examination to determine, for the man to self-determine where he was spiritually, to determine the spiritual reality of his life. It's a test. You have a question and you have a test to respond. And so here it is. Jesus said, "Okay, you know the commandments: Honor your father and your mother (that's a good one.) Don't commit adultery. Don't steal. Don't kill. Don't defraud". And He gives these commandments. And the young man responded, "I've kept all of these since I was a youth. Not just for a day, not just for a month, not just for a year, but my entire life I've kept the commandments of God"!
And you have to believe that was true, at least externally. He was morally upright. He was a good guy. He was a church guy. And he had kept these commandments his entire life! And that's when the Bible says, and you look at that verse and it's so attractive. Verse 21. It says, "And Jesus looking at him, loved him". And Jesus looks at you and He loves you, I assure you of that, whether you're a moral person or an immoral person. His love is everlasting. He loves you. But there was something so appealing about this young man. His possibility, his potential, his prayerful request. Jesus looked right, He locked eyes with him. He fastened his attention on him, and He looked beyond his eyes and in to his soul. He saw this young man's real need. Though he had kept the commandments externally, in his heart there was something missing. There was a fatal flaw in this young man's life. He was clean, he was pure, but Jesus said, "Okay, here's the one thing you lack".
Now I need to push pause here just a moment and say Jesus is not teaching us that we're saved by keeping the commandments. Unless you say you truly have kept all the commandments and you've never broken one! Anybody? Anybody? No, we've all broken God's commandments! And if we are to be saved by keeping commandments... fail! In fact, the Scripture says if you break even one of the commandments you're guilty of all. And not only in the content of the commandments, the substance of the commandments, but the spirit of the commandment. Jesus took it to a whole new level when He talked about if you hate in your heart, if you are a hater, you are a murderer. If you are filled with lust you are an adulterer and so on. Anybody still in on keeping all the commandments? But the one commandment that was clear the young man had broken was the very first one. He didn't mention it, but it's the one which says, "You shall worship the Lord God, and Him only, and Him only shall you serve. You'll have no other gods before Me".
This young man, rich and ruling, had another god, and his god was greed. He wasn't keeping the commandment regarding covetousness, and Jesus proves it when He says, "Okay, go sell anything, all the things that you have, give it to the poor, then come and follow Me". Interesting, nothing here about faith, nothing here about grace, but it's about repentance. Turning your back on the world and the things of this world, the things we hold in our hands, and more importantly, in our hearts that we are unwilling to give up to follow Jesus. It doesn't matter what it may be, if there's anything in your life, in this world that you love more than God, that's an idol that must be torn down if you're going to follow Jesus! "One thing you lack".
This man loved the wrong world. The love of the world was in his heart. He thought he was a spiritually devout individual. In some ways he was, but it was superficial, wasn't it? It was surface. Because when it came right down to it, he loved his money. He was mastered by his money. And Jesus had said, "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul"? You can't have it both ways. Jesus said you will either love the world and the things of this world, or you will love Me and follow Me. You can't have it both ways. It's either-or! And everyone here today, everyone watching on television, watching online... you're going to make a decision today. You will!
You say, "Not me. I have no intentions of making a decision". Yes, you're going to make a decision today. You say, "Not me, I'm not going to make any decision". No decision is a decision when it comes to Jesus. You are going to make a decision today! You will either decide to turn your back on this world and follow Jesus, or you're going walk away without Him. You-will-make-a-decision! This man had a decision to make at this point. And it becomes such a sad, sorrowful decision.
The final verse that we read was verse 22. Look at it: "Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful". Disheartened, I mean, he was discouraged. And Luke tells us that his countenance fell. It showed up on his face. He frowns and "he went away sorrowful". This is the word stugnazo in the Greek. It's only used another time in the New Testament. Jesus used it in Matthew's Gospel, describing a storm. There is now a storm in this young man's soul! This is a bright sunny disposition on his face and now the clouds roll in, the sun is behind the clouds, and the lightning bolts hit because he is in a serious spiritual conflict.
He's struggling. "Yes or no, can I give up what I have, all these things? Can I give up and follow Jesus? Yes or no. Can I do this"? The demons in hell are whispering in his ear, "Don't be a fool! Don't be an idiot! You can't give up this stuff to follow Jesus"! The angel, the recording angel is poised and ready to write this man's name down in the Lamb's Book of Life. The angels are ready to cheer and sing! And he bites his lip. Tears begin to bubble up in his eyes and flow. And he says, "No, no". And he went away, walked away sorrowful, as far as we know right into hell. As far as we know no other chances, no other time. Jesus, on to the cross, death, resurrection, without this man.
So much potential there, so much promise there. I'm sure the disciples are thinking, "We can't let this guy go. He can fund our program here. This guy's rich. He's good. Jesus, let's renegotiate this thing"! Jesus loved him, but He loved him enough to tell him the truth. He loved him enough to let him go! I'm sure, I'm certain this broke the heart of Jesus as well. Jesus is brokenhearted when anyone walks away from Him! Jesus said that "when you follow Me you will have treasure in heaven". He couldn't see beyond his treasure on earth and things and stuff and possessions and acceptance and popularity.
What is it that may be keeping you from following Jesus? What is the one thing for you? It might not be money. For many people it's money, for a lot of people it's money! Just love the world, love money, love things. No time to follow Jesus. Their god is gold. Their creed is greed. I've known people through the years that are in hell today because of their love for money. Even saying things like, "You know, I'll never go that church. I'll never go and follow Christ because all they want down there is your money. And they're getting none of my money". But maybe it's not money. It could be lust. Sinful pleasure of some kind. Some habit. It could be drugs, it could be alcohol. Could be pride.
You see, this man was a ruler. He wanted to rule his own life! He was unwilling to transfer the rule of his life to Jesus! One thing, and it kept him out of heaven and sent him to hell! All our other stories have been happy ending stories. This is not a happy ending story. Like many others, he rejected Jesus. Like some of you, so far, rejected Jesus. Your decision determines your destiny! Whether in heaven or in hell. Your decision today whether to say yes and follow Jesus, being willing, like the old song says, "This world behind me, the cross before me", whether you're willing to say "Yes, I will follow Jesus whatever the price, whatever the cost, wherever He leads I'll go"! Or to decide to walk away, and walk into eternity and judgment without the Hope.
Would you bow your heads with me in prayer, every head bowed and every eye closed? If you're watching on television, if you are listening on radio, online, right here in this room, the Spirit of God is moving in your life. You have a decision to make. Jesus is calling you to Himself, "follow me, follow me, turn your back on whatever's holding you back, say 'no' to this world and 'yes' to me".
Jesus died for you, He rose again, follow Him. You may not understand it all, again in this passage of scripture, there's not allot of theology here but just the great truth that to follow Jesus means to leave your past behind, to leave the world behind and to spend the rest of your life following Jesus wherever that takes you, whatever that means and I promise you it will take you ultimately to heaven. It will take you into the very presence of God and in this life may God give you grace and strength to live abundantly but you need to pray and invite Christ into your life right now so pray:
Lord Jesus, thank you for loving me like you loved that young man so long ago. Thank you for looking into my soul today Jesus, by your Spirit, through your Word and bringing me to this point of decision and right now I decide for you. Right now I trust you Jesus as my Lord and my Savior and I will follow you all the days of my life.
And if you prayed that prayer thank Him for hearing your heart, say: Thank you Lord for forgiving my sin and giving me the hope of eternal life so that I can know that when I die, I will go to heaven, I have eternal life, it's a gift, it's not religion, it's not keeping the commandments or doing the best that you can, none of us can do enough, it's never enough if you're in some kind of a religion, but if you will trust Jesus, He is enough.