Lent Reflections: The Third Week – Friday

And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour your father and mother.’”

And he said, “All these I have observed from my youth.” 

And when Jesus heard it, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard this he became sad, for he was very rich. Jesus looking at him said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For 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.”

Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?”

But he said, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”

And Peter said, “Lo, we have left our homes and followed you.”

And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no man who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God,who will not receive manifold more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

Luke 18:18-30

To Seek and to Save

For this Lenten reflection on Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, Dr Ferguson brings us to the rich young ruler, who asked Jesus what he could do to inherit eternal life. By all measures, this was a formidable man – a ruler of a synagogue, despite his young years, and rich to boot. Yet despite his many achievements, Jesus points to one devastating flaw.

Jesus’ response to the man’s question is multi-layered. He begins with a question of His own: “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” Was he asking whether the man was prepared to recognise who He was? We can’t be sure. Jesus continues, “You know the commandments.” And then proceeds to list them – or some of them, at least: adultery, murder, theft, lying, honouring parents are all covered in Jesus’ list. But what did He leave out? He omitted all of the first four commandments, those concerning our relationship with God. And He omitted the last command, the one about covetousness. And, as Dr Ferguson points out, “This is what eventually undoes the man.”

This rich young ruler, despite being able to say that he had kept five of the commandments since his youth, had failed to settle with the full weight of the first four commandments. He did not love God with His whole heart, soul and strength. Instead, he had made an idol of his wealth. And so, when Jesus got to the heart of the matter, “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor… and come, follow me”, this man’s heart was exposed. The one thing he lacked – Jesus – was the one thing he could not have because to follow Jesus meant he would lose his wealth. And so he became sad.

Simon Peter’s response is telling. If this man, with all his quality, couldn’t gain eternal life, then how can anyone be saved? Surely, it was impossible! Peter was right! No man can gain eternal life. But it can be granted to him by God. What is impossible for men is possible for God.

Whatever good things we have in this life can never match an eternity of riches with God. And if we can’t surrender these good things to follow Christ, we will never know those eternal riches. What things do we hold on to?

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