The Rich Ruler
by Steve Cannizzaro
On his way to Jerusalem to lose his life as the sacrifice for the sin of the world, Jesus encountered a ruler who wanted to save his life. He was a man who kept the commandments, accumulated great wealth, and governed his people. Perhaps the only thing he lacked was the certainty of eternal life, so he asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18).
Jesus knew he was the answer to this man’s question. He is eternal life (John 17:3). Earlier in his journey, Jesus told those who wished to follow him, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it,” (Luke 9:23-24). He also knew what prevented the ruler from receiving eternal life, so he told him to do three things.
First, “Sell all that you have,” (Luke 18:22). This would free the ruler of what captivated his mind, heart, and life. Jesus asked the ruler to lose what he could not keep in exchange for what he could not lose.
Second, “Distribute to the poor,” (Luke 18:22). What if the ruler indeed sold everything he owned? What would it require of him to go, find the poor and needy, listen to their stories, and give all he had to meet their needs? What would this act of faith form in him? An ability to see the other. A heart broken by the pain and suffering of the world. A heart moved by compassion to be merciful and generous. A heart aligned with the very heart of God.
Third, “And come, follow me,” (Luke 18:22). Imagine! Jesus was days away from his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and he invited this man to join him, receive from him, know him, and perhaps witness his death and resurrection. Jesus invited the ruler to exchange the small story he was writing for himself for the eternal, redemptive story Jesus was writing for the world. In that decisive moment the ruler stood at the intersection between the seen, temporal world and the unseen, eternal world. In that moment he chose what had a vice-grip on his heart. He turned away and left “very sad,” (Luke 18:23).
Today Jesus’ invitation is, “Come, follow me.” Know me. Receive from me. See where I am at work. Watch what I do. Join me in my eternal redemptive work in the places where you live, study, work, or worship. Be part of my Kingdom advancing! Bind up the brokenhearted, care for the widow and orphan, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, provide shelter for the homeless, establish justice, and free the oppressed. “Tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted!” (1 Peter 2:9 MSG).
How will you respond? Is there anyone, anything, or any set of circumstances keeping you from being free to know, love, obey, enjoy, and glorify Jesus forever? Ask him. He will show you. Then leave it behind and follow him!
Lord Jesus, mercifully reveal to me anyone or anything keeping me from wholly devoting myself to you, knowing and loving you, being part of your redemptive work in the world, and entering the abundant and eternal life both now and forever. Amen.
Steve Cannizzaro is the Director of Discipleship and Outreach at The Falls Church Anglican. He and his wife, Libby, share a sense of purpose and vision to follow the Lord - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - and share His Life with others.