He was a man of authority and a leader in his community. Blessed with great wealth, he was well-known for his community service and strong character. But secretly, he had a problem that nagged him for years.
His longing for an answer was so intense, that he didn’t know where to turn.
I remember as a young boy travelling through the hot Nevada dessert during our annual summer vacation. Our ’71 Ford station wagon faithfully pulled a 23 foot Ideal trailer. We were heading toward a KOA campground and I was hoping, praying, that the campground had a swimming pool. I reached for a copper necklace I purchased the other day and began rubbing it and praying that it would provide a pool.
When we entered the KOA, I was devastated. My copper necklace failed me for there was no swimming pool in sight. In desperation, I turned to an object and didn’t get the answer I wanted. Sometime I wonder what would have happened if there had been a swimming pool?
The desperation of the wealthy man wanted answers. Perhaps he was about to turn to the idols of wealth or recreation to ease his conscience — a route most people take when it comes to their spiritual lives.
Until he heard about Jesus.
The surrounding Jesus’ miracles and teaching reached his ears. He heard the proclamation that this Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. Could He be the one who to answer his question that tugged at his conscious for so many years?
Fearlessly, the wealthy man approached Jesus and asked, “Sir, what must I do to inherit eternal life? Seeing this man’s sincerity, Jesus first asked him if he knew the commandments. The wealthy ruler promptly replied, “I have been kept them since I was a young boy.”
Recognizing that the ruler was looking for affirmation in his attempts to be worthy, Jesus told him that he still lacked one thing to inherit eternal life. He must sell off all of his riches and give everything to the poor. Only after doing that would this man be worthy enough to follow Christ.
“Sell off everything I own and give to the poor?” Jesus’ answer was startling. To consider Jesus’ command would simply be asking too much. The man turned and left Jesus broken-hearted. Despite all of his sacrificial efforts, they were not going to be good enough to be considered worthy to inherit eternal life.
The wealthy man asked for a measuring stick, so Jesus provided one.
For those intent on relying on their good works to earn heaven, it is startling when the reply back from Jesus is to do the impossible. Whatever we do is never going to be enough.
Dumbfounded at this prospect, the disciples ask Jesus, “Who then can qualify for eternal life?” Jesus simply replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with Heavenly Father.”
Jesus answers his disciples by declaring how difficult it will be for rich men and women to enter the kingdom of heaven. Material comforts can be a distraction to what is most important in life. But more importantly, wealth breeds pride. And its human pride that separates us from God.
Great sacrifice is required to be judged worthy by God. Yet, it’s impossible for us to inherit eternal life based on our own sacrifices. A greater sacrifice is needed. One that only Jesus could carry out on our behalf.
He fulfilled the measuring stick, because He is the measuring stick. And Christ’s message to us is to trust in His perfection and receive eternal life.
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