There are questions about this life, and there are questions about eternity.
We are so consumed with earthly questions that we lose sight of eternal questions.
We all wrestle with Earthly questions:
– How do I make ends meet?
– How do I get ahead?
– How do I deal with anger?
– How can I overcome an inferiority complex?
– How can I resolve a conflict at home?
– How can I build my self-esteem and self-worth?
– How can I communicate?
All these are very important issues, but they are Earthly issues.
The Bible lifts us to an Eternal issue – when we get a hold of the Eternal issue, we are more able to look at the Earthly issues.
Back to our story, we have this rich young ruler; all three Gospels describe him as rich.
Mark tells us that, out of respect for Jesus, when he came – he knelt down, and asked the question.
I would like to focus on several things with this encounter he has with Jesus.
I. HE CAME TO THE RIGHT PERSON.
There are lots of people we can approach to get helpful advice for dealing with life’s problems.
We all get help in various ways, but when we have an Eternal question on our mind – who can we go to?
The fact that we are here today – December 2012 – signifies that some 2,000 years ago – Jesus was born.
As the rich young ruler did, people are still looking for an answer to the most basic questions.
When we come to Jesus, we have come to the right person.
When we want to know about life after death, we do not go to Mohammed, or Buddha or Karl Marx or Sigmund Freud or Dale Carnegie or Madonna, or the Beatles or Justin Bieber!
We go to Jesus!
The apostle Peter, one of the disciples said to Jesus, one day:
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of Eternal life.” (John 6:68)
“I am the way, the truth, the life, no one comes to the Father, but through me.” (John 14:6)
“I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25)
Only Jesus has an answer to Eternal questions!
The young ruler came to the right person.
II. HE CAME AT THE RIGHT TIME.
He was young—a good time to ask an Eternal question.
You do not have to wait until you are old and grey to ask this question.
In fact every young person wants an answer to the basic questions of life:
– Where do I come from?
– Why am I here?
– Where am I going?
– Does life end at death?
– Can we live forever?
This young man, wealthy, had everything but had an emptiness which is called today: cosmic loneliness.
He had heard about Jesus, a great teacher, prophet and healer.
He comes with the very important question:
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit Eternal life?”
This rich young ruler was concerned about Eternity.
A young person one day said:
“I wonder what I was begun for when I am soon done for.”
Longfellow said it more poetically and beautifully:
“All life is brief.
What now is bud will soon be leaf.
What now is leaf will soon decay.
The blue eggs in the robin’s nest
will soon have wings and beak and breast
and flutter and fly away.
Too soon the noon will be the afternoon.
Today be yesterday!”
Woody Allen is a man who likes to make people laugh.
In an interview he disclosed his morbid preoccupation with death.
He claims to be an atheist.
In a philosophical moment, he soared to language like this:
“This fundamental thing behind all motivation and all activity is the constant struggle against annihilation and against death. It’s absolutely stupefying in its terror and it renders everyone’s accomplishments meaningless. It’s not only that man dies. But that you struggle to do a word of art that will last and then realize that the universe itself is not going to exist after a period of time is sort of depressing, isn’t it? To be involved in something, a work of art, and then the work itself isn’t going to last because the universe isn’t going to last.” (Woody Allen)
A sensitive interviewer seeking to comfort Woody Allen said, “But are you not happy that you will achieve immortality through your achievements?”
Woody Allen answered,
“Who cares about achieving immortality through achievements? I’m interested in achieving immortality through not dying.”
That is exactly where this man in the Gospel story is.
He came to Jesus, the right person, at the right time, and he asked the right question: he wanted to live Eternally.
III. HE ASKED THE RIGHT QUESTION.
We do not have any mental capacity to understand Eternity simply because there is no analogy in our experience to understand it.
How many days is Eternity?
How long and how far out does it go?
We should be interested not only in the quantity of life, but also quality.
When we talk about Eternal life, some people have the notion that, “This life is so bad. Who would ever want to live forever?”
This is because we have no understanding of what Eternity with Jesus will be like.
Jesus offers not only quantity, but also quality.
The rich young ruler asked Jesus the right questions:
“How can I have quality life with Eternal life?”
The religions people never came to Jesus to ask fundamental questions.
Their heart is far away from God—therefore they always ask questions in order to move from God and not to God!
e.g. “If the Bible is true, why does it say this or that…”
“If God is a God of love, then why this or that…”
The Pharisees in Jesus’ day did the same:
“What about the washing of your hands before you eat.”
They used to walk miles to ask Jesus, and try to trap him:
“Just under what circumstances can you chuck your wife?”
That is a big question!
But here is a man, a young man with the right questions.
And it is the perfect question to ask Jesus.
He came from Eternity!
IV. JESUS GAVE HIM THE RIGHT ANSWER.
Jesus uses different languages with different people because different needs are being addressed.
Jesus answered Nicodemus in a different way:
“You must be born again.”
Jesus realized that what held this young man from entering heaven was an attachment to the Earth.
He needed to change his loyalty.
So Jesus touches his assets, which were his gods.
Jesus had already taught that one cannot serve two masters—only one.
So Jesus said:
“If you want life, get rid of everything, give it to the poor, and come follow Me.”
The Lord knows the heart, and He knows the things that separate us from Him.
True Christianity is not a mental assent.
It is not saying “Jesus I believe in you”–and then going on acting as if He did not exist.”
It is like a marriage: “The minister will not ask you if you believe in somebody – but rather if you will commit…”
If you walk away from that marriage altar saying, “I believe he/she is my spouse” and then go and live as a single person, then your belief has not affected your behavior.
Therefore, it is not a valid belief.
The Lord is saying to the rich young ruler, and to all of us:
“Your belief has to impact how you behave; how you live.”
Jesus is asking him (and us) for a commitment.
Jesus is aware of the fact that if this man receives this Eternal answer—this right answer—it will change the way he lives on earth.
He will realize that while before he thought he was rich because of the money he possessed—it is only poverty.
True riches are not those things outside of us, those are what we own!
True riches are within us:
– Rich in our relationship with God.
– Rich in our relationships with people.
– Having love, joy and peace.
V. HE MADE THE WRONG DECISION.
The Bible says, “He went away sad, for he had great possessions.”
There was a stumbling block in his path.
Jesus had asked him to give something up and, in obedience, to commit to Him and follow Him.
Paul Anka’s tune would probably fit the rich young ruler:
“Now the end is near and so I face the final curtain. My friend, I’ll say it clear, I’ll state my case of which I’m certain. I’ve lived a life that’s full I’ve traveled each and every highway. And more, much more than this, I did it my way. But what is man? What has he got? If not himself, then he has got to say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels. The records show I took the blows and did it my way.”
Elvis Presley did it his way!
At one point in his life, he was very drawn to giving his life to Christ.
At times, he sang in the Church choir.
He flirted (in and out) with becoming a Christian.
Then we all know his sad fate — dying from an overdose of drugs.
And before his death he did sing Paul Anka’s song.
We will all wind up with a bottom line of sadness if we do it our way rather than Jesus’ way.
The rich young ruler had the opportunity of a lifetime and he did not take it with two hands.
He made the wrong choice.
The Bible says, “Jesus loved him.”
Jesus did not coerce him.
Jesus did not reduce His terms—“wait, let’s negotiate!”
Jesus is the Lord of life and He does not negotiate His conditions.
But He dearly loves.
He does not twist our arm.
But He will invite.
None of us, by our own efforts, can achieve Eternal life.
We need it as a gift from God.
This is why Jesus said to His disciples regarding salvation:
“With man it’s impossible, but with God it is possible to have Eternal life.”
The rich young ruler missed it all—he could have known Jesus and been His follower and he missed it.
Don’t throw away the chance to live eternally with Jesus!