A rich, young ruler inquired about eternal life with Jesus, and yet went away sad, not willing to make the ultimate sacrifice: of replacing his heart’s desire with the Son of God Himself. To him, and us, Jesus makes a sweeping statement, which we dare not take lightly!
Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, 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 this asked, "Who then can be saved?" Jesus replied, "What is impossible with men is possible with God." Peter said to him, "We have left all we had to follow you!" "I tell you the truth," Jesus said to them, "no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life."
Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again." The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about. (Luke 18:24-34, NIV)
What is Jesus saying? Is He merely speaking in hyperbole, a figure of speech that exaggerates for emphasis, as many commentators say? Or is He also speaking on the very nature of salvation, as being something far more than man’s attempt to appease his Creator? The rich young ruler approached Jesus on a transactional basis: “What must I do…”. Or “How can I gain God’s favor, so that HE will give ME eternal life?” Jesus’ answer: “Keep the commandments”. The ruler: “I do that…but I lack something…”. Jesus: “THIS is what you lack, for favor with God – Sell all you have and follow me!” In other words, “Surrender to Him!” Don’t approach the One who has your life in His Hands, with a mere transaction! Come to Him on your knees! Give it all back to Him!
Jesus goes on to say that riches pose a very dangerous problem, not just for this man, but for all. Why? Those who have been given much, by nature, are tempted to rely (or trust) on those things, rather than the Giver. Rather than daily relying on God for sustenance, we increasingly look to these things, and before long, the “worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it” (Matthew 13:22). Money is a temptation for all, but the more you have, the more time is generally consumed managing what you have. Encroaching upon the heart is the deception that we need those things beyond today’s bread, so we store up. Yet before that young ruler even approached him, Jesus addressed the crowd: “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:33-34)
My conviction is that these passages are actually speaking to the nature of salvation; of how one obtains right standing and eternal life with God! The young man, leaving Jesus, caused those around to say, “Who then can be saved?”, and Jesus’ answer was, “It’s impossible…with man. But all things are possible with God”. Meaning: It’s up to God, to save! Only He is capable of turning a deaf ear and blind eye and dead heart back to life again! He is the One who establishes Himself as our treasure! But of course our response that miracle is to then live that life, treasuring Him. And how do we do that? By, in the principle of Luke 18, “leaving (all else) for the sake of the Kingdom of God”. Jesus says that it will result in multiplied blessings and eternal life!
It is choosing to live for that vision of glory in the future, that directs our living in the now. And it is not coincidental that Jesus follows this teaching with the suffering to come; that HIS earthly obedience to the Father will lead to suffering, mockery, and death! The final end to that, however is resurrection and glorification! So a willingness to give up ALL for Christ & the Kingdom of God requires that we factor in what salvation means on His terms: Treasuring Him above all else, and following Him wherever that may lead, even unto death! “No servant is greater than his Master” (John 13:16) meaning, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also”. (John 15:20)
It is the opposite mentality to the Prodigal Son, who demanded his inheritance now, not considering it a blessing to simply be in his Father’s house, though even he, by the Father’s Grace, had a changed heart, and was forgiven! To live in light of our future inheritance is to treasure HIM to the extent that nothing perishable in this life matters in comparison to Him! So if He asked us to give it all up for Him, would you? Has He?