As we follow Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem, we encounter a diverse crowd of interested people.
— Luke 14.1-5 – Some are prominent religious leaders.
— Luke 15.1-2 – Tax collectors and sinners participate in table fellowship with Jesus.
— Luke 17.11-19 – Lepers meet Jesus on the road.
— Luke 18.15-17 – Jesus receives little children and bestows on them his blessing.
A Wealthy Ruler
It is entirely possible that a wealthy ruler was present to witness how Jesus received children and blessed them.
Luke records a conversation between Jesus and the ruler.
–– Luke 18.18-21 – A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.
“You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.’”
The ruler was a man of status and applied to Jesus the status of being a “good Teacher.”
In an honor-shame culture, there was a give-and-take response expected between persons of status. At the very least, Jesus was expected to reciprocate and acknowledge the high position of the ruler.
Clearly the ruler was of higher status than lepers, tax collectors, sinners and children – so they assumed.
Jesus did not accept the conventional wisdom of the day, refused the compliment, and pointed his listeners to the truth that only God is good.
Most often, people of high status and education are those who write the books and control the narrative about who is valued and who is not in society.
That is true in religion, politics, business, entertainment, and the like.
We need the assistance of the Holy Spirit to help us to be aligned with the values of God’s kingdom.
I have often told recovering drug addicts and former criminals that Jesus never spoke harshly to them. The only people who received Jesus’ criticism were people like me, preachers.
Jesus used different methods with the broken and the successful, because he wanted them to turn from self-will to that of following him.
Jesus outlined five commandments to the man that centered on how people treat each other in their families and communities.
The ruler replied, “I have kept all these since my youth” (Luke 18.21).
Jesus’ response was, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me” (Luke 18.22).
Jesus has the unique ability to cut through self-deception and bring us to a point of clarity.
As Rudy Ross points out in today’s YouTube video, Jesus didn’t include the tenth commandment about coveting in his list.
People who are concerned with status and wealth are always guilty of being covetous.
A covetous person in the company of the disciples certainly would have poisoned the minds of the others. Adding a relationship with Jesus to existing status and wealth would have been a disaster to this man and others whom he would influenced.
Money, Sex, and Power
Richard Foster wrote a book with the title, “Money, Sex, and Power.” The ruler had problems with two of the three words in Foster’s book title, money and power.
When talking about money, Foster advised people to manage their wealth, led by the principles of Christ. If we give our money to someone else, they have the responsibility for the proper use of it.
If we use our wealth as we live a Jesus-kind-of-life, the Holy Spirit is able to direct it to its proper use.
Similarly, if our power and status is under the direction of Jesus, it can be used to benefit the purposes of God.
There were two responses to Jesus’ conversation with the rich ruler.
— Luke 18.23-25 – But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich.
Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!
“Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
(1) The rich ruler did not want to give up his status and possessions, and walked away from discipleship.
Jesus revealed how difficult it is for people who have status and wealth to change their minds about privileges.
Some interpreters of his message refer to an opening in the wall of Jerusalem, where camels must kneel down to enter the city. That interpretation is no longer accepted by Bible students today.
The second response reveals how the crowd viewed the impossibility of Jesus’ statement.
— Luke 18.26-27 – Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?”
He replied, “What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.”
How do people change their mind about God and begin to value the people and things that are most important to him?
It is impossible for us to change, just as it is impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.
However, God makes all things possible. A relationship with him will transform our view of culture, sex, money, and power.
Rudy Ross and I enjoyed talking about this episode in Jesus’ life. We have a video presentation of our visit on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.
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