Focal Passage: Luke 18:18-27
Serious questions about the meaning of life are a sign of maturity.
Society today might rephrase the official’s question in the following way: “Is there life after death? If heaven does exist, how does one go there?”
The ruler’s declaration of Jesus’ goodness comes at the beginning of the dialogue. To accept this declaration of “goodness” is to grant him the authority to declare someone good or evil. Jesus rejects this.
Emphasizing the repeated affirmations of the Psalms, he declares the singular goodness of God (Psalms 25:8; 86:5; 100:5; 119:68; 135:3; 145:9).
Indeed, Psalms 14:1-3; 53:1 quoted in Romans 3:10 states there is no one who is good.
Jesus then identifies five commandments that affirm the nature of a positive relationship with one’s neighbor (Exodus 20).
The ruler responds that these have always been a part of his life. Absent from Jesus’ questioning are those commandments that address one’s relationship with God. In this case, that which was lacking.
Jesus then shares with the official that something is lacking in his life. Perhaps this feeling that something is missing from his life motivated his journey to speak with Jesus.
Out of this encounter, he will discover the piece of the puzzle missing from his life. Are we willing to take the risk and ask the Lord, “What is missing from my life?”
The ruler’s wealth separates him from God.
The challenge to the official calls for the liquidation/distribution of his wealth.
Then he must follow Jesus. In Luke 8:38, a liberated man previously filled with demons asks to follow Jesus. He is told to “return” to his home and “show how great things God hath done unto thee” (Luke 8:39).
The rich ruler, however, receives the call to follow Jesus.
The ruler’s response is immediate and tragic. He went away “sad; for he was very rich” (v. 23).
We often emphasize the joy found when someone responds positively to the message of Christ.
However, no is also an answer. It is a response that God acknowledges. The right to say yes is also tragically the right to say no.
There is surprise at the official’s depth of grief and the grip of wealth on his life.
Jesus responds that “it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Jesus compares the “largest of Palestinian animals…to the tiniest of commonly known openings (Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel according to Luke X-XXIV, 1204).
Quickly, Jesus affirms that “with God” camels can go through the needle’s eye, and rich men can go through the gates of the Kingdom.