Originally scheduled for September 13
Christians are sometimes confronted by the question, “can you be a
righteous man without believing in Jesus Christ?” If you’d like to
see the answer to that in person, check out this passage. Most of
the people Jesus associated with would’ve had no trouble telling you
that this rich young man was a righteous person; after all, his
wealth was a sign that God had blessed him. As we see here, he was
in the habit of being obedient to the Old Testament Law. It is not
difficult to imagine that he was a consistent student of the Torah.
In short, he is what every one of the time would’ve agreed was a
This goes some way to explaining his question to Christ. He doesn’t
ask how he can become more righteous; he’s not there to get his halo
polished. He asks “what good thing” he must do to get eternal life.
It’s an intelligent question. There’s not much sense in being
righteous in this life if you’re not going to have eternal life at
the end of it. It is one of those “ultimate” questions.
Christ begins his reply by challenging the idea that being good, or
righteous, is somehow sufficient. He points him to the true source
of righteousness, and therefore places the discussion on a different
level. It’s not about some obscure passage in the Old Testament;
it’s about you and God. Just to make the point clear, Christ tests
him on the subject of his obedience, and apparently accepts that he
has been in fact the obedient believer that he claims to be. This
qualifies him to hear the answer to his question — but not
necessarily to carry it out.
The “one good thing” that Christ tells him he lacks is to sell
everything he has, give it to the poor and follow Christ. It is the
one thing that a prudent businessman would not want to hear. We
don’t like taking risks; here is an irreversible risk that costs
Let’s look at it in a post-resurrection light. One of the
characteristics of great leaders is that they would not ask you to
do something they would not be willing to do themselves. Christ is
asking for all his material possessions to be given away. Christ
himself, however, is on the way to the cross. This is his last trip
to Jerusalem. He is about to demonstrate to the rich man that he is
willing to give all he has.
On Good Friday Christ gave it all. The soldiers got his clothing,
but you and I will be receiving his body and his blood this morning.
The bread you will take represents his body; the cup, his blood. You
are receiving everything he possibly could give.
He has set you the example. He made his total commitment to you, so
that you might have eternal life. That’s what the young man was
asking about. The answer didn’t come till a few days later. But you
have that answer now; you have that example before you. The only
real question is, will you follow that example? If there is
something in your life that prevents you from being completely
committed to Christ, then purge it from your life now. The question
is not one of life and death; it’s more important than that. Take
his body; take his blood — and follow his example.