An important person came running, knelt in front of Jesus and asked, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18-30; Matthew 19:17-30; Mark 10:13-26). The Synoptics agreed that the question was asked of Jesus and not of one of his followers. It is also a question that everyone should ask, “What must I do?” And what did Jesus tell the young man or Ruler? Just how impossible was it to get what he was looking for?
To begin with, Jesus did not go for the idea to play with human goodness. The attempt to make points with Christ by calling Him “Good” or “Lord” did not fly. For Jesus, God alone was good, and it was not the issue that dealt with this person’s question. This is also true of “Grace.” Grace was revealed in Christ, but that is not going to get that Young Ruler into the Kingdom. For him, to inherit eternal life, he had to do what God through Moses had commanded.
Next, what did Jesus say to this young person, “You know the commandments?” In other words, he already knew what he had to do. Like so many of us, he wanted a way around God’s rules. What was Jesus’ answer? “I have not come to abolish but to fulfill the law” (Matthew 5:17). These are the specifics: “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 19:18; Mark 10:19). We should take to heart that heaven is not a dumping station for people that deliberately live outside the Law.
The Ruler knew it because he had lived by these Laws and could have gone away satisfied. Only there was one Commandment Jesus did not mention and this young man knew it; namely, “Do not covet.” In his heart he knew that he felt unfulfilled. Riches and wealth had put greed in his path. He had not followed the one commandment and therefore he did not feel right by keeping the others (James 2:10). Jesus knew what the Ruler was lacking and gave him the option to separate himself from his need to covet, give it to the poor and become one of His disciples. That sacrifice the young man was not willing to make.
The Tenth Commandment has and is keeping many rich and wealthy out of the kingdom of heaven. The good news is that man can and must repent and return to the Law set forth by God. Unlike the Young Ruler that left, and more like the Prodigal, we must return home and abide by the rules of our Father’s place. We must do what Jesus commands us to do! Jesus loved that young person, but that individual did not reciprocate. God did not give us any laws that we cannot keep and Jesus did not come to circumvent them. We know what God wants us to do, only we want Jesus to do it for us.