If someone asked you how to get to Heaven, you’d probably say “by grace through faith in Jesus (Eph. 2:8-9),” right? So why did Jesus give the Law to the rich young ruler when he asked the same question (Mark 10:17-22)?
This passage used to scare me. Will I have to sell all my stuff and give it to the poor?
No, no – that’s not the point.
The point is Jesus was exposing where the young ruler put his faith and it was IN HIS ABILITY TO KEEP THE LAW. (The Law THEN was the 10 commandments, NOW is any human effort or religious tradition). He thought rule-keeping was his ticket. His faith was in himself.
I’m not rich, young, or a ruler – but I identify with this guy, don’t you? Self-righteous, works-based faith is a constant struggle. What would Jesus say to me? “Throw away your device and follow Me.” Abraham was asked to give up Isaac (Gen. 22). What would He say to you?
The Law cannot save (Gal. 4:21). It’s not faith-worthy. It’s a ministry of death bringing God’s wrath ( 2 Cor. 3:7 & Rom. 4:15). Likewise today, putting your faith in your works, only brings God’s wrath. The Law is there to reveal our sin and point us to Jesus (Rom. 6:14). Like a mirror: it reflects you (warts & all), but cannot clean you. No one uses the mirror to clean their face. The mirror just shows you how dirty you are (Rom. 3:20). The Law crushes self-reliance, it is not a reason for it.
Mark 10:21 is a tender moment: Jesus looks at the young ruler and loves him. He’s trying to take him from Sinai to Calvary. He does the same for us. He knows us the best and loves us the most. After all, we’re all little Prodigals and Pharisees.
The young ruler boasted in keeping “all” the Law, so Jesus showed how he had missed the FIRST ONE! (Exd. 20:3) He placed his possessions before God. Look, if you rely on human effort, there will always be cracks (Gal. 3:10). Like a chain holding you over a fire; remove just one link and it all falls apart (James 2:10). Anything you make into a Law and then use to condemn others – will be used to condemn you.
“Everything that isn’t gospel is law. If its not rooted in the good news of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus is damnable, crushing, despair-breeding , Pharisee-producing law. We’ll get either shallow self-righteousness or blazing rebellion or both.” – Elyse M. Fitzpatrick, Give Them Grace
This passage doesn’t scare me anymore. I am not under the Law. It is obsolete (Heb. 8:13). I am under GRACE (Rom. 8:2). Relying on tradition & religious rituals makes Jesus of no effect (Mark 7:13). It blinds us with a veil that only Jesus can remove (2 Cor. 3:14-16). Jesus came to set us free from this nonsense (Gal. 5:1).
Luke’s account says when the young ruler left, Jesus was saddened (18:24). Jesus didn’t force anything. It was his choice. Jesus loves us enough to let us reject Him. However, if we do, it grieves Him.
Please don’t make the same mistake as the rich young ruler. Put your faith totally in Jesus today.