We are going to look at two men. They both have a need and want to do something about it. They both come to Jesus. One comes with everything and walks away with nothing. The other comes with nothing and walks away with everything. Let’s look at these two men: rich young ruler and the leper.
Rich Young Ruler
Matthew 19:16-22, Mark 10:17-22, Luke 18:18-23
And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? There is none good but one, that is, God. You know the commandments…Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honor thy father and mother. And the man answered and said to him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said to him, One thing you lack: go your way, sell whatsoever you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
A young man, a wealthy man, a ruler
He has it all (as far as outward appearances), but he knows that he lacks something… something is missing. He is not satisfied within his soul. He has heard of Jesus and thinks Jesus might have the answer. He comes to Jesus running (urgently). He comes kneeling. He comes asking. The crowd probably steps back to let him through. He is an important guy. “Good master, what can I do to inherit eternal life?” Isn’t that a question we all want to know? We live in the wealthiest nation, in the most intellectually advanced time and we still need the answer to this question.
Jesus focuses on two things. “Good Master” and “DO”
Jesus says no one is good but God. Jesus sees this man’s heart. This man thinks Jesus is a prophet or teacher but not God. The man also comes with a preconceived notion. The notion that you have to DO something to be saved…that you can somehow earn heaven…that you can somehow be worthy of heaven. He thinks if we do enough good things, we can go to heaven. You must…Jesus only mentions some of the commandments. Maybe the ones he knows the man has kept. All that he mentions are man-related not God-related. The man says I have done these things since I was a child. Probably true. Jesus doesn’t contradict him.
Jesus looks at this man with love and has compassion. He already knows the response before he speaks. “You lack one thing. Sell all you have and give to the poor.” Will the selling and giving save this man? No! But it will bring him to a point where he depends on God not on himself. Jesus knows this man’s heart. He knows the man trusts in his riches. He is saying, “Let go of the worldly things you depend on and trust in God.” The man goes away sorrowful. He is not willing to do this thing. He has to choose worldly possessions or Jesus. He chooses possessions.
Jesus did not stop this man from leaving. He let him walk away. We have free will. We get to choose.
Matthew 8:2-4, Mark 1:40-45, Luke 5:12-15
And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying to him, If you wilt, you can make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and said to him, I will; be thou clean. And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed. And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away; And said to him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, show thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter.
The leper comes to Jesus. He has nothing—no wealth, no prestige, no position. He is despised, rejected, untouchable –an outcast. The crowd probably steps back to let him through – but in fear and horror and disgust. This man is full of leprosy.
Leprosy is a physical disease that is a lot like sin.
- an inward condition that has outward symptoms
- starts small but becomes horrible and all-consuming
- defiles everything it touches, poisons your life
- isolates, drives a wedge between family and God
- destines things for the fire
This man comes to Jesus. He kneels. He says, “If you will, you can make me clean” I want to be free of this condition and only you can free me from its bondage. Jesus touches him. The man is immediately transformed. Everything in this mans life is changed in that instant. Then Jesus says Do what the law requires. He goes away to follow the requirements of the law as Jesus commanded. He comes in faith and walks away in obedience.
What about you?
You may be someone who looks pretty good compared to the wickedness around you. If you say to yourself: “I am a good person. I think I’m OK as far as getting to heaven. I am good compared to my neighbor. I don’t kill, I don’t steal. I don’t lie MUCH.” Then you are like the rich young ruler. Jesus says to you, there are things in your life that you love more than me. You are at a point of decision. Are there things you value more than eternal life? Or will you let go of them and turn to Jesus?
You may be like the leper. You are hopeless and helpless to free yourself from the bondage of sin. You know that you are totally consumed and that Jesus is the only one who can help you. You know you need Jesus to transform your life. You come to him in faith and say “If you will, you can make me whole.” And Jesus says, “I will…now go and do the things that the law requires.” And when he touches you and changes you…you do what he says and you follow his instructions and go and do as the law says.