The Rich Young Ruler


Mark 10:17—31


This talk splits the reading up into chunks as laid out below.

Start with a competition between tables. Who can remember all of the 10 commandments. No cheating by looking at bibles or mobile phones!

  1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
  2. You shall not make idols.
  3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
  4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
  5. Honour your father and your mother.
  6. You shall not murder.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
  10. You shall not covet.

Today we are going to hear a reading about someone who knew the commandments and obeyed them

17 As he went out into the street, a man came running up, greeted him with great reverence, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to get eternal life?”

I’m going to pause there. Let’s try to put ourselves into that man’s shoes. Actually they were probably very nice shoes because we’re going to see later on that he was a rich man. And from the same story in the other gospels that we know he was young and a ruler.

So there you are young, rich and powerful, everything going for you. And eagerly searching for spiritual truth. So eager that when you see the Jesus, you run up to him, kneel before him and ask your burning question. “Good teacher, what must I do to get eternal life?”

Now by the way this didn’t mean how do I get into heaven when I die. It meant how can I be part of God’s new world, the Kingdom of heaven.

18-19 Jesus said, “Why are you calling me good? No one is good, only God. You know the commandments: Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t cheat, honour your father and mother.”

20 He said, “Teacher, I have—from my youth—kept them all!”

Jesus listens to your question. “You know the commandments” he says and he lists off some of the ten commandments. In fact he lists the last six, the ones that are all about how we treat other people.

That’s interesting.

Why didn’t he list the first four, the ones about giving God his right place in our lives?

You tell him, “teacher I’ve kept those since my youth”

So you’re not just young and rich and powerful. You have been faithfully living in obedience to the commandments

21 Jesus looked him hard in the eye—and loved him! He said, “There’s one thing left:

Jesus looks at you and loves you. Jesus looks at you and loves you.

That’s really important to remember for what happens next.

“You lack one thing” Jesus says.

“ah… OK” you’re thinking, “now we’re going to get to those first commandments. No other gods. No taking God’s name in vain.

But instead, Jesus gives three different commands, three heart stopping commands.

“Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me.”

Sell, give and follow. Sell up, give away and follow me.

Jesus gives the ancient commandments a whole new level of meaning and power as he applies them to this rich young man. No god’s before Yahweh, no idols – OK then sell up and give away your wealth. “That’s what it’s going to mean for you”, Jesus says “as he looks at him with love”.

No competition for allegiance to God, then “follow me”, he says.

22 The man’s face clouded over. This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go.

You’re shocked. You get up off your knees and walks away, ”sad, for you had many possessions”.


OK role change. Now you aren’t that man, you’re one of the disciples who has just seen and heard what happened. Put yourself into their shoes.

23-25 Looking at his disciples, Jesus said, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for people who ‘have it all’ to enter God’s kingdom?” The disciples couldn’t believe what they were hearing, but Jesus kept on: “You can’t imagine how difficult. I’d say it’s easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for the rich to get into God’s kingdom.”

26 That set the disciples back on their heels. “Then who has any chance at all?” they asked.

27 Jesus was blunt: “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you let God do it.”

And not it’s time to step out of their shoes and into our own shoes.

Let’s make this personal for me and for you.

What is it that we are searching for? What within us longs for God’s kingdom? For true goodness and beauty and justice and healing and meaning and hope.

Let’s run to Jesus, kneel at his feet and ask him what we need to get that, to be part of it.

As we do, he’ll look at me and he’ll love me. He’ll look at you and he’ll love you.

He loves us far too much to give us a polite, nice answer. Instead he‘ll go right to the heart. To whatever it is that competes in us for his love. Whatever it is that weighs us down and gets in the way of us following him with all our hearts.

Let’s be brave and listen to his answer.

As we listen, we may well feel overwhelmed. “I can’t Lord”, “you’re asking too much”.

In fact if you don’t feel that maybe you haven’t heard him yet.

But when we do, and when we think “that’s too much for me” let’s not walk away sad but rather let’s be like the disciples. And say to Jesus, “who then can be saved?”

“humanly it’s impossible” Jesus says. He looks with love and compassion. He knows the struggle in fact he knows it’s sometimes more than we can manage.

“humanly  it’s impossible”

“But not with God” he goes on, “with God all things are possible”.


This talk was originally followed by the “Coins” activity.