The Great Refusal — Morning Devotions - Hope 103.2

The Great Refusal — Morning Devotions

The story of a young ruler, who believed Jesus knew the way to eternal life, but, when confronted with his inner issues, he was not ready to pay the price.

By Chris WittsFriday 21 Oct 2022Morning Devotions with Chris WittsFaithReading Time: 1 minute

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I think the saddest verse in the whole Bible is found in Matthew 19:22, “When the young man heard this he went away sad”. Or as we probably know it better, ”He went away sorrowful”. Here was a young man with so much potential, but walked away from Jesus Christ a sad young man.

The three gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke record this statement—obviously there was something about him that haunted the three writers, and they included this story in their gospel accounts. Matthew says he was young, Luke says he was a ruler, and Mark tells us that Jesus loved him. Obviously, Jesus admired him and saw potential.

He was very enthusiastic. He ran to meet Jesus and knelt before him eager to ask some important life-changing questions. He wanted to know, “What good thing must I do to receive eternal life?” How admirable to see a young person enthusiastic for the right reasons. We admire enthusiastic people, but he was eager to find out about eternity. In itself, that makes him unusual. But very discerning. He didn’t lack courage—because he ran to Jesus in broad daylight in front of others. He was a ruler, like Nicodemus, who came at night to avoid embarrassment. But quite openly he came to Jesus and fell at his feet.

He hungered and thirsted for something more.

This was remarkable because he belonged to the ruling class of the land who found Jesus to be a nuisance. But that didn’t worry this young man. So here he was, deeply interested in the important values of life, the spiritual issues. He wanted to make the most of life. He was a good living person who had kept the commandments, and according to his life and standards, had kept them all his life. He was quite remarkable and genuine.

As far as this world goes he was doing OK: he had an honoured public office, ruled a synagogue, and had plenty of money. Most people would be happy with this. But he was an exception. He hungered and thirsted for something more.

He said to Jesus, “I have kept all these commandments. What else do I need to do?” (Matthew 19:20). Jesus looked at him and loved him and put him straightaway to a test: “Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me” (verse 21). He was asked to sell his riches, not give them away. Jesus wasn’t against him having riches. Jesus recognised property, and was not against wealth. But it was his trust in his wealth that was the problem here. His trust in his riches stood in the way of him following Christ.

The test was too much for him. Luke says, “When the man heard this, he became very sad, because he was very rich” (Luke 18:23). How unfortunate that he turned away from the Saviour. He knew it was a turning point. He believed Jesus knew the way to eternal life, but he was not ready to pay the price. That’s why he was disappointed. In his heart he knew what had to be done. Probably, he had never imagined that his wealth would stand between him and his eternal life.

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What is it that comes between us and Jesus?

Did he change his mind later on? Perhaps he did. Maybe he did sell his possessions and took up his cross to follow Jesus. We don’t know—there is nothing in the Bible to give us any evidence. We don’t hear about him again.

His actions that day prove that those who refuse to follow Christ will never find real, deep, permanent joy. I have never met anyone yet who was happy about abandoning their faith. No-one I know who ever dropped out of the Christian life, turned away from Jesus and the Bible, and got any joy out of it.

What is it that comes between us and Jesus? One thing is for certain: that if we deliberately move away from him, we will go away sad. To be without Christ is to miss out on joy.